Some of us aspire to be a singer, or maybe an actor, perhaps a writer, or possibly someone who makes a difference in a community we believe in. Well transgender hero Ryan Cassata is one such someone who in his young career has made his mark in all of the above.
As we’re constantly bogged down with bad news as of late, messages of positivity continue to shine from Cassata. Using his personal experiences as a victim of bullying, Cassata hopes to inform and empower people with the tools to stand up to hate. With a focus on the LGBTQ+ community, Cassata works tirelessly to express these values through his lyrics, film and TV appearances, print, and motivational speeches.
Belonging to the tribe of young culture-shapers, (think Emma Watson, Marley Diaz, Desmond is Amazing) the LA artist launched his career at the ripe age of 13. He went on to be featured in publications like Billboard, The New York Times, The Huffington Post (to name a few), and has toured internationally at festivals such as SXSW, Warped Tour, and many more. Coined “a true force in the industry” by Billboard magazine, Cassata’s highly praised music video, “Daughter,” spearheaded his movement for trans acceptance.
His latest lo-fi folk single, “California Woman,” dropped April 22nd, and evokes all kinds of raw images and emotions. With a retro image of a sky blue car on the cover of the single, the song is sure to peak intrigue. (in true, fearless, Cassata fashion)
Cut from the same cloth as Never Shout Never or Mayday Parade, the single plays off the juxtaposition of an acoustic pop-folk at the steering wheel with its sex-positive, edgy content. If you took Tom Higgenson’s vocal inflections (the Plain White T’s), and the windows-down sound familiar to Brett Dennen’s production, “California Woman” might be the result.
Characteristically wearing his heart on his sleeve, Cassata took some time to talk with us about the story behind “California Woman,” and how he intends to encourage others to always be themselves.
Where did you grow up, and who or what got you into playing music?
I grew up on Long Island, New York. I started playing music because there was a barely used guitar sitting in my house. I was about six years old when I asked my parents for lessons. I grew up in a household where music was being played all of the time. We also went to a lot of concerts.
What’s the overall inspiration behind your latest single, “California Woman”?
Jeni and I wrote this one together. We decided to really say what we wanted open and honestly without caring what others would think about it. I remember having a really fun time writing it with her. The more “out there” that the lyrics got the more fun I was having. I remember our dogs were howling along with the “oh yeah oh yeah” chorus part as we wrote it.
Where did you record it, and who else was involved in the production?
I recorded it in my bedroom on an iPad with my co-writer Jeni on FaceTime. We had tried recording it professionally at a studio, but we really needed a grittier sound for it to work the way we wanted it to.
Is it going to be part of an upcoming EP or album perhaps?
I’m not really sure yet, but I think I’m going to release an acoustic album whenever I can get back into the studio, and maybe “California Woman” will have a place on it. I just released a record, The Witches Made Me Do It. This song only wasn’t on it because we wrote it shortly after recording the LP.
Do you have a specific atmosphere or pastime that aids in your songwriting process, or does it happen more sporadically?
For me it’s sporadic, unplanned. I have to wait until this magical feeling comes over me and then I know that it is time to write. If I try to force myself to write, nothing really great comes out. It’s more of just an exercise.
What artist or song have you been playing on repeat lately?
Lately I have been listening to a pretty wide range of artists. I really enjoy the new Justin Bieber album, especially the acoustic tracks. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen. I have listened to “Stolen Car” on repeat a few times over the past week. I’ve been into The Strokes new record and Alkaline Trio’s latest EP. Great songwriting for both of those. I’ve also listened to Fiona Apple’s new record a few times. I’m all over the place with my musical tastes.
Had you always known you wanted to combine activism with your involvement in film, print, music, and so on?
Nope. There really wasn’t a plan ever. It just all happened that way. To make a long story short…I was bullied in middle school, got really sad, got sent to the local LGBTQ center, made friends that were like me, joined a speaking team, started speaking at LGBTQ events, got asked to go on International TV on the Larry King Live Show, then went on Tyra, started speaking all over, brought my guitar with me to have a little icebreaker for the crowd and to get over my public speaking anxiety. It went well. Most people love music and as a transgender person speaking to middle and high school kids, music is what humanized me. It was the common thread that united us. My music and activism led me to acting and influencer work.
How have you been spending your time during quarantine? Any new hobbies, recipes, or exciting shows?
I’ve spent a lot of time reading and writing. Honestly, I haven’t stopped since I was 13 years old when I started this thing. I’m 26 now. I have been traveling non-stop for the past few years, and I don’t think I would have slowed down and rested if this didn’t happen. Right now I have the time and space to be able to work on myself, come to terms with my past, and move towards healing. Journaling has been very helpful. I’ve been writing a lot of new music and even poetry. I am feeling very creative during all of this. To pass the time I have started making belts that we sell for cost-to-make on Instagram. It takes a lot of time to make them which has been good to keep busy. I’ve also been live streaming, that’s been a great way to still connect with fans, friends, and family. Human connection is important, thank god we have the internet through all of this. I have been skateboarding and BMX biking to get some exercise in too.
What is (was) your favorite part about tour life?
Besides playing the show, my favorite part is meeting the people that have been touched or influenced by my music. Connecting with someone that you have made an impact on is one of the greatest feelings there is. I miss connecting and meeting new people. Soon…
What do you hope to be on the horizon for Ryan Cassata in a post-quarantine life?
Definitely more music releases, recording in the studio, and I hope to re-book my tour and get back on the road. My new album The Witches Made Me Do It just came out in late March, and I would love to take it on the road with my band.
What do you hope people can take away from knowing you, your music, and what you stand for?
Remember to be yourself and be kind to others. Stay true, stay you. Peace.