by Candice Anne Marshall
IMM – Hello Ryan! I am so happy to be the one to welcome you to Indie Music Monday! I would also like to share that my father told my family at the age of 69 that he is transgender and is in the process of making this change at this time. I lost my mom in 2008, so when he/she told me of her gender preference (on Mother’s Day), it was like getting a second chance at having a mom again. I felt very touched by your new song (launched April 11, 2018) ‘Daughter’, and I feel like it is something that many transgendered individuals face: their family’s acceptance or resistance to these changes. What was your family’s reaction to this lovely song?
Ryan – Thanks so much for sharing all that with me. If you need any types of resources, you can let me know. 🙂 My dad is really happy with the song. He’s sad about the past I think but he is happy that we have a great relationship now.
IMM – You have appeared on Larry King Live as well as The Tyra Banks Show. I would love to see you on Ellen as well! That aside – these are some pretty impressive network shows to appear on! What was that experience like for you?
Ryan – I would love to get on Ellen! That’s a huge dream of mine because she’s SO amazing. The experience has been pretty much all I have known since I was a young teenager. I was first in a huge lesbian magazine and some local press when I was 13 or 14 then went on Larry King Live, came out to every single person, who didn’t know I was trans yet, at once, and then went on Tyra Banks. To be honest – it’s been incredibly rewarding and heartwarming because of the feedback from LGBTQ people everywhere. After I appeared on those shows I received hundreds and hundreds of handwritten letters from people all over the world all telling me their stories and letting me know that I accomplished something. I accomplished portraying the important message “You are not alone.”
IMM – Let’s get into your background. Where are you from and how did you arrive at this point in your career of acting and music?
Ryan – I am from a small village on the South Shore of Long Island. I’ve gotten to this point by lots of hard work and dedication. You can ask anyone that knows me…I’m a workaholic. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning I am working or thinking about it. I am constantly pushing my career, creating, or brainstorming in some way. I started with burning demo CD’s on my MacBook around 2007/2008. I burned each disc one by one with self-recorded demos of my original songs. I sold them for $1-2 in my school and at open mics. Eventually, I was playing shows, festivals, selling t-shirts, and appearing all over the country. It was a lot of work and still is. I have had lots of people help me along the way but I have accomplished everything so far without a record label and I’m proud to say that.
IMM – How long have you been performing/recording music?
Ryan – I have been performing consistently and recording music professionally since age 13. Luckily, some people really believed in me on Long Island and spent days and days recording me for free and letting me play at clubs where I couldn’t meet the ticket minimum. Without people like Dave DeFeis recording me, Anthony Dobirini from Calling Out Productions booking my shows I wouldn’t have gotten this far this quickly. I also had an incredible band backing me up as a teenager that played for free. Lots of people helped along the way. My mom drove me to open mics almost every single night of the week for years before I was old enough to drive. She even drove me on my first tour that I booked completely by myself by emailing and calling hundreds of venues on the East Coast.
IMM – I read in your bio on your website that you are in the process of recording another full- length album. I am excited for you! What is the ‘theme’ of this next collection of your art?
Ryan – Thanks! Yeah, it’s been a slow process of writing and recording. I’ve put a lot of songs back in the closet and then rewrite some other stuff. I just want to make a better record than my last one “Shine” so it’s been a long process. I’ve done a few songs that sound quite different than my last stuff so that’s exciting. One of the songs I’ve recorded is quite political. It’s about the opioid epidemic, an issue that’s really close to my heart right now, and I’m excited to get that out in the world to hopefully help some people.
IMM – What have been the strangest requests you have received from either fans or the (entertainment) industry?
Ryan – Lots of fans have asked me to visit their homes in different countries. It’s not really that strange to me though.
IMM – Do you support other transgendered individuals in their quest for expression of their art?
Ryan – Yeah, I definitely do. I actually made a playlist of Spotify featuring ONLY transgender artists. It has over 800 followers right now in just a couple months since I made the list public. I watched a lot of people’s monthly listeners go from like 30 to 500 in a little under a month. It’s really inspiring to watch other people grow their careers and meet their dreams and I love being a part of any type of positive growth.
IMM – Do you think that the LGBTQ community of Artists has grown in the last decade?
Ryan – Yes, a lot of people have come out and that’s a really great thing. I’m really happy that LGBTQ people are more accepted in society now. We have a long way to go, but this is great progress.
IMM – What are your thoughts on how your current president has been (seemingly) expressing against the community? What do you hope will change in humanity as a result of this?
Ryan – Honestly, it makes me really upset that someone who’s supposed to represent the entire country is failing to include every American. I hope that people will realize that together we can make a difference and I hope they become educated enough to accept us so we can live as one.
IMM – Do you have siblings? If so, how many? Are they also involved in the arts?
Ryan – I have an old brother named Vincent and a younger brother named Frank. They both do creative things and are very talented. We have all jammed together as well.
IMM – What was the turning point in your career?
Ryan – I think releasing the Bedroom Eyes music video in 2016 let people know that I’m a singer- songwriter and more than just a trans person. The video was premiered by Buzzfeed. The Shine album got a lot more people interested in my music.
