Debby Ryan

Debby Ryan

Debby Ryan has become the Disney Channel’s biggest star, leading the line in worldwide smash hit show Jessie and even getting her own TV movie Radio Rebel last year.

That’s not all though she’s been up to though, as we talked to her about the success of the show, her love of music and her plans for the future.

The show’s been such a massive success, what’s that been like for you?

It’s really great that other people love it as well. We obviously do it because we believe in it, but we also definitely do it for the fans. Knowing that they’re into it, love it and it touches them is so great. It’s so awesome to be doing this; it’s a whole heap of fun.

That’s not only in the US, it’s worldwide. How have the different reactions been for you?

I’ve had such incredible experience all over the world. In Singapore they were freaked out and they were chasing me from the airport and all sorts of things. Australia was very cool, they have a really mellow temperament out there. So going from there to Singapore where they get so excited was a really interesting contrast. In Turkey they were so warm and loving. The people in Poland were very sweet. Being to go out there and meet all these people in their own countries has been amazing.

You’ve also done a couple of other, more adult acting jobs. Is that world something you’re looking into being more involved with?

A little bit, I’ve started to do more dramatic work and some indie films. I’ve been very blessed to do both and although I’m happy to do Disney I also do Disney Channel Movies, which kind of split the difference. They’re a little bit more dramatic, they’re longer than a sitcom, you get more invested in the story but they’re still fun, aspirational and a little bit magical.

Debby Ryan and her guitar - Derek Wood

Then you go and do something like my part in Private Practice, where I played a cocaine addict in rehab. It’s been very cool to be able to play the range that I’ve played.

Music wise, I really enjoy writing and producing. Being able to do jukebox songs that people can sing along too as well as being able to really jam it out and Hulk out a bit with some rock or do a piano ballad is great. I’m very excited to share my music with the world; it’s an intimate personal venture of mine at the moment.

The world doesn’t know exactly who I am yet and I’m really excited to do that. I’ve been very blessed with the range of what I’ve been able to do. I’ve worked very hard though and I have a great team of people around me who’ve been very strategic in making sure that I do a little bit of everything.

You speak there about music, is that something you think might ever become your main focus?

I don’t think it will ever the main focus, because then it would be my career. I don’t really want to be accountable to anyone but myself for my music. Having people say you have write this many songs by this time and have them be this type of song, it scares me. I think that’s when you end up getting trapped in a box. So, that’s not for me, but I’ll always do it.

At the end of the day, it’s something that I love to do. I’m going now to do my job, I do things like this interview and then I go home and relax with music. It’s not something I talk about too much throughout my day and it feels like a chance to unwind over the last couple of years as I’m just there saying “I’m not going to have a music career” but I don’t usually tell people that what I do when I get home is write music with my friends.

There are three pianos in my living room so I rarely go a day without playing music for an hour or two. I really glad to have that lifestyle and the people who come around to my house get it. I’m really glad I’m able to share that a little bit with people.

You’ve worked with Rocket To The Moon a few times, what can you tell us about that?

First of all it just started with me as a fan on MySpace. I had my music blog that I would use to discover new music and my really hardcore fans know about it, but it was always more of personal thing for me, it’s not usually something I advertise too much. It’s all about me sharing things I like and they might like with the people who’ve always supported me.

So, I started writing about them on my blog and we ended up having several conversations and ended up meeting up after one of their gigs (we had common friends so they introduced us) and we really hit it off and became really great friends. It would be in Vancouver shooting a movie and they’d be nearby touring and we’d always meet up.

It became a thing, we’d get together all the time, I’d attend the shows and Nick [Santino the band’s lead singer] would come to my sets and we really became friends outside of the industry who just supported what each other did. I feel so comfortable with them. Not only do I believe in the band and the song enough to co-produce the video but I took a bit of a chance starring in it. I was blessed to do it and I think it turned out amazingly well and I’m so proud of it as both a producer and an actress.

Throughout the course of the video we were travelling to and from Vegas, spending 17 hours in a car, we became the best of friends. We’ve got to a place where we trust each other enough that I’ll send him lyrics, he’d send something back with a melody that might work. Something you need to know about me is that I don’t sing in front of people. Ever since I left musical theatre, singing in front of people is just something I don’t like doing. It just freaks me out.

