To say music flows through Ryn Hills’ bloodstream is a bit of an understatement. It was common for his family to bring out instruments during holidays and sing together. His father is Thomas McClary, a founding member of the funk and soul band the Commodores, and as a result, he was introduced to music at a young age.
“At the age of five, my father brought me into the studio with my younger brothers and showed me a beat machine. My brothers weren’t really interested but I thought, ‘this is pretty dope!'” Hills recalled. “Before I knew it, I was hearing beats in my head all the time. It was always in my head – it became an outlet for me to express myself.”
Growing up, Hills wanted to reach that caliber of music artistry. The Motown genre has always been a huge influence on Hills, with some of his influences outside the Commodores being the Jackson 5, Lionel Richie and Diana Ross.
“We have a family friend, James Anthony Carmichael, who is a producer/songwriter for those artists, and he became a mentor to me. He would always emphasize having strong hooks with melodies, making sure the melody was strong. That became a core part of my music,” said Hills. “It stuck with me. That inspired me to want to do different things, like playing drums, guitar and piano, to try and be like them or respected on that level.”
Though Hills has been creating music for practically his whole life, Hills says he never really put himself out there before. After briefly attending Florida A&M University, Hills got the opportunity to tour with his father as a vocalist/guitarist in The Commodores Experience band.
The tour played for an international audience, and Hills was given the opportunity to play one of his songs for the crowd at a show in the United Kingdom. The song was received so well that Hills became the opening act for the tour. Hills says that going on tour really helped him shape his career for the better.
“I got a chance to really hone my skills and my comfortability on stage. I was able to develop a fan base overseas and really get a head start, which I’m super grateful for,” said Hills. “Touring internationally was one of those things that shaped my whole career. It taught me professionalism, being on time, practicing, and making sure shows are killer every single time. There were also points in the tour where we didn’t know anybody, but they were able to connect to us through the music. They might not have been able to speak English, but they knew every word to their favorite song. It gave me a deeper appreciation for music.”
After touring, Hills made his way to New York City to continue his music journey. In 2017, Hills earned his first producer credit on the song “Overflow” by Q Alexander, which accumulated more than one million YouTube views.
In September this year, Hills reintroduced his music to the world with the release of his single “Escargot” which premiered through Puff Daddy’s television network, Revolt. His latest single “Peter Parker” is set to debut online on Dec. 4.
“I was back in Florida for quarantine and was already in my bag from releasing Escargot. I pulled out my guitar and played that riff [for Peter Parker] and knew it was going to be a hit. It was stuck in my head,” said Hills. “I planned it out and finished the beat, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say in the song.”
Hills says that while he was working on the song, his friend and collaborator Roe Lindsay called a girl over while they were working. Hills played the song for her and inspiration struck.
“I was trying to shoot my shot,” said Hills, laughing. “She was enjoying the vibes and beats. When she liked it, I liked it too. Roe had to shoot his shot too and came on the second verse. That was pretty much it, I mixed and matched after that and got it done in a week. We didn’t waste any time.”
The video was shot in New York and features Hills as, how he describes it, a geeky character in the same vein as Spider-Man’s secret identity Peter Parker. Hills says the song and video are fun, and it’s important for the world to have something fun right now.
“That’s what the song kind of needs, it’s what we all need every now and then. That’s kind of like how the video was made too,” said Hills.
Both “Escargot” and “Peter Parker” were created during the COVID-19 pandemic. For Hills, creating while in quarantine was sort of a double-edged sword — while he now had so much time to be able to hone his craft, the collaborative aspects of music became more difficult.
“That’s the crazy thing about this pandemic. The quarantine stripped away a lot of distractions and allowed me to be free. Creatively, I was just on fire this year. ‘Escargot’ was the first beat I made when I touched the keyboard when I got to Florida for quarantine,” said Hills. “I was able to focus more, sit down and knock out projects and full concepts. It was also a time to reflect a little bit and recaliberate myself. It was also challenging, too, because you’re stuck. You can’t work with people as easily. I like to work with people, so that was a bummer. But overall, it was cool to break through it.”
Hills is currently working on some new projects, including another with Lindsay, that are set to drop next year.
“I’m in the studio now, putting the final touches on a project that I want to release in 2021,” said Hills.