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Ryan Alexander Stays Aligned With His Purpose

Written by on April 11, 2022

“Our city is a big gumbo soup of personalities, and there’s so much that we offer. We need more light on the positivity that’s going on in the city, and there’s so much of it. I’m hoping to at least start the conversation as we repaint the violent narrative that has taken over our city.”

– Ryan Alexander

Ryan Alexander writes love songs to Chicago, like “Feels Good To Be Home.”

All images courtesy of the artist, by SIAbe Photography.

Hailing from Chicago’s South Side, musician, producer and business owner Ryan Alexander Foster, known professionally as Ryan Alexander, has stayed aligned with his goals since high school. A formally trained pianist and self-taught drummer, Alexander studied music business and production at Columbia College Chicago and released his debut album, Inspired By You, in 2020. His most recent release, ALIGNMENT222, was released on February 22 and named after the angel number 222, which, he explained, he has noticed frequently since childhood.

Off his 2020 debut, his track “Southside Love Story” made its way onto Vocalo’s “Poised To Break Through” playlist for March 2022. Through this song and his new EP, Ryan Alexander strives to write R&B love letters to Chicago and showcase the diverse talent the city has to offer.

We chatted with Ryan Alexander about his Chicago roots, ALIGNMENT222, his company It’s RA Productions, LLC, and his live performances with TIME Magazine and Mariano’s.

What part of Chicago are you from? How has growing up in Chicago shaped your sound or musical identity?

I’m a proud representative of the South Side of Chicago. There’s so many great artists and musicians that have come from this city, and the influence is inevitable. Artists like Curtis Mayfield and Donny Hathaway paved a way for what music should sound and feel like. They’ve influenced soul music all around the world. I call my genre “new wave soul,” because my music is inspired by the old school sound with live instrumentation, while adding the elements of this new-wave bounce that we dance to today.

You’ve performed at famous Chicago venues like the House of Blues. What’s a memorable moment you have from a live performance in the city? What made it so memorable?

One of the most memorable shows was performing at The DuSable Museum of African American History as a featured artist for TIME Magazine’s, “THE MARCH.” It was a virtual reality premiere, experiencing the “I Have A Dream” speech through VR technology, executive produced by Viola Davis. I remember getting multiple messages from friends saying that someone was looking for a pianist and vocalist for this big event. Very vague, very mysterious. I even received a message from a TIME representative in my spam DM’s on Instagram asking for my contact. The day of the show I performed two hours of covers and originals for all the executives of TIME and many more VIPs, including Viola Davis.

You just finished up a string of four different shows in March. When was the last time you performed?

As crazy as this may sound, I can honestly say I never stopped performing throughout the pandemic. I’ve performed at Mariano’s all over the city for their live music program called “Live at Mariano’s,” and social distance and masks were enforced so everyone was safe. I’ve had numerous virtual performances with
companies like Chicago Urban League, Deborah’s Place, NoStudios, Musical Chairs and many more. I even got the chance to be sponsored by the Illinois Lottery, as they partnered with Mariano’s for a string of virtual events. The pandemic allowed me to sharpen my performance skills from the comfort of my
home. Getting back to actually performing in music venues is something I will never take for granted again!

What do you feel is the most rewarding part of performing for a crowd?

The best part for me is crowd control. Most times, I’m performing for crowds that have never heard of me. If I can get them participating and interacting with the set, then that’s when I’m having the most fun.

You’ve mentioned your 2022 single “Feels Good To Be Home” is a love letter to Chicago. What aspects of the city did you want to pay homage to with this song? What makes Chicago special to you?

“Feel Good To Be Home” is a song I wrote after seeing shock from multiple people from outside of Chicago when I introduced myself as an artist from Chicago. They all have this connotation that Black people from Chicago all look and act a certain way. When writing this song, I wanted to enhance the narrative of the Black man from Chicago and showcase what people like me represent. Chicago is special to me, because there’s a side of us that has camaraderie, collaboration and genuine love for each other. Our city is a big gumbo soup of personalities, and there’s so much that we offer. We need more light on the positivity that’s going on in the city, and there’s so much of it. I’m hoping to at least start the conversation as we repaint the violent narrative that has taken over our city.

Your single “Southside Love Story” was featured in our “Poised to Break Through” playlist for March. Tell us about this single and what it means to you!

This song [was] produced by my brother, Dahs. I remember I walked past his room when he was working on the beat, and I instantly fell in love with the production. It had the new wave bounce, and an old school chord progression. It brought out the hopeless romantic in me when I started writing to it. While working on my last album, Inspired By You, I told myself I needed to finish the song. After playing it for a couple friends, they all agreed it was dope song. The song was a team effort, and seeing it being featured on the Vocalo Radio platform makes all the hard work worth it!

You also just released a new EP, ALIGNMENT222. What does “alignment” mean to you? Is there any significance to the number “222,” aside from it being the EP’s release date?

Long story short, “222” has always been a number that followed me. Ever since I was a kid I would run into it, and I never understood what it meant, but I accepted it. One day, I was in high school at Lindblom Math & Science Academy, and I saw “222” on the calendar.

Later I did some research and discovered angel numbers, and it states that if you keep seeing this number, it means alignment. Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re at, whoever you’re within those moments, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. It means I’m in alignment with my purpose.

The EP, ALIGNMENT222, further embraces that concept. While it’s a fun, rom-com type of music album, it also emphasizes on how we must be patient and let things happen in their own time. Sometimes, when we move outside of our alignment, we stray from where we need to be. So it’s important to pay attention to the signs around us and move accordingly.

Can you give us a brief rundown of your company, It’s RA Productions, LLC? Why did you start this company?

It’s RA Productions, LLC, is a company devoted to innovating sound through musical composition. My focus is to collaborate with artists, talent buyers, media outlets and more to utilize my producing skills for TV, film, singles, EPs, albums, song covers, live music events and whatever else makes sense.

I’ve been doing all of this for years already, but I didn’t want to publicly speak about it until I built my resume and a catalog. I started this company to create my own platform, instead of waiting for someone else to add me to their platform. I found myself trying to get on everyone else’s stage, and, after a while, I finally decided that I’m going to create my own stage and own it.

Tell us about #behindtherecord and why you felt compelled to join this initiative.

Behind the Record is an initiative from the Recording Academy. They wanted to celebrate creators in the music industry and shed light on the behind-the-scenes work. I think this is extremely important, because not many people know what’s going on behind the scenes. They only know what they see on Instagram — which is nothing compared to the hours put into projects, the merging of the minds and the trial and error of the process. All of this is unspoken, yet the biggest part of music. I love celebrating the people I collaborate with, and you must give credit when credit is due. When they kicked off this initiative, I didn’t hesitate to join in!

You’ve already done so much as an artist this year. What else does 2022 have in store for Ryan Alexander?

I appreciate you all for recognizing my grind throughout the year so far. It’s only April, and there’s so much of the year left.

On April 12, I’ll be performing a headline show at Promontory Chicago, so please come check out the new set with the six-piece band! Another date to note is April 15 at Mariano’s West Loop location. Be on the lookout for more music videos, more new songs soon to be released and potentially a hip-
hop album towards the end of the year. Thanks for your time, and looking forward to keeping you all updated!

Follow Ryan Alexander on Twitter and Instagram, and stream the full “Poised To Break Through” playlist on Spotify below.

Introduction by Milo Keranen

Interview by George Chiligiris

Edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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