Come Through These Doors: A Conversation with Ryne Norman
by Kylie Foster
Founder of Hardspeak, creative mad man, guinea pig artist, and visionary, Ryne Norman is the original force behind Hardspeak Records that brought it to life. Motivated by his own experiences as an independent artist and a genuine love for seeing great creators succeed in the industry, he chose to make a better path for creative souls than the one he had to travel himself.
After being in Nashville for almost 2 years working towards his own album, he realized just how valuable a support system is to an artist who is beginning to create their legacy in the industry. “I didn’t necessarily have it figured out by any means but I kind of figured out that these are the things you have to do to be at this level here. I had… seen a lot of other artists doing things and I was like, ‘oh you need a lot of people on board for this, you need a system’”.
Taking the list of things an artist would need to do and combining it with a love for local artists and rad music, Norman was inspired to build a system that gave artists not just the services they need to be successful and independent, but also the people they’d need along the way. If there’s one thing that can be taken away from hearing him talk about the creation of this label is just how much of his own needs went into the pouring of Hardspeak’s foundation. “Really what Hardspeak was from the very, very early stages was me creating a world that I wanted to live in, that I wished was around when I was starting… why don’t I just start it?”
“The reason why I see us as a different site is that I’m not trying to capitalize on other people’s success. I really want to champion the model of the independent artist and encourage our artists… I would rather us be a home base than an approval source… Just do it and we’ll get behind you, and have resources if you need us.”
Hardspeak is the space where the artist can just be the artist and have the things that will distract them taken away so they’re free to create, to grow and to succeed. “As an artist, it’s so hard to stay relevant, especially if you want to be successful because you have to have so many people. You gotta have a designer, you gotta have a photographer, you gotta have a PR person, you gotta have management, you gotta have booking, you gotta have distribution… all these things. Sometimes that can really suck up from your art… I’m always looking for that in an artist…what are you doing that’s going to influence others? I think if I can allow you to do that without any distractions, that’s when we start to see some fruit and growth.”
Perhaps the best part of who Ryne Norman is and how he has created Hardspeak to be is that in his eyes, everyone is invited. “This label really lives and dies in the fact of us sharing our network and us sharing our community, being a team together… The point of the Hardspeak community is to make an impact, to make a difference in the world around them by creating really badass art that leaves a positive mark on the industry, beyond just music.
Beyond the lengthy to do list that comes with building Hardspeak Records from the ground up, Norman is also the founder of Hardspeak Creative, a resource within Hardspeak that seeks to give artists access to creative media that is unique to them and doesn’t require them to rely on another company that cares less about them as an artist and more about the money they can make off their graphic needs.
Norman takes inspiration from acts like Bowie, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles having these great photographers that were meant to show these artists to the world and he strives to do the same for the artists that use Hardspeak Creative, whether they live in the Hardspeak galaxy or not.
“Having a good visual presence, a good designer or a good creative direction is key because everything now is online, everything is at the touch of a screen on your freaking phone… it’s always going to speak way louder than a screenshot of an iTunes link that says ‘hey my single is out now’ at 1 in the morning on the Friday it comes out. I think there’s a big need for artists that need to be represented beyond their music and creatively, I’ve really leaned into that and been like, ‘how can I give every artist a unique voice and a unique image’.”
Part of his own artistry, (musically and visually) has been having badass content to push his impact even further. Having been at one of his album release shows, I can vouch for the fact that it was a show that I’ve never seen from any other independent artist… and the visuals, videos, and graphics so intimately laced with his music created a lasting impression unique to the artist that is Ryne Norman.
“I gave a lot of fucks about the details… I really care about the details. It doesn’t take much. A lot of my ideas just expand on themselves… It started with wanting to do more than just play a show. I was like, ‘I know how to sync up videos, I can do this whole thing’ so I spent a month and got a whole set down. Oh, it would be cool for everyone to wear t-shirts of bands they like’. In some ways, it was very thought out and in some ways, it naturally grew to what it was… it’s important to see more than just music… I don’t get the luxury to play shows as often as I’d like so I want to give somebody something to go home with.”
Propelled by passion and experience, Hardspeak Creative gives artists options. “Artists get standard perks for creative, artwork design or promotional content, all of that comes inclusive with them being on the roster but we’re wanting to offer more to them creatively if they want to.”
This vision has two sides because it not just provides valuable content to the artist, but gives them the option to choose what they need and invest in the specific teams and people doing exactly those things. “Instead of us taking money from you and your records, pick a tier that you want… Here’s all the things that it takes right now to be relevant, we have people that can do just about all of this, which ones are important to you? These are available.”
Because being the founder of Hardspeak Records and head creative force beyond Hardspeak Creative just isn’t enough, Norman is also still working on his own music.
“There is more coming. I just finished recording a song, I can’t say much about it. I would just encourage you to follow my Instagram because something is coming. I have a whole new single for a lot of people, coming your way soon.”
While that answer was not good enough for me either, my poking and prodding was not fruitful. I have no secrets, but I can say that the bar is set pretty high from his past shows and releases but it sure sounds like Norman plans to deliver. “I have a lot of really great ideas for the future of ‘Ryne Norman’ music. One of which is that there will be shows happening.. and they will be the pinnacle part of it, not the music.”
That’s the thing about Ryne Norman. It’s not just about the music. Whether it be his own work or all that is encompassed in Hardspeak, the music is an important piece but it’s not the only factor. The heart of both Norman and of Hardspeak is not just high quality creative content, good tunes or making money from the needs of independent artists. It’s all about community.
In every way, his own love for others is what keeps it all going. “[We are] a community of people that actually care about what they’re trying to do as an artist, not just in music, but in who the world views them as… a community that wants to champion that and gave that a voice whether that be through design, extra help with admin stuff, booking, distribution.”
Ryne Norman is not just his list of duties, his unique eye for creation and design or his affinity for the good shit. Norman is an ambassador for community, for using the platform you’ve been given in the best way possible and giving artists the home they need. His heart is the for the betterment of the music industry by creating a team built around championing unique individuals and the mark they leave on the world. A team that everyone is welcome to join.
“Most importantly, I want to give [artists] a platform and a community to belong to that they can speak with influence… Are you willing to take this to the end and come along people who want to see you do that? Then come through these doors.”