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Maxyne Ryan: Raising the Roof

By Sujany Baleswaran

Turning her career journey on its head, leaving stability behind, Maxyne Ryan left her career to pursue her passion for music. Graduating with a Masters degree in Jazz Voice, Maxyne now graces stages, galleries and some of London’s most prestigious venues with her band Maxyne Ryan Quintent, various jazz ensembles and celebrated gospel choirs.   

It just came to me that I wanted to become a singer and that I had found my purpose. Little did I know that that decision would shape the course of my life.

From a traditional career to a Masters in Jazz Voice, what inspired you to pursue a musical path?

I had been singing for many years before I graduated with a Masters degree in Jazz Voice. At the time, I was a senior leader in a large organisation, and I would also perform at weekends. It came to a point where I could not maintain both, attending Guildhall was on my bucket list, so I went for it. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I resigned from a secure position in order to become a student. Colleagues thought I was crazy, but I knew I had to follow this path. I studied there for two years – it was intense. I was classed as a non-standard entrant as I had no formal music education, but I had many years of experience performing. It was a real baptism of fire, but the professors were outstanding, and I learnt so much.

I remember the first moment I realised I wanted to become a singer. I was in my twenties, pretty lost, on the party scene and lacking direction. I had just started working on myself, doing inner work and was about to fly out to an intensive personal development course in Hawaii. It just came to me that I wanted to become a singer and that I had found my purpose. Little did I know that that decision would shape the course of my life. It was the beginning of me cleaning my act up, learning to love myself and taking myself seriously.

What is your favourite and the most challenging part of creating music?

My favourite part of creating music is when I am in the flow – ideas, lyrics, melodies come to me quickly. I formulate songs which I then share to polish for an end product with whoever I am collaborating with. The challenging part is when I get stuck regarding ideas, or I am presented with my own limitations vocally and musically. When that happens, I try and give it some space or dedicate some time to learning a specific piece. Most things are achievable though, providing I dedicate adequate time

Can you tell us more about your song writing process? How does it differ between solo performances and performances with your band?

In terms of song writing, I usually start singing a melody with some lyrics. I’ll sing it over and over in my head to see if I can build a verse and chorus from it. If so, I then sing the idea to my co-writer, and they will build the chords around the idea. Sometimes the process is the other way round, I‘m given a chord structure and I have to write the melody and lyrics to the chords. There is usually some ‘to-ing and fro-ing’, and after a few sessions, we have something to work with. The exciting part is when we take them for a test run and get to see how an audience reacts. I have had several dance releases and a few other bits and bobs. I only just started writing again in lockdown, so it was good to get those recorded in a studio. My mum recently passed, so it was imperative that she got to hear the new material before she departed – she loved the new songs. I am so pleased I was able to expedite the process as I knew she did not have much time.

In terms of performing, I seldom sing solo. I don’t like performing with backing tracks so my preference is always to work with other excellent musicians for live performances. This can be anything from a duo to a sextet, I normally sing jazz and soul with a smidgen of pop. Sometimes it is fitting to have a chic guitar duo for a low key event, other times, the full impact of a quintet is required. I am happy performing in both and anything in between.

What has been the biggest inspiration behind your music?

The biggest inspiration behind my music is me wanting to soothe and uplift with sound. There are times when I hear pieces of music or other singers or musicians and I am really moved. I am touched by music and sound, it can melt my heart and soul. I hope that I, too, can have that effect on others, a calming balm or uplifting joy. Music is so powerful, particularly LIVE music.

What’s in store for you in the future – do you have any dream collaborations or solo ambitions?

I have recently co-written an EP, the first single is called “Pos-i-tiv-i-ty” a joyous samba which is available now. My aim is to continue writing and also performing live. I really enjoy performing at weddings. What an honour and blessing it is to sing as someone walks down the aisle, and be a part of their special day. In those situations, I really try to emanate love, peace and joy, so the music is experienced as such a blessing. Corporate events and private parties are usually lots of fun too.

My dream collaborations are Quincy Jones, Nile Rogers, Robbie Williams for the fun factor, and I’d love to witness Adele’s songwriting process, she is so successful and down to earth which I like.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to musicians who are just entering the music scene?

Three pieces of advice I would give is, play live as much as you can, listen to all kinds of music, and forgive yourself when you make mistakes, especially when you’re playing live. That is the nature of live music – we are in the moment and things happen! Get over the shame attack and learn from it – we all make mistakes. I know I make mistakes all the time, it’s part of being human. In my opinion, I think it’s important not to be afraid of making mistakes. So much of life can be missed because of this fear.  

Be bold, be brave, be courageous!

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