Australian singer-songwriter Ry Cuming has resurfaced with an atmospheric resonance and a new solo album, “Dawn”, filled with the mantric lyrics of both hesitation and credence within his gender-bending emotives. The album was a long-anticipated release from his 2013 EP that received much critical acclaim, leaving audiences and musicians alike spellbound to and yearning for the melancholic renderings of his music for some time. Now, as he closes out a string of shows in the US and begins the European leg of his tour, he guides us through the different stories and questions of his life as a spiritual erudite, tracing through places and memories that were especially formative in the creation of his latest work.
Where do you call home?
I think home has become a concept as much as a place for me. I feel at home in different parts of the world—in Berlin, in Australia, in the Mediterranean. But above all, California has become the place I call 'home' most often, the place I return to after tours. I like to keep my heart open to the idea of home, and also if another places calls me.
How do you gather your inspirations for your music?
It all really comes from my personal human experience… drenched in between emotional waters and spirituality, I guess. I try to be really honest and raw in the art I make, so it’s like a mirror of what I feel in myself at times.
During the time before you released your newest album, “Dawn”, were there any experiences that you tapped into, questions that you had, or goals that you achieved that were a formative element in the creation of the album?
I think honesty and rawness was the key for me; trying to strip away the thoughts of success, or any attempt at belonging to a genre, or a time. It was the purest intention in a way, of wanting to create something based on the deepest and simplest parts of me and ourselves.
Why the title “Dawn”? What does it mean to you?
Dawn is a really sacred time of day, where the sun opens her world to us again. It’s the beginning of possibility, the start of the journey that is every day. I think there is a sense of this body of work belonging to that time of day--an opening.
Music has been coolly sauntering into an interesting moment where, more and more, we are seeing artists that aren’t assigning themselves to a typical genre of music and the associations that come with it. Not everyone is limiting themselves to being specifically Pop or R&B or Rock or Hip-Hop. Considering our current cultural condition, what would you say is the reason for that departure from those identifiable norms and where do you see yourself within that movement?
There seems to be a breakdown of 'defining walls' across a lot of our culture at the moment, which I think is a very beautiful thing and something I want to continue to catalyze, or even just be a part of, as an artist. Music and art are a reflection of culture and its movements at the base, the root, so we all make that movement together. More than a departure, I was see it as a progression, and the best genres were all created along the same vein of a counterculture movement. So it’s a healthy thing to keep breaking that apart.
But since we live in a society where labels help us navigate unknown territories with more ease, if you had to describe your music or assign it to a specific genre for those people who are not familiar with your sound, what would that be and why?
Ah, that’s a very hard question. I would address it more stylistically than by genre. I might say it’s a balance between soundscape, song based creations, and analog electronic makings, but all based on emotion and on realness. It’s a sound steeped in humanness, and all its inner worlds.
Now that you've been touring all across the U.S. with this new material, how has the reception been?
It's been amazing. There have been lots of sold out shows. The live show progresses a lot from the album, so it’s much bigger and much deeper, and it feels good to keep growing that all the time too. There are no computers onstage, so there are no tracks playing. This gives us the freedom to grow and expand what we are doing from night to night. It feels good to give that to the different areas of the US and have such amazing reception too.
How do you feel after performing such intense and emotional material?
Ah, that’s a good question. It’s emotional. It’s almost like I need to re-dress myself after shows. I’m really trying to tap into doing something really special every night; curating these amazing spaces, the feeling in the buildings, the tension. So it’s a lot to give, and after it can be exhausting in a way. But the energy comes back in another way, which is really special to propel it forward
What do you do to recharge after spending so much time pouring yourself out on stage?
It’s hard to do it on the road. Playing these kinds of shows every night in different countries, or states—it’s a big outpour. So I really try to self nourish when I can, whether it’s with meditation, yoga, and simple things. Just remembering to connect inward. When I get home I try to change the pace of things, like travel less, keep grounded, eat really well and spend time in the sea surfing, or connecting to nature. Then I take all of that energy back onto tours to give again. It’s almost sustainable.
You explore many intimate, emotionally-charged themes in “Dawn” that you draw out in your lyrics. For example, in “Salt”, you speak about love in reverential, almost harking upon more spiritual imagery:
We let love be like water to wine
We let love be the higher design
We let love be a call in the night
We let love be the fire divine.
What inspired you to write this song and about love in these more sacred metaphors?
A lot of my lyrics seem to be of a pure sense of love, but often hold a darker sentiment in a way, as is the complex nature between love and lust. I explore that a lot. It’s also interesting for me to play with the juxtaposition of religion and sex and all the taboos, so I bring that in too. I like to bring the idea of spirituality into it, more as the driving force of that power. I don't believe in a religious god per se, but much more of a spiritual one that’s omnipresent and has many aspects. That’s the one I feel and pull into these moments.
What is your own spiritual background and upbringing?
My mum has taught yoga and meditation for about 40 years, so I grew up with that aspect around me. My dad had a really deep connection with the ocean which has become elemental to my life in many ways. The balance of those things is what defines my idea of spirituality; the connection with nature, and with the mind and body, and allowing those ideas to expand out into the ideas of universal consciousness and love. That’s the jam for me.
“Dawn” has an unearthly, spiritual quality—there’s an intimate, hymn-like lilt in the structure of a lot of your songs. When people listen to your music, what kind of space do you hope to create for them, subconsciously or consciously?
I think we always have the ability to transcend different spaces and states of mind, and music and art can be a strong catalyst for this. It’s always been that way for me too. When people share their connection with my music, the ability to connect to an aspect of their hearts and maybe to even open it a little, means a lot to me. That’s the goal of art. To move people. To create change. To connect us.
If you could take a moment to look at your life in its entirety right now--from Australia to Los Angeles, and now that you’re poised to go all over the world during this tour--how would you describe the journey so far as a musician and as a human being, and where do you hope this journey will take you?
Wow—big question. It’s almost hard to link the way I grew up... from a tiny island in Australia, to the streets of LA, via Costa Rica, Indonesia and so many other worlds in between. I feel like I’ve been cracked open and reborn in so many ways, and I’ll continue to grow and be broken open… as an artist, and as a person. And ultimately, I open my arms to all of it and welcome it, even though it isn’t always easy. I’m a blessed person to have the ability to be raw and wild, and be deep in the world of experience. I’ll see where it leads with my heart open.
Photography by We Are The Rhoads
Words by Kandice Che