“I’m always so impressed when Skype actually connects. We worked out the time zones - I’m so impressed with us!” And, despite Eddy Ruyter sitting 3452 miles away, this enthusiastic optimism radiates brilliantly through my iPad.
The Toronto-based musician began playing the piano at six years old, when all he wanted to do was play outside. “It was probably a good four to five years before I started turning around and was like, “Oh, I actually really like this!””, he recalls. Eddy then whizzed through the classical training and gained exposure to a variety of influences, including Elton John (“A complete legend – I still see huge influence in my playing from listening to that as a kid!”), but mostly drew inspiration from pop-punk & rock bands. His decision to pursue an undergraduate degree in jazz performance was due to its fundamental applicability, but Eddy comments, “Jazz was something I dove in the deep end in college – I never really lived jazz music in the way a lot of my other friends did.” Nonetheless, he fondly remembers feverishly transcribing some of Joe Zawinul’s solos, and Bill Evans's “Sunday at the Village Vanguard” still remains one of his favourite albums.
"There was a good year or so I was paying my rent mostly from playing with a Mexican band"
However, it was more the amalgamation of diverse sounds that cultivated his musical direction early on. “Toronto, being a very multi-cultural city, it’s cool just being a side-man here – there’s so many different kinds of music and so many different cultures all put together. There was a good year or so I was paying my rent mostly from playing with a Mexican band. I got to learn how to do a bunch of salsa, merengue, duranguense...I never thought it would be an experience I got to have, which was so fun! I definitely feel Latin influences has been a bigger part of my playing than jazz was, even.”
A lot of Eddy’s passion for pop-punk & rock music stems from hearing how the synths & piano sounds are integrated. “Linkin Park did that, and Silverchair even had a concert pianist come in for one of their songs to play over it. I always love that rock edge, but when they bring in programming, synth stuff & sampling, I always like seeing how all those sounds are integrated within rock music.” So much so, Eddy was part of a 5-piece pop-rock band a few years ago, Aberdeen, that toured around Canada. “It was just throwing everything in the back of a van, driving across Canada, and sleeping on peoples' floors.”
"You start with little gigs that don’t really pay much, but you have to learn a lot of songs for. But I always loved it; I always wanted to play"
This sporadic, impromptu lifestyle is absolutely expected in a musician’s life, so I ask him about what pursuing a career in music entails. “I just played with anyone and everyone I could. It started a lot with cover bands and being in school for it, as well as just being around a lot of different musicians. I was also working part-time at a music store teaching guitar & piano lessons there, and just being around so many different musicians helped a lot, because they’ll be playing a little bar gig here & there, and be like, “Hey! I need a keyboard player! Can you come for this?” So, you start with little gigs that don’t really pay much, but you have to learn a lot of songs for. But I always loved it; I always wanted to play. I always liked the challenge of, “Oh, how do I make that sound?” “How do I cover all these horn parts and string parts and synth parts at all the same time?” I just kept doing that. The more you do it, the more other musicians notice you, and the more you get asked to do other shows or other projects.”
Breaking into the music industry seemed more of a side-effect than an end-goal for Eddy. Incredibly humble with a remarkable work ethic, it was no surprise Eddy was soon presented with the opportunity to work with the now 22-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter, Francesco Yates. “I worked with him for a couple years playing keys. Francesco is absolutely amazing – he is an incredible singer, an incredible piano player, and an incredible guitar player,” enthuses Eddy. In addition to working with Francesco, around that same time, Eddy also began subbing in with the 80s-synth band, Spoons. With a delighted laugh, he exclaims, “I love them! They’re amazing. They’re the sweetest people and have music videos out from before I was even born! I just did a show with them about a week ago, and it’s been so fun.”
