As one of the busiest DJs around the Bay this summer, DJ and vocalist LadyRyan has played close to twenty events in just this past month alone. Recently entering her tenth-year as a full-time DJ, her self-described “well-rounded in musical genres” and “blended beats, paced storytelling” style fittingly won her East Bay Express’ Best DJ Who Dabbles in Every Scene 2016 accolade. She’s is also a founding member of Soulovely, a daytime monthly in Oakland that empowers and celebrates the QPOC community with rhythms representing all cultures and orientations.
We chatted with LadyRyan about her vocal career, East Bay hangouts, and the importance of all-inclusive vibes.
SF Weekly: First of all, how’s your summer going?
LadyRyan: I am having a pure blast this summer. I shifted my focus away from traveling and working, and staying put in the Bay has definitely been rewarding. I’ve been honored to guest at well-attended, once-a-year, curated events like SolHouse, Fam Bam at Lake Merritt, San Francisco Pride: Soul of Pride Stage, and Sade vs. Badu.
SFW: When did you realize that DJing is something you’re passionate about?
LR: When I realized how hard it is to learn how to mix, and, despite my frustration, was determined to get it. I feel sorry for anyone in the household of an aspiring DJ [laughs].
SFW: Who has been the most memorable artist you’ve opened for thus far in your career?
LR: The legendary George Clinton, one of the innovators of funk music — one of the highest vibrations I have experienced at a live concert.
SFW: Tell us the inspiration behind Soulovely, the party you’ve been championing for six years.
LR: The inspiration behind Soulovely is our own Oakland community. We wanted to create an uplifting experience for partygoers, and the music we play in our sets is thoughtfully curated to create an atmosphere that fosters community building and a soulful sexy vibe.
SFW: You’re also part of the Peaches Crew. What do you love about it?
LR: The Peaches Crew is a true sisterhood. Not just DJ colleagues but friends as well. We have mutual admiration and are inspired by each other.
SFW: Both SoulLovely and Peaches seek to showcase badass women DJs. Why is this important to you, personally?
LR: As with any male dominated industry, I personally think it is important to take control, uplift and support our fellow talented women colleagues. Equality in the midst of capitalism and patriarchy is an ongoing battle; we have to make our own mark and certainly can’t wait for the recognition of the boy’s club to bring us in. I could write an entire essay on this topic.
SFW: What was it like to win East Bay’s Express’ “Best of Bay DJ” last year?
LR: Winning last year was sort of surreal. I was out of town at the time and didn’t know the contest was happening. Nastia, a writer for EBX, emailed me to say they needed my picture to include me in an insert about summer events. To my complete surprise, I was on the cover for Best of East Bay the next week! I’m constantly in awe and so grateful at the amount of support I have. Connecting to my audience and being able to channel an inclusive vibe is my goal and I think it has contributed to my success.
SFW: Where are some of your favorite East Bay hangouts?
LR: As far as hangouts, I really like my own neighborhood in Fruitvale. Its busy, lots of families and everything I need is in walking distance. Most importantly I can access the waterfront near alameda. I also like to hang out at TownBiz downtown. I am sure to run into my closest friends and loved ones any time I am there.
SFW: Do you ever hope to combine your past vocal experience and Djing?
LR: I’ve been singing most of my life and put it to the back burner to focus on DJing. I think part of that is due to the pure vulnerability I feel when singing. Some people are surprised that I am somewhat of a shy person. Being behind the turntables allows me to be engaged and alone at the same time. I think singing sets me apart, and I would like to incorporate original lyrics and beats in my mixes, and more live singing in my live sets.
SFW: What’s has been your artist/DJ mantra throughout your career?
LR: Gratitude. Before most of my gigs I pray and give thanks for the responsibility and opportunity to bring folks to higher ground through music.
SFW: Can we expect any upcoming mixes when/if you have some down time?
LR: I get a little nervous every time I hit that record button. I really enjoy feeling purely inspired to do a mix. I am more of a “live in the moment” type of person. I am very fortunate to be in the position of choosing my down time. Yes, I have a few ideas in the works, the winter months seem to be the ideal time for me to get in the lab, so look out for something new later this year.