IMM – What has been the most memorable experience for you in your career?
Ryan – There’s been a lot honestly. 2013 Warped Tour in Pomona, CA. 2015 Warped Tour in Mountain View, CA. My performance at the San Francisco Trans March performance. Touring and seeing people show up in states that I’ve never even been to until that night. Being in musical theatre productions in New York. Recently, performing at Models of Pride was so much fun because it was a packed theatre and everyone had their cellphone lights in the air. I felt so alive. Literally, any show where the crowd is engaged, no matter how small or big the crowd is, feels amazing. Being able to meet the people that are impacted by my music is also incredibly touching and reminds me of why I stay visible and why I continue to put my music out in the world.
IMM – What has been the most memorable experience for you in your life?
Ryan – Hm…probably…seeing Bruce Springsteen from the 2nd row on Broadway.
IMM – I also read in your bio that you have become the youngest keynote speaker to ever be selected for the largest transgender conference in existence. Which conference is this? When was it, and how did you feel the reception was from it?
Ryan – The conference is called The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. This was in 2012. The reception was really great. I said a lot of things that really needed to be said. I’m really happy that I got the opportunity. My mom and dad sat in the front with Randy Wicker who was the first openly gay man on television. Rocco Katastrophe and Amos Mac from Original Plumbing Magazine even came to hear it.
IMM – What do you think about haters and how do you react/respond to them?
Ryan – I know for a fact that in this day and age among artists it doesn’t matter whether you are straight, transgender, gay, or bisexual, haters will continue to spew their negativity. This upsets me to see, but every single musician or artist I have met has reacted so classy to these people.
I try to educate the haters. Most of them are just uncomfortable with themselves or don’t feel right about themselves so they like to drag others down because they think it lifts them up.
IMM – Which social media platform are you most active on and why?
Ryan – I think I am most active on Instagram. It’s been the best place to network and meet cool people.
IMM – What has been the greatest compliment you have ever received?
Ryan – “Your music saved my life.”
IMM – What kinds of organizations and/or charities/causes do you support and why?
Ryan – I support The Trevor Project, the Long Island LGBT Center, the LA LGBT Center, Quest of Life Media, and a lot of queer arts organizations.
For my Birthday last year I asked friends and family to donate to the Long Island LGBT Center instead of giving me gifts and I raised a couple hundred dollars. I chose them because they saved my life as a young teenager.
IMM – Your bio states that you have made ‘550 performances touring across the United States and internationally, including dates on the Van’s Warped Tour, and SXSW. In an artist so young, how do you feel about this? Do you ever have a ‘pinch me’ moment or is this just ‘something you do’?
Ryan – This is the only life I know and I am grateful to be on this path.
IMM – Tell us about your documentary “Songs for Alexis”. How did it come about and what was the response from it? I saw that it also appeared at some pretty prominent film festivals too! Congrats!
Ryan – I was scouted by a guy named Twiz who appeared on Twiz and Tuck on Viceland. He was working with the director/filmmaker Elvira Lind. She agreed to make the documentary about me because of what was going on in my life at the time as an 18-year-old trans man that was facing a serious occurrence of transphobia. It was really cool to be that the documentary focused so much on my music and writing. The whole thing was a really great experience and it was so awesome to go all over the world and meet people who watched it and perform for them. Elvira did a really beautiful job at capturing my life over those 6 months.
IMM – What are your plans for the next 6-12 months?
Ryan – I will be recording more songs, and I will be embarking on a WestCoast Mini Tour in July. My memoir will also be coming out sometime soon.
IMM – What has been your favorite venue to play and why?
Ryan – Some of my favorite venues across the United States are 7th Circle Music Collective in Denver, Colorado, Low Key Arts in Hot Springs, Arkansas, The Exchange in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Amityville Music Hall on Long Island, NY, Sacred Grounds in San Francisco, Mutiny Radio in San Francisco, and a bunch that have closed down like The Crazy Donkey on Long Island, NY. The vibe of the club and the people that gather are what makes these places so cool.
IMM – Who is your closest ‘team’ and who would you like to give a ‘shout out’ to in this feature?
Ryan – I would like to thank all the people who helped me along the way, my friends, family, and fans. You all know who you are.
IMM – I feel that you have some very successful accomplishments under your belt to date. What does the term ‘success’ mean to you?
Ryan – Success is feeling happy about the work and art that you do as an artist. It’s about feeling joy when you play a show, it’s not about a number or statistic or instagram insights. It’s about pure joy.
IMM – Final question: What are five things about you that no one knows?
Ryan – I’m really open about almost every aspect of my life so I honestly can’t even think of something that at least one person doesn’t know about me.
IMM – Thank you Ryan!
Ryan Cassata Links
Shout out to TomboyX @TomboyExchange
Official – http://www.ryancassata.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ryancassata
SoundCloud – https://soundcloud.com/ryancassata
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ROCassataMusic
Instagram – https://instagram.com/ryancassata