“Trying to help people through things is something Shawn definitely is really on with his lyrics, and is one of the reasons I really look up to him"
Eddy & I also happen to be Skyping a couple weeks shy of having just recently wrapped up Shawn Mendes's phenomenal worldwide Illuminate tour – a simple “Hey, can you come to Salt Lake City tomorrow and play a show?” call from the guitarist led to an adventure of a lifetime. Further exemplifying how integral spontaneity is, Eddy lays down breaking into the music industry with no rigid set of pipeline events. “There’s really no tried-and-true “Oh, I went to do this, or accomplished this, and that allowed me to play with so & so.” I just kept playing, and I loved playing, and your name gets passed around. If someone needs you and they know you from another show you did, they might call you. It all works out.”
Having gone from the unpredictable “Can you jump in with us tonight?” texts to a scheduled regimen of touring with label artists, I inquire whether he misses the flexibility in performances, like during the Illuminate tour. “It’s very put together beforehand, and decided “Okay, this happens here, this happens there.” In rehearsals, there will be a lot of improvised parts that we figure out – we’ll lock something in and say “Okay, this is what we want to use for this tour.” It all depends on the group. There can be improvisation, but mostly has to be set in stone before going out on the road. In the case of a tour like that [Illuminate], you have to be locked in with lighting, visuals, and everything else. The more production element parts, the more you have to be like, “Okay, so this is what we’re doing” so it fits. But with that being said, there are a lot of shows set up in a way that allows improv to happen.”
Also, feeling creatively stifled is never an issue with Eddy: “One of my buddies in college, he’s a saxophone player, and was talking about doing pit band. He said, “Well, whenever I’m in the pit band, there’s no improvisation there, but I’m really focusing to make sure that my tone is on point, that my pitch is right there; I'm focusing on doubling of the instruments, or on my sight-reading.” So, with any show, it’s always looking at what to improve. With a tour like this, you’re not doing as much improvisation, but you’re taking that attention and focusing on other aspects of the music - “How tight can I play with these guys?”, “How can I create the best sound that is going to fit in with this project?”, or “How can I dynamically play this part to showcase it in the best way possible?” It’s definitely a very big part of it, seeing what the song calls for and what’s the best way you can do it in.”
“Lyrics are a big thing because music is something that can help people through so many different aspects of their life"
The next few months will involve a little less traveling mileage – Eddy is currently working hard on his own personal projects. Amidst the gigs generously speckled here and there, Eddy has a four-track EP “Blurred” to be released soon (“It’s been on “Coming Soon!” for a while now!”) with one track out now, “Catch Me If You Can”. “I am slowly recording and starting to launch some of my own stuff. It’s under the name “The ER Project”. I’ve got a few recordings that I’m holding onto and trying to figure out the whole release plan. Hopefully, over the next few months, I’ll start getting those out!”
With a lot of the sounds being a fusion of pop-rock and electronica, noting the large influence Hedley & Marianas Trench both have on the EP, most of the tracks were written during his Masters project: “The whole thesis of it was just pop-rock compositions, but it was lyrically targeting a lot of issues songs don’t.” Communicating with the listener lyrically is clearly the crux of Eddy’s musical vision – the long, drawn-out pauses of contemplation in conversation hints at deeply personal experiences. “Lyrics are a big thing because music is something that can help people through so many different aspects of their life; that’s why I really focus on a lot of artists or groups that will lyrically target that. I don’t look at that as anything against any other genres or other lyrical content – everything has its place.” He smiles gratefully, before continuing, “Trying to help people through things is something Shawn definitely is really on with his lyrics, and is one of the reasons I really look up to him. He really cares about connecting with the listener, and writing things that will inspire them, and can give them something to relate to, which is huge.”
