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Arise: Spotlight on Ryan J.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Joseph stage name Ryan J. For those of you that don’ t know allow me to give you some background on the artist formerly known as Daga Don. Ryan J. was born in Alaska (due to his father being in the miltary) and raised on the island of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Ryan’s musical beginnings can be traced to the Arthur A. Richards Jr. High School (Middle School) under the direction of Mr. Howell and Mr. Thomas (who was also my band teacher). A classically trained trumpeter Ryan began competing in classic music competitions and after a few wins he used the money he had earned to purchase a trumpet of his own. Little did he know that his musical talent would later result in a college scholarship as a member of the Drexel University Jazz Ensemble. Ryan J. is currently located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and has gained popularity as a musician, singer,and producer.  As a producer Ryan J. has produced the ‘So Sexy’ and ‘Black Pearl’ riddims which have featured artists such as Ras Attitude, Fyah King, Madda Nile, Cruz Rock, Jahdesta, Nena Nyce, Sincere and Rena Faith(his sister).

Always on the grind I spoke to Ryan while he was in his studio working on an unfinished track for the mixtape. After giving me a virtual tour of the studio we sat down for an hour long Skype interview….so without further adieu let’s delve into the world of Ryan J.

On becoming a singer…

 While in college I met Larry E, a really talented producer. He had his own little studio in his bedroom and he called me in one day like, “Yo! I need trumpets on this track that I’m working on,” and I was like, “Boom! I’m coming thru.” So I went there played the trumpet for him and out of being the fool in the studio, I was like, ” let me try a thing. So I chanted a little and Larry said, “Yo! That’s hot!” I was like, “For real?” He said, “Yeah that’s hot!” So I took that and ever since that day I’ve been using my voice as an instrument.”

On developing his sound…

“I want to say it took me hmmmm…four years before I really started to find my voice.” I had already opened opened up for Sean Paul, Beres Hammond, Tarrus Riley, just to name a  few as Daga Don. But it wasn’t until my sister Rena Faith graduated from high school and came to Philly to live that I learned to develop my sound. One day she played me this track and while listening I turned to her and asked, “Is that you?” She answered, “Yeah.” And I was like, ” Sh*t you can already sing better than me. When did this happen?”  She responded, ” Well, you just have to use your natural voice.” I was always into the Bob Marley thing, so I always tried to make my voice raspy, but it was never really me. It was in my very own living room that Rena taught me how to use my natural voice.”

From Daga Don to Ryan J…

I started out as Daga Don thinking I would be the next Sean Paul!  After a couple years of performing as Daga Don, this dancehall craze called “daggering”came about.  Because of my name, people started to associate me with that when it really had nothing to do with what I was about.”  Ryan explains, “At that point, I began searching for a new name and after some thinking I was like, “you know what I’m going to go with my real name, Ryan J.” So said, so done… ”To create exposure for Ryan J., I began producing my own riddims (a Caribbean term for an instrumental track) and putting my own voice on my own riddims just to get myself out there.” A friend of mine linked me with another producer (Ajanie Williams) who was dropping his own riddim (the Red Rum riddim)…when I heard that riddim and later voiced it that literally started my transition from Daga Don to Ryan J.”

You’re a man of many talents singer, musician, producer… are there any other talents that we are not aware of?

“I  used to be into athletics. My first love was baseball. That didn’t work out so I had to fall back on the thing  that came the easiest to me which was music.

You posted some pics of a photo shoot awhile back. It seems that you could be a natural at modeling…any words?

“Well, it’s funny that you say that. It actually didn’t come natural to me. I had to work really, really, really, hard to get that body. It took me about a year to transform my body. In that photo shoot I weighed about  160 pounds prior to that I was like 200 pounds. I kept a photo journey of myself from fat to fit.”

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On his look…

Around the time I decided to change my name, Trey Songz was popping. I thought, “Why are women going crazy over this dude?” My sister (Rena Faith) was a huge Trey Songz fan so she showed me his album cover and I told her, “Oh! I bet you I can get a body better than that,” and she laughed, everyone laughed at me. From that point on I literally went into crazy man mode in the gym…so you can say Trey Songz was my motivation.”

Here’s a side by side of Ryan J. and Trey Songz. Ladies, what do you think?

How many instruments do you play?

“I’m gigable at two. When I say gigable I mean I would take a job and make money playing them – the trumpet and the drums. With the bass guitar and piano I’m a studio musician. Meaning, it would take me a couple takes of playing a line to get it. So I play four instruments in total – two I’m really good at and the other 2 I just mess around with.”

What musicians do you admire and why?

“Some of my favorite trumpeters are Eddie Russell, from St. Croix, his trumpeting skills are crazy, Wynton Marsalis is another of my favorites and my father who got me started on the trumpet! Vocally, some my favorites include Bob Marley, Sean Paul, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Trey Songz and Usher.”

