Hailing from Brooklyn, via a stint in Portland, Ian Wayne announced his arrival to the world two years-ago via the well-received debut, A Place Where Nothing Matters. Although the personnel who accompany Ian on his new album, Risking Illness, remain the same, both sonically and emotionally it seems to inhabit an entirely different world. Risking Illness is a more considered, tranquil and sombre record, a world where each note feels deliberate and crucial to ensuring its creator’s vision comes to life. This is a record that is clearly vital to its writer, produced in the face of personal tragedy after the loss of his nephew at a cruelly young age; that grief walks the album like a spectre, always present even when not being directly addressed. In the same way the loss left a void in Ian’s world, it forms a core at the heart of the record, a reference point it always walks back to, even as it treads a variety of paths.
Throughout, Ian’s lyrics possess a fragmented quality, drifting in and out of stories; sometimes it feels as if he’s just disappeared from in front of you, as if he was there one minute, and gone the next. It’s a quality married in the fragile, skeletal musical sketches, recorded live and raw, this is a record that creaks and sighs in time with the breath of its creator. From the moment the record comes alive with the fluttering acoustic of Coyote to the warm, piano-led closer, This, Risking Illness is a record to get lost in, at once beautifully intimate and subtly vast. Perhaps the album’s heartbeat is Winter’s, the track where Ian most directly addresses his loss, “the thought now remains I can look back and say, from the edge of the stage, I was here when his life slipped away”, the track builds like a wave, from the gentle calm of the opening to a crashing crescendo of cathartic guitar noise. Risking Illness is a striking record, an album that seems to conjure up the full array of emotions that come with life and loss, and one that will leave a real impression on anyone willing to spend some time within it.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is Ian Wayne?
I’m a songwriter who lives in Ridgewood, Queens. I’m dipping my toe in the mixing/ engineering world too these days, and am available to mix your single/ record at a staggeringly low rate. Find me on the internet.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
First show ever, or first “Ian Wayne” show? I’ve been performing since middle school in various bands and talent shows, but I’ll resist the urge to dive into that history. I think the first time I played a full set of my own songs was in 2015 at the Manhattan Inn (RIP) which had been a dream for me. I didn’t realize until I’d asked 3 great bands to play that the venue had something else going on that night so our show couldn’t start until 11pm on a Tuesday night. The last band probably started playing at 2am. I think I wrote out download codes on post-it notes and made a mailing list in my lyrics notebook (no kidding) but was too embarrassed to put them out.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I’ve always loved music in the making and the listening. I think the more I devote myself to the making of it, the more I love it. That’s why I’m writing and continually scheming new records I guess – I just keep giving myself the ‘OK’ to keep going. I love the challenge of telling a story inside a musical form. In my most recent songs I’ve been interested in sharing the barest or most distilled ideas possible. I think it’s actually universally relatable — working with the arbitrary confinements we give ourselves — isn’t it? Songwriting is the catalyst for sure, but I love the whole damn shop – the musicianship and instrument playing, the recording and production. And shows, of course. I love shows. I like people. Someday maybe we’ll meet.
FTR: What can people expect from the Ian Wayne live show?
Too much talking. Frankly I’m a bit of a ham and my bandmates frequently scold me onstage for blabbing between songs. Music-wise, we’re a small ensemble — 3 or 4 of us these days. We aim to do no harm. The sounds try to be pleasant, even in the most urgent moments. The goal is for the most disinterested people talking too loudly at the bar to occasionally look up at us and think, “ok,” while sipping whatever they’re sipping. And when people are listening I try to engage. I do a lot of eye contact and try to make folks feel welcome. I’m making these shows sound like Olive Garden or something. Which maybe is an OK thing? It’s rock ‘n’ roll softly.
FTR: What’s next for Ian Wayne?
We have a record coming out on Sept. 18 called Risking Illness on the Brooklyn label, Whatever’s Clever. WC has put out an insane amount of great music in the last year and I feel really lucky to be on the roster. I have vinyl records for sale for the first time, which is thrilling. Link in bio, if you know what I mean. I’m excited to have some time to work on other people’s albums for a while and let my songwriting happen.
They Listen To…
Zumbi – Jorge Ben Jor
Another band I play in (Office Culture) made a collaborative playlist earlier this summer and Zumbi was on it — we’ve been together ever since. I love Ben Jor’s guitar playing and the warmth of this recording. I have a voice recording in my phone named “It’s Called Fun” — I think I’m itching for some unrestrained joy and Zumbi certainly scratches that itch.
Scree – Season 2
I’m deeply inspired by Scree, a Brooklyn ensemble. They conjure incredibly clear vistas for me along winding musical roads. Scree is also about the preposterous position we find ourselves as artists and people vis a vis government apathy and corporate greed.
Lily Konigsberg, Andréa Schiavelli – Players of the Field
This is just a deeply fun song. It’s been my Covid anxiety pressure-release valve. I think AS is one of favorite contemporary songwriters- it’s a bit of a secret but it’s true. I think his songs are irresistible. I’m too much of a coward to write an instrumental chorus. Thank you for your bravery, Andréa.
Joan Armatrading – Woncha Come on Home
I’m everything about this song. The production is really inspiring for me — talk about barebones. The prettiest parts of this song are the quietest, I think. I want to makes songs like this someday.
Lomelda – Hannah Sun
No mess in’ around, Lomelda is all in listening to right now. Years ago I met a middle-aged fiddle player and told him I was a musician. He said, “It’s a soulful life. Whatever you do, first do no harm.” So Hannah Sun really stuck when I first heard a live version a few years ago for the lyrics in the chorus: “Hannah, do no harm.” This recording ticks all the boxes for me.
Gimme Something is out September 18th via Whatever’s Clever. Click HERE for more information on Ian Wayne.