"A lot of the music rebels against whatever the generation before created, and in a lot of cases, it isn’t anybody meaning any harm. It’s simply: this is what this generation is; this is what the next thing is”
Recently, there has been some bewilderment from older generations due to what “masquerades” as today’s popular music created by certain millennials at the forefront. Working with young artists, like Cian Ducrot, Shawn Mendes and Francesco Yates, to name a few, what is Eddy's opinion? He grins, rolling his eyes good-humouredly. “I think every generation in music history has been there: “Oh, these kids are doing this – why is that okay?” A lot of the music rebels against whatever the generation before created, and in a lot of cases, it isn’t anybody meaning any harm. It’s simply: this is what this generation is; this is what the next thing is.”
"Now, we’ve got the diversification of all these different genres that can exist at the same time. And I like that people are willing to accept that"
Whilst we utilize the master category of “pop music”, Eddy notes the boundaries of the genre being tinkered with, as elements of house, trap and EDM music cross over considerably these days. However, he pauses mid-sentence, before a frazzled, “Actually, I don’t know if I can even say that! Even when you had the huge club thing and EDM back in the early 10s, you had the whole folk music movement coming with Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers; then “Counting Stars” by One Republic, boom, combined them."
"Everything has diversified now. Yes, I can say a particular genre was more prevalent in this decade to the prior one, but there are still so many other things going on at the same time. We have the internet with access to so many different things. You think of it as, “Oh, that 60s sound!” because I guess in that decade, it was more unified - whereas now, we’ve got the diversification of all these different genres that can exist at the same time. And I like that people are willing to accept that. We’re able to experiment with more, so who knows what’s next? Maybe the grunge will come back into play!”
We’ve got far more ability to invest into any particular artist, but we definitely don’t, because there’s a lot of other artists there you can discover, which in a way…is kind of cool!"
The ease of discovering new music via streaming services has fundamentally changed the music industry and the method of consumption. Listeners have easy access to a plethora of music, but a debatable trade-off becomes the lack of investment into a single artist. Eddy immediately jumps in: “Oh, definitely – we’ve got far more ability to invest into any particular artist, but we definitely don’t, because there’s a lot of other artists there you can discover, which in a way…is kind of cool! Even if you just get a snippet of everyone, you can find so many different people making music, and listeners have such a variety to really make their own collection. I mean, obviously you’re not diving in as much into an artist, but if you find an artist that you really like, I think people are still going to do it because they have a means to. It might not happen as much, but I think when someone really finds someone they like, they’re gonna go for it.”
Not only have streaming services dampened the rigid gatekeeper role record labels once possessed, the digitization of the music industry has paved way for autonomy. Whilst terrestrial radio remains a popular avenue to means of music and vinyl is making a surprising resurgence, it cannot be overstated how platforms such as Apple Music or Spotify have given numerous musicians accessible means to easily share their music without the need for creative compromise – this comes with the valid option of not manufacturing or distributing physical copies at all. “You get to hear songs released half a year before they make it on radio, and I’ll be like, “Ah, I know that one already, I already know about that artist!” So, I think it’s definitely cool, instead of a few people having those spots and everything about those few people; there are all these other artists you can really dig in and find.” It’s true the ease of adding a one-off song into your cultivated playlist means a lower likelihood of learning more about the specific artist, but perhaps the overarching interconnectedness is more of a fortune than a downfall.
"I’m definitely one of those people that starts going crazy if I’m too long without an instrument"
Pianist-to-pianist, I eagerly ask what he is currently focusing on musically. “Right now, honestly, it’s mostly vocals and getting ready to track some more stuff. Within piano playing, it’s always just creating synth sounds, and playing with other people & making sure you’re locking in is always a big part of it. Improvisation on my own is always listening to standards and playing over them. It’s definitely hard to find a balance,” Eddy sighs, furrowing his eyebrows. “And balance is usually dictated by what show is coming up and what needs to be strongest.” The stress is transient, immediately dissolving into a grin. “As long as I’m working on something, I’m happy.”
“I’m definitely one of those people that starts going crazy if I’m too long without an instrument. I have this habit of tending to immerse myself in it in any way I can.” He laughs warmly, before finally adding, “And if that’s healthy or not…who knows?”