We love finding artists who are stretching creative boundaries in faith-inspired music. Washington State’s Ryan Lane releases music under the moniker Civilized Creature, and his new album The Way Back Home just released a few days ago with a lot of critical praise. (Open the album on Spotify) You’ll discover some mostly instrumental indie electro-pop that will take you on joy-filled ride that magically gets wilder the more actively you listen. Here’s our conversation:
UTR: At what point in your life did you discover that music was in your DNA?
CC: My parents recorded me singing as a small child on a cheap cassette tape player. As soon as I was old enough to operate it myself I would make up and record silly songs with my sister. I’ve always felt incredibly energized by the process of creating things.
UTR: Do you view Civilized Creature as a band, collaborative, or more of a solo artist expression?
CC: Civilized Creature is a solo artist expression I suppose, but I am very open to collaborating! After having children I found I didn’t have as much time to play with fellow musicians in live settings, and home studio production gave me a music outlet that was a bit more flexible to my parental duties.
UTR: The new album is fantastic. What was your hope and/or vision going into the crafting of these songs?
CC: The first Civilized Creature had a large overarching concept that really informed the whole album from the start. Subsequent albums have been a bit more scattered in theme, but very often are stemming from things I am learning, being challenged by, or wrestling with. Modern day “psalms”, if you will. I would like to do another concept album, but all these little songs keep happening in the meantime, so rather than just letting them collect dust I’m sharing them with you! The Way Back Home, while crafted as individual songs, does (inadvertently) have an ongoing theme of journey, struggle, and redemption.
UTR: What are some of the reasons you chose to create a large musical landscape with fewer lyrical moments?
CC: Often what I hope to communicate in the music I’m making are glimpses of deep soul impressions that are quite difficult to articulate with language. Music can speak much “deeper” than words, and thus is a good vessel for such sentiments. Additionally, my singing voice isn’t my strongest suit, so part of me is reticent to use it as often.
UTR: You have been recording as Civilized Creature for several years now. What are some key things you’ve been learning in this chapter?
CC: I’m currently trying to balance “just having fun” and “being still and listening to the Spirit” in my creation process. I really enjoy just sitting down at a blank audio “canvas” and seeing what comes out, but I feel a conviction that in creating I would like to be more intentional about seeking out what I should be creating. Not that the former is bad; I just feel it is important to make art that is meaningful and inspired. Fun is meaningful too, but in balance of course.
UTR: Did anything surprise you about the making-of or finished product of The Way Back Home?
CC: The track “Valley” walks through a period of doubt and questioning I had about my Christian faith. The ending in particular, with heavy distorted bass and synth, expressed the weight, frustration, and grief of the season. A number of early listeners of the album wrote to me expressing they were emotionally moved by the song, and I guess I felt a bit surprised that feelings depicted “carried through” to the listener. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising, but I find I’m often very critical and negative about my art and it’s ability to communicate anything. It’s encouraging to hear that something I’ve made is meaningful in some way to another person.
UTR: How do you see your faith weaving its way into your art?
CC: I sometimes wish I could step back a bit from my faith in the music I create, but for me personally the two are just so intertwined! The things that move me to want to express myself in song and sound are so often wrapped up in processing what it means to be a human on earth navigating a relationship with a living God. I hope it doesn’t feel like an agenda for listeners; for better or worse, I am being honest with who and where I am.