by Ziggy Merritt
Transitions usually don’t come without their fair share of unwelcome obstacles, not that any obstacle is exactly welcome. The transition from one persona to the next in terms of identity and style is a process. For artists such as Ryan Cavanagh under the moniker Slow Hands, the transition from DJ to live musician has been uncharacteristically smooth. In his latest album, I’ll Find Me, due out November 6th, Cavanagh works to reconcile both identities into one fleshed-out, organic construction. If anything, this album represents less of transition and more of an artist’s struggle to come into his own potential as a songwriter. My recent interview with Cavanagh makes note of this struggle while at the same time deconstructing some of the more prominent themes within the album itself.
Of these themes, travel appears to be the most on-the-nose alongside the mercurial nature of relationships. As Slow Hands, Cavanagh pays homage to his upbringing in Vermont, close to the border with New York as can be visualized prominently on the track “Coney Island Stroll.”
”Coney Island is actually really inspired by David Byrne and The Talking Heads and a bit of a nod to Vampire Weekend,” he says. “I wanted to do a nod to where I’ve lived for 13 years. I’ve always admired songs about New York and sort of defining the landscape.” Other tracks such as “Cusco” are more directly influenced by his years of travel. “Cusco is certainly more about travel,” Cavanagh admits. “The song is more about dreaming, just sitting on the couch and then coming back to reality and realizing where you are.”
The origins of both identities, the hometown prodigy and the globetrotter, figure prominently into the layering of I’ll Find Me with the title track itself fluctuating between dance rhythms, ethnic South American beats, and the pure joy of synthpop. “The whole album is all just experiments,” he says in connection with this track. “Can I make it a dance song, yet make it very ethnic and intelligent?”
With this project he also acknowledges the role his family, in particular his mother, played in the creation of this latest album, which was just as much a product of Cavanagh’s disenchantment with the dance scene at the time. This realization furthered his own interest in songwriting as he produced more commercial music in New York. “My mom came to me and was like,‘if you don’t put them out, no one’s going to give a shit. You’re never going to be pleased, you’re never going to be 100% satisfied with it, so you just need to document these moments of life as a musician,” he says. “That’s sort of where the title came from, I’ll Find Me, the artistry of trying to find myself creatively.”
And as for touring? “I certainly hope so!” Cavanagh exclaims. “I tour pretty regularly on the more DJ-oriented stuff. It’s a really different transition going from that to playing more independent or live music.” Such a transition could be noted as the only true obstacle in the way of unbridled success with the question of his recent past cropping up as only a minor annoyance. “The question comes up all the time: ‘do you want to be a DJ or a live musician?’” says Cavanagh. With confidence he admits, “I don’t really want to be just one of them.”
I’ll Find Me comes out this Friday, November 6th. Meanwhile check out the title track to that album performed live with Gold Town below.