I caught up with ZoŽ Ryan the talented singer/songwriter and band manager of ZoŽ Ryan & The Dandy Lion, at the Treehouse Lounge recently, before she tours later this month, returning to Melbourne only in October.
This Perth (Western Australia) born songstress with her unique voice was raised in Bridgetown (WA) and grew up with her big sister Lisa (who also sang at the time) shaking 3 year old ZoŽ awake each morning with "ZoŽ, wake up! Lets sing!" Some of her influence also came from an older cousin in Sydney and a member of the then popular 90's pop group Girlfriend. Watching her cousin on TV's video hits, ZoŽ wanted to be just like her. There was no question as to where her path lay, having a mum who also performed with an orchestra; how could ZoŽ possibly have escaped with so much musicality in her blood?
Her formative years were already shaping and preparing her for what was to come. She was drawn to drama classes at school during her primary years and started singing Acapella from the age of 13 till she left school and Bridgetown at 17. As far as she remembers, she was always writing songs from around the age of 5 and it's something she still loves doing more than anything else. She still performs a song she wrote when she was 15 in collaboration with her sister Lisa.
In high-school she was shown her first three guitar chords by her teacher in a contemporary music program and suddenly she had an instrument to accompany her voice and music and it opened up a whole new world for her. Before she was introduced to the guitar she would write the songs, and the structure and melody would be retained in her memory to later recall. Suffering from performance anxiety in her teens, ZoŽ felt better with a band and performed with the school band at the Bridgetown Blues festival and other mini festivals organised by her High School.
Spending a year and a half at Curtin University in Perth studying architecture, ZoŽ was not inspired. Instead she wrote five songs in that timeframe and moved to Melbourne in 2009, her sister being here a big drawcard. She however continued and almost saw her degree out at the University of Melbourne, which turned out to be an instrumental move by chance, for her future in the music industry. It was there that the seeds were planted for the oak tree to grow; particularly attracted to one society ó musicians ó she met those with the same passion within her course and from other courses, some who were to become fellow band members.
She fully immersed herself in the Melbourne music scene, going to open mic nights and so on, when in 2012 she decided to follow her heart. The minute she chose her path, it clicked and it felt right. She had been writing songs the whole time, treating open mic nights as gigs and polishing her craft, sharing music online on You Tube, My Space, JJJ, Soundcloud, (you can hear her tunes HERE), online demos and so on, establishing herself as a solo performer. She shed her part time jobs to concentrate on her music career, attending music conferences ó Song Summit 2010 & 2012 ó and enrolled in 'Music Business' at TAFE (Technical and Further Education). Views into the music industry gave her the confidence and strength to stop Uni when the realisation dawned that this dream could become a reality.
ZoŽ Ryan & The Dandy Lion: ~ ZoŽ: Vocals/Guitar. Gemma: Vocals/Guitar. Reuben: Banjolin/Percussion. Ben: Keys. Cayden: Bass. Travis: Drums.
In the first half of 2013 she made the decision to make a solo EP. She didn't know how she was going to do it but while studying at NMIT in Fairfield, her teacher directed her towards two options that became significant for her. The NEIS (New Enterprise Incentive Scheme) scheme and Pozible, a crowd-funded campaign. The defining moment for her was when she 'clicked' on 'Launch'. It all became real when she put her heart on the line asking people for help. She found herself doing things she had never done before, learning the industry along the way and hit the ground running gathering talented muso's for her band who fit in with her vision and sound that included a lot of folk string instruments. The addition of the banjolin and keys surprised her in the way it brought out the emotions of the songs she had not experienced before; with texture, twang and fullness.
Free from interference of others and with no personal experience of a known precedent, ZoŽ met her own unrealistic tight deadline by carrying it all on her own shoulders and by giving herself permission to get creative. The imagery of being 'dandy' in the rehearsal room spawned the birth of the 'Dandy Lion' band name, with ZoŽ herself penning the drawing.
Our Patchwork Hearts was released on Valentines Day of 2014 and can be found on iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, Unearthed, Soundcloud, Bandcamp (basically anywhere you find music) and selected independent record retailers and Pozible.com
A lot has happened for the band since: performing at the Northcote Social Club, Grumpy's Green, their 'single' launch of 'Your Ghost' in December 2013 at the Curtin Band Room, the launch of their EP in March 2014 at the Fitzroy Bowls Club and of course the release of 'Our Patchwork Hearts' to coincide with Valentine's Day. Every CD comes with a little square of patchwork fabric and a message from ZoŽ to do whatever you like with your little patch and most importantly to make it yours. Sound advice from one so tender. The next big step is the upcoming tour as per poster above, a big opportunity to promote the band and to reach further audiences. Keep up with the updates on their Facebook Page and check them out when they come to town. They're definitely a band worth your support as new and upcoming Australian artists.
Though their sound is indie, folk and pop, they're not pigeon-holing themselves as it's about the song, not the genre. It transcends genre and it's about the craft of songwriting and what it means to ZoŽ; big songs with feeling and emotion, 'big' just like her vision for the future of the band. She manages to reinforce for all of us and be a role model for young and old alike that anything is possible if you put your heart and mind to it, and doggedly take the steps to make it happen. All the best ZoŽ Ryan and The Dandy Lion!
All images on this page courtesy of ZoŽ Ryan & the Dandy Lion
SATURDAY AUGUST 30 - PERTH - Ya-Ya's
147 James St, Northbridge
with Max Hutchings & The Tin Man
SATURDAY-SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 6-7 BRIDGETOWN
Bridgetown High School 60th Anniversary Celebrations
Saturday - The Cidery Sundowner 4pm-7pm & The Bridgetown Hotel 6pm-9pm
Sunday - Brunch at The Emporium Bistro 9am-11am
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 19 - BRISBANE - Metro Arts
Level 2, 109 Edward St, Brisbane
(other acts tba)
SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 20 - BYRON BAY - Kulcha Jam
1 Acacia St, Byron Bay
(other acts tba)
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 24 - SYDNEY - BAR 34 BONDI
34 Campbell Parade, Bondi
(other acts tba)
SATURDAY OCTOBER 4 - MELBOURNE - Bar 303
303 High St, Northcote
(other acts tba)
Tickets for all tour shows available from: Pozible
Further appearances along the tour route may be announced by social media.