Musical talent seems to run in the Joseph family. Are there any music collaboration to look forward to between Rena Faith and Ryan J?

“We previously collaborated on two tracks but they were never released.  It’s kind of hard for us to do that because I sing a lot of love songs and you really don’t want to sing a love song with your sister. We did a song called “Find A Way” where we spoke about finding a way to make our dreams come true.”

How do you promote yourself?

“I am pretty much a one man team. I promote, manage, and produce the majority of my music.”

A typical day in the studio…

“It depends on whether I’m producing or going to write lyrics. I usually loop the beat when I’m writing and work on trying to create a melody that sounds good on the riddim. I typically hum it and from there I think of a concept of what the song could be. I try to write lyrics in a way that fits the riddim and from there I hit the booth. To complete a song from start to finish it takes me 8-12 hours including mixing and the whole nine.”

On being inspired…

“Any and everything. It’s weird, people call me crazy because I could literally be walking down the street and hear some random thing and then I’m grooving in the street (imitates a sound) and then I’m like, “That was hot!” I’ll spin around and realize that I’m the only person that heard that. Anything from a conversation to a sound that may catch my ear or even a situation that may have happened to one of my friends. Anything literally triggers my brain and the next thing you know I’m gone. They say, “You must have some type of insanity when you’re doing music.” That’s pretty much what I do…”

What do you consider your biggest accomplishment as an entertainer to date?

“For me it would be opening up for Sean Paul that was about two years ago and it was a highlight for me. I’m trying to get back to that level and feeling. There were thousands of people and they were just cheering. That audience was very receptive.  I have had very high highs and very low lows in music. Lows, where you feel like, “I  don’t want to do this anymore.” You know but thinking of those highs is what keeps me going. It’s like a drug and I feel like I’ve got to have that high again. Opening for Sean Paul  was one of the highest of highs -I’ve experienced probably in my life.”

What song(s) of yours are you most proud of and why?

 “I’m proud of this whole mixtape because it was an evolution from where I started to where I am today. I would have never in a million years expected my music to sound the way it does. I, myself, sometimes cannot believe the transformation. Some people who have heard me from the beginning to now have remarked, “Dude, I don’t where this came from but this sh*t sounds hot” and I thank them. I appreciate that you know what I mean? “It’s been a long journey and who knows where I’m gonna be ten years from now. It’s just a  continuous journey…” 

On getting a deal…

“I’ve learned that when you’re doing this music thing you can’t really look at the end result you’ve got to enjoy it now. I have started to enjoy the recording process. Before my thoughts were, “I’ve got to get signed, I’ve got to get signed.” After awhile it became like a drag and I was feeling like “I don’t feel like recording today.” It was just depressing but now I’m just having fun and enjoying what I do.”

What would you be doing if you weren’t a musician?

“Wow! (pauses) I would be a bum. I think I’d be stuck in the rat race – go to work and come home. Music has transformed my life in so many ways even as a hobby. Normally, I wouldn’t even step foot in the gym but because I had this image of where I wanted to be – what Ryan J. should be I went to the gym and now I love the gym. Once you get to the level where I’m at in terms of physicality, you just don’t want to lose that. So, you asked a great question which made me enjoy what I do even more because I don’t know what I would be doing if it wasn’t for music.”

On the upcoming mixtape…

 “I’m still working on the title (this was the answer back in May the official mixtape title is Love vs. Lust). The concept is catering to the ladies letting them know that they’re special. Basically you’re not a whore or a bitch.”

On respecting women in music…

“A lot of men when they do music  they want to talk about banging out pu**y and they want to do this, that, and all sorts of sh*t. That’s not really my front. Sometimes men want to have romantic relationships with women so why not have the music to be romantic. They just want to beat it up, throw their leg up, and put their head in a pillow. You know what I’m saying? I want to want them know, ‘Let me make love to you, let me make you feel special’ and that’s what the whole mixtape is all about.” 

On being a producer…

“I’m sitting on about 6-7 different riddims right now. I’ve  worked with artists such as Ras Attitude, Fyah King, etc. and I’ve told them that if they like the tracks they can have them.  If you do hear about me as a producer it won’t be where I’m in the forefront but more as the creator of the riddim  where I’ll allow the artist to do what they want with the music. “

Do you have any upcoming performances?

“I perform about 2-3 times a week. So I’m out there. I have two big performances coming up in July and August. I’m out there and that’s another reason why I’m working so hard to push this mixtape because everyone out there is like, ‘Do you have music?’ I’ve began working on this mixtape since mid-May and at that time I already had about 7 songs. I was recording 2-3 songs per week.”

