Roughly a year ago, I got a chance to sit in a studio with Ryan Hemsworth. The Canadian producer/DJ was with a small group of associates, running through a dozen or so tracks that he'd been working on with artists across the globe; his E-40 and Yakki collab "Hunnid" was a part of that batch. It was an exciting experience, one that I hoped the world would experience in due time. As 2017 peace'd out and 2018's shitshow rolled on, I've always thought back to that afternoon, wondering if the world would ever hear the material Hemsworth was churning out.
To my surprise, he did release an album, Elsewhere, and while the framework of working with artists across the globe was still intact, these tracks were definitely not what I was hearing a year prior. It was a deeper, beautiful ride, with an underlying sense of what many have grown to love from his material, but there was definitely a shift in vibe on this project.
One of the illest examples of that is "The Butterfly Effect," which features Ambré. This is not only one of the most well-received songs on the album, but also ended up being the third song from Elsewhere to get the video treatment. Hemsworth spoke with Complex about the video, the process that lead up to Elsewhere, and how he found his comfort zone.
"The whole project," Hemsworth begins when asked about the intriguing videos that accompanied "Think About U" and "Special Girl," "I wanted to approach in a more light-hearted way than I have in previous stuff." While "Think About U" was more of an abstract, animated feature, and "Special Girl" was a full-on dance video, the concept for "The Butterfly Effect" video came after Hemsworth met Ambré, who he described as "a very cool, confident, unique person. I was trying to decide if I should be in it, just be the producer sitting in the background or something. But I was like, I think it’s just like her time to shine with this one." He says the video was like spending a day with Ambré in Los Angeles and capturing her "calm, collected" vibe.
It's an apt description of the viewing experience: lounging in a car full of flowers while Ambré coasts over his heavenly instrumental. That's almost the perfect metaphor for part of Hemsworth's process in crafting Elsewhere. "I actually was spending a bit more time both at home and in studios with people, and the more I was doing that, I was getting more comfortable with making music and not stressing putting it out. A lot of the time in the past couple of years was just spent getting more comfortable around people and musicians and creating in that personal space."
Without getting too deep into where his mind was, Hemsworth does talk about the process of paring down the material for Elsewhere—his first full-length album in four years—as being "cathartic," and explains why this project might have taken longer than anticipated. "I think sometimes you need to go through some shit. I never really took a break. When I started touring in 2011-2012, it was just nonstop, and I was making my albums on the road. I reached like 2015-2016, and I was like, 'Shit, I haven’t experienced much outside of tour life and making music.' I didn’t even feel like a human sometimes, in a way. Just wanted to balance my shit out, and I think that there’s a bit of inner peace that comes with that." Part of that came from the SoundCloud scene, which was constantly hungry for new material from artists.
It could just be that Hemsworth was burnt out from spending roughly four-to-five years on the road, constantly performing and always churning out new material. Maybe this process of working on his latest album was his subconscious forcing him off the road, for his own sanity.
While there's no telling what the future holds for those songs Hemsworth shared with me a year ago, it does sound like he's going to be stepping more into the role of helping up-and-coming artists he believes in. That includes Taquwami, who was featured on Elsewhere. For the month of October, Taquwami will be releasing one song a day. Hemsworth calls Taquwami one of his "first electronic music pen pals," and describes him as a guy who doesn't leave home or really talk to anyone.
"He sent me a pack of 40 tracks," Hemsworth remembers, "and he was like, 'So what should I do with this?' I was like, 'Do you wanna make a project?' He’s like, 'I don’t know.' I was just like, 'Honestly, these are all amazing songs, and you put out like one song a year. So I think if you do an overload release right now, people would lose their shit.'" Listening to cuts like "YDA" has me excited for what they have coming.
When it comes to what Hemsworth wants to do going forward (aside from his co-headlining tour with Giraffage, which kicks off on Oct. 24 in Vancouver), he's "leaning a bit more into EP where I can either executive produce, or just straight up produce an EP for a singer and then put it out for a label." Basically, keep it locked to Secret Songs for more.
"I’m trying to keep the sound changing and develop more," Hemsworth adds.
Check out the video for "The Butterfly Effect" up top, stream Elsewhere below, and grab it on iTunes here.