In the age of YouTube stardom, TV talent show fame and auto-tune, more musicians are achieving commercial success without having the tools or know-how that was a requirement in the industry as little as 10 or 20 years ago. Such was the case with the now-infamous Rebecca Black: She didn’t have much in the way of natural talent, and her auto-tuned disaster “Friday” will live in the not-so-flattering portion of musical history.
Much like Black, former Boston University student and 25-year-old musician Ryan Aderréy was, initially, not much of a singer when he started out.
“Three years ago, I couldn’t sing other than in the shower or in the car, to be completely honest with you,” he laughed in a phone interview.
Unlike Black, however, Aderréy has talent — both in front of the microphone and behind the scenes — that he is willing to nurture and hone to become a better musician. How else could he have gone from being unable to sing to having his single, “A Miracle, My Love,” charting in 20 different Top 40 stations across the country?
“I kind of got started with [music] as a hobby when I was a sophomore in high school,” he said. “A friend of mine … got me starting making electronic instrumentals. So I did the production thing for a good 10 to 12 years. It was just a hobby, nothing serious. And then I decided that I wanted to try vocals the last two or three years and take it to the next level.”
In fact, the concept of singing and producing music wasn’t even a serious consideration for Aderréy until these past few years. A chance encounter with vocal coach Anita Wilson in his hometown of Miami was enough to get him thinking about it as a possibility.
“I was in Miami and I was in the presence of one of the best vocal coaches in the industry and she heard me sing, just as a joke, and she was like, ‘If you get with me and you work on this seven days a week for however long, I can really mold you and turn you into something,’” he said. “So that’s exactly what I did. For two years, I was with her seven days a week really learning how to sing and fine tuning everything.”
It was more than just a vocal coach, however, that pushed Aderréy from behind the scenes to center stage. He was exposed to his parents’ music tastes as a child, including “some of the greats” like Bob Dylan, The Beatles and Jackson Browne. But his familial ties to music ran even deeper.
“My father has written for Apple Records as a songwriter … and my grandfather was a trumpet player for Tony Bennett and my mom was a background singer,” Aderréy said. “It was some big shoes to live to fill, but it was something that I really wanted to do because it was just such a rich history and a big part of my family … I think it was always in the back of my mind. I always had a real passion for music, a real love for it even when it wasn’t my main focus.”
And for a while, it wasn’t. After his first semester at BU, Aderréy took a three-year leave of absence to play for OmniWorld, a Dutch soccer club. He said his time on the team made it easier for him to go from the privacy of producing to the public world of performance.
“When I was overseas I was lucky enough to play in front of a lot of people. It’s always something I enjoy to do,” he said. “I get a rush whenever I’m up onstage in front of a crowd.”
When he came back to the states, Aderréy used his time finishing up a degree in print journalism at BU to take advantage of all the things the campus and the city of Boston had to offer a budding musician, from piano classes to creative writing and poetry classes.
“I think BU offers a lot of good musical courses,” he said. “They offer a lot of different things that you can take just to better your overall knowledge of music, and I think that the more knowledge you have, the better. I also think that there’s things like Bristol Recording Studios on Massachusetts Avenue. They offer engineering classes and vocal classes.
“I think [it’s] just the culture of Boston, how there’s 250,000 students here and all the schools they’re in and just the music scene in general,” he continued. “There’s so many things around the city, not just at BU, where you can better yourself and just grow as a musician in general.”
Growth is a big part of the process for Aderréy, regardless of how much time it takes. Though he started making music in high school, he repeatedly acknowledges that it’s only just taking off now. He just signed to a new label, through which he will be releasing his EP titled What If on April 8, and has recently performed at the Bitter End club in New York and in Boston’s Hard Rock Cafe. As of now these live performances have been small, acoustic shows, which Aderréy doesn’t mind.
“It’s very intimate and [the crowd] is hanging on your every word and the stage is right there and they’re sitting on top of you,” he said. “It’s a really nice atmosphere and I enjoy it.”
Still, he looks forward to the days of amphitheaters packed with shrieking fans, a scenario that doesn’t seem too far off in the future, he said, judging by the speed with which things have been happening. As for the more recent future, Aderréy has signed on as an opener for some “really big tours” in April and is scheduled to head to Europe this summer.
“But in five years, I could see myself playing in front of sold out venues and some major stadiums or arenas,” he said. “I think that’s definitely a reasonable expectation in five years.”
This coming from a guy who, just three years ago could only be caught singing in the shower, it seems like a reasonable expectation indeed.