I feel like because I’m on the Disney Channel, I’m going to have some sort of stigma attached to me by some people. You could put Adele on there and people would still say “Oh she can’t sing, she’s on the Disney Channel”. Now though, because we trust each other enough not just personally, but musically and professionally as well, I’ll sing in front of him. We were actually testing the other day and sending voice memos to each other about concepts for music.

I’m very lyrically driven and to have someone not only respect that but encourage it and work with it is great. I’ve worked with other writers who’ve just wanted me to write the melody and then to sing whatever fits. These are the stories that I want to be telling. You can sing a song a hundred times and only really get it the other way, that’s why you have nine year olds singing Flo Rida songs and just not getting the implication of what they’re saying. You have to be aware of those lyrics, as even if you consciously don’t mean it, it’s still coming out of your mouth. I believe in the power of words and to be irresponsible with that in the world of music for me is one of the worst things you can do as an artist. 

I’m very protective of my words and Nick and I just work together really well. He and I have been writing partners for ages, we do duets on the internet, we do live stream casts where we cover Katy Perry and John Denver songs and everything in between. After knowing Nick for so long, being able to do something for his band is just something that I jumped at. If this is the way I can get more people to hear this music and see this awesome video that’s like a short film, that’s incredible.

So tell us about the Ryan River Sessions, they look like a hoot!

Oh yeah, they’re totally fun. They’re basically me hanging out in my house making music. Me and my brother are equal partners on a home studio, we built from the walls in and made it to a totally professional standard. People just come over after work late at night, we might have a pizza party and we just jam. Or we have people come in and get us to write them a song, produce it and do the whole works for them. So, it’s a little bit of everything, even going to recording voice overs for an animated thing that a friend might be doing.

Debby Ryan - Derek Wood

What you see in the Guilty As Charged video is essentially what a weekend at my house looks like. I’ll have a bunch of people over, we’ll just be having fun hanging out and playing music in the living room. How it really started was that I’d wanted to cover the song for ages, so I got all my friends together that I would always sing it with and a girl called Gabbie Rae that I found on YouTube who’s super talented, invited her over and we just recorded that.

I really do believe in the power of a cover. A lot of people don’t think you should cover a song, but I disagree, I think that as soon as you release a song, it belongs to the world and you’re welcome to change the story however you like it. My story is your story and I hope that people will cover my music when I release some.

If I sing a Johnny Cash song, it’s going to mean something different to me than it did to Johnny Cash when he sung it. That doesn’t mean that it’s not relevant or a way to relieve feelings and troubles that keep me up at night. One song can mean so many different things to so many different people. I think that’s beautiful and that covering songs is a way that we can connect to the world of music.

Is it true that you’re also getting into fashion too?

Fashion’s definitely something I believe and I love to learn about and being a part of, but I didn’t grow up incredibly rich unlike some others in my position. Others might have grown up with rich parents and could afford designer clothes, but for me fashion came from me trying to recreate those looks with my Good Will clothes and my hand-me-downs. I would cut them up, mix and match them and modify them to make them look like the expensive ones.

That was something I loved doing so I think to be able to create a line of things that are both stylistically classic and fashionable would be really cool. That’s something I’d really like to do. I don’t think you can judge a book by its cover, but a lot of people do. So you have to deal with that and make a good first impression on people.

If you can present who you really are in the first 15 seconds, it doesn’t matter if it’s to someone who might hire you, a new friend or a boy you think it cute, it’s a powerful thing.

So, finishing up, what’s next for you then?

I’m actually deciding on that right now. I pulled the plug on a couple of things, I’m and working really hard to get a couple of others going so that means that I don’t really know exactly what’s next. I’m yet to announce the very next thing though, but I can tell you that I’m growing a lot in the producing world, I’m learning a lot and making projects on the level that I really want them to be on.

I’m studying directors and producers as I’m releasing things like Ryan’s Style and music on my YouTube channel, but there’s a whole lot in the pipeline.