Ryann Barnes’s brain is halfway in high school, halfway in a glittery Wonderland. Facetiming me from a polaroid-filled room, she showed me her childhood songbook, a bright blue sequined journal with a fluffy pen on the side. “When I used this songbook, I would prop up my little iPod and film myself just singing random words, and then I would listen and write it all down. There was no structure!”

Now, her songwriting is more purposeful, with wistful themes that combine imagination with reality. “In the moment, I’m never thinking about how raw conversations at school can work into a song, but when I’m in my bed with the lights off, I’ll go through the rabbit hole of ‘what-ifs’ and new scenarios, and that’s where inspiration strikes.” 

Even with new inspiration from the highschool experience, some of Ryann’s childlike storytelling has stuck with her, like her admiration for Alice in Wonderland. Her songs are also heavily influenced by vintage Disney, the 90s, Taylor Swift, and Elton John, which can be seen in her dreamy lyrics. Fans of Taylor Swift’s country era will appreciate Ryann’s sweet voice, a delightful combination with her innocent lyrics about growing up.

Ryann has been singing the national anthem in stadiums such as Oracle Park, since she was an elementary school student. For most people, it would be hard to produce music and continue this passion as a busy junior, but she says that it’s a necessity to record her life. “I’ve always loved knowing all the little details and significant memories of different periods of my life, so I try to write every day [for my future self].”

In her new single, September, Ryann uses the concept of time to record her life. Before quarantine, making music was a private activity, similar to writers keeping a journal. During quarantine, she realized that her excess of free time could be used to publicly release her songs.

However, she says it’s been somewhat of a strange process to change her songwriting from a private to public production. “It’s hard to be in high school and have people be able to figure out what I’m feeling through my lyrics. Trying to find a balance in being vulnerable is hard sometimes, but I love that people that I go to M-A with know me for what I like to do.” She says that she tries to stick to her own path and not be swayed by the judgment of others. “You’re never going to please everybody, so just do what you want.”

Despite handling a busy schedule, Ryann wants to continue putting out songs that she can “stand fully behind and say, ‘this is me in a song.’” 

Ryann lives by the words that her dad told her every night when she was little: “good things happen to those who wait.” But don’t wait to check out Ryann’s music on Youtube or any streaming platforms and look out for any new projects at @ryann.barnes on Instagram.

Sonia Freedman

Sonia Freedman is a sophomore and in her first year in journalism. She enjoys writing about the music, fashion, community, and culture at M-A. In her free time, you can catch Sonia making playlists, baking banana bread, playing lacrosse, or hanging out with her friends.

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