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge?

 “I’m not going to get into calling any names because I’m going to  forget people – but basically, any and everyone that has supported me from day one. People that kept it real with me and helped me with my transition from Daga Don to Ryan J. I’m a stubborn person and you can take a horse to the pond but you can’t make it drink. There are people that tell me, ‘You could’ve been making this music from back in the day.’ It took me awhile to really listen to what others had to say and to start to take their advice but to all of them who ever your are…you know.”

How can people connect with you?

“The central hub is all my links are there Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.”

Your final thoughts…

“I’d like to shout out CaribVue. Thanks Jozette for taking the time out. I appreciate you. Just know that I’m working hard and this mixtape is the official launch of Ryan J. You’re never going to hear anything from me that I’m not 100% behind. If I don’t like it you won’t hear it…so whenever you do hear my music be assured you have a good representation of who I am as an artist.” 

We previously released the cover and tracklisting for Ryan’s ‘Love vs. Love’ Mixtape and a listen to Motivation (Kelly Rowland Remix). Stay tuned for the fourth installment on Monday as CaribVue reviews the mixtape on its official launch date of July 5th. In the meantime take a peek at Ryan J. in the studio as he  work on ‘Never Find Another’ a track off of the mixtape!


Cathy SitaRam: Is Featured Artist at Philadelphia Film Festival

Cathy SitaRam from St. Croix has been selected as the featured artist at the Urban Suburban Film Festival, June 24-26 in Philadelphia, Penn.  She will showcase her winning commercials and documentary films.  George Blackmon, the festival’s co-founder, praised SitaRam’s work saying, “After viewing several of Cathy’s films, I am convinced we are witnessing the maturation of a legendary filmmaker.”
She will be hosting the U.S. premiere of “The Heritage and Architecture of Saint Croix: A CHANT Walking Tour” at the Urban Suburban Film Festival. The film is the culmination of two years of work and represents a small part of the story of St. Croix.  CHANT is committed to preserving and promoting the heritage and natural resources of St. Croix.  Executive director of Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism Frandelle Gerard is quoted as saying, “Working with Cathy Mae SitaRam has been inspiring and rewarding. Her attention to detail is evident in the quality of our film.  Cathy worked with our limited budget to create a film that will become a part of St. Croix’s historical record.”
Cathy SitaRam has received numerous past awards and recognition for her work in the film industry. On May 2, the filmmaker was recognized in four categories at the 2011 ADDY Awards, an event sponsored by the American Advertising Federation of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The ADDY competition is annually the world’s largest and most comprehensive advertising competition.  Representing the creative imaginations of the innovative age, the ADDYs recognize all forms of creative advertising talent.
With her multi-faceted abilities as a writer, film director, producer and editor on display, SitaRam won gold for her TV Program Design of “The Heritage and Architecture of St. Croix: A CHANT Walking Tour,” a 24-minute documentary DVD that she not only directed but edited as well.  For the :60 TV awards, Cathy carried away the Silver ADDY for writing, producing, directing and editing “Indy Living,” a TV commercial for the Virgin Islands Association for Independent Living.  Her third award was a Public Service TV Silver ADDY, for the Department of Human Services of the V.I. Government “ARRA Compliance,” written, directed and edited by Cathy.
Her work with another entrant, MLB Creative, also earned a Silver ADDY Award in the Multi-Media Consumer Campaign category for “June Jumbie Jackpot” – V.I. Lottery TV spot. Terri Brown of MLB Creative complimented her creative drive and said, “Cathy provided the magic for the spot. She patiently watched the clouds and waited for her shots…until the next day! Nothing keeps Cathy from getting her shot!”
Last year, she earned three Gold Addys including the coveted Excellence in Television Award.
She recently directed Scotiabank’s U.S. Virgin Islands commercial campaign. The “Just Ask” mortgage campaign started running early this year and will be eligible for award entry next year.  Scotiabank’s Senior Marketing Manager Andrew Kresch is proud of the spot.  “In my opinion it’s the best creative commercial currentl in the Virgin Islands.  Mortgage applications have more than doubled what we had hoped for.”
She graduated the University of Maryland with a distinction as a President’s Scholar.  Born in Trinidad and raised in the Virgin Islands, she’s also worked in front of the camera as a news anchor and an on-air host for BET. For more information and to view some of her work, or reach her team

Ryan J: Motivation Remix

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan J., a  fellow St. Croix Native living in Philly last night. The upcoming interview will be featured on CaribVue this Memorial Day. In the meantime, listen to the first single off of Ryan J’s soon to be released mixtape that will be hosted by Krunkmaster DJ Slik and JahLion Sound Movements. We’ll let you know the minute it drops!

For more on Ryan J. log on to:

Listen to the Motivation Remix below: