Chicago-based singer-songwriter, producer and composer, Ryan O’Neal, performs under the moniker of Sleeping At Last.
O’Neal creates music that transcends the age old advice to “show, don’t tell.” His music doesn’t just tell us tales. Every song is infused with emotion, showing us by evoking our senses.
Sleeping At Last has had songs featured on Grey’s Anatomy, Reign, Criminal Minds, Breaking Dawn Part 1, The Vampire Diaries and the list goes on. Learn more on his site.
For years, I’ve been defining my life by Sleeping At Last. I’ve written a book to his music, dealt with anxiety with his songs on replay, and every year, I picked a song that represented everything I couldn’t say.
Because of this, I reached out to Ryan O’Neal aka Sleeping At Last and asked if I could interview him. To my surprise, he said yes! This is our Q&A:
[RAVENOUS]: Where do you draw inspiration from when you write songs and what’s your favorite part about the process?
[RYAN]: Inspiration is a funny thing because it can never be forced, but it can definitely be neglected. There’s just no way to successfully wake up and decide to be inspired, but inspiration, at least for me, rarely comes unless I’m ready to receive it. Or maybe it does come, but when I’m not ready, I miss it. Not sure, but in any case, I am trying to make sure I make time for “input” and not just “output” in my creative process. Sometimes that means doing nothing but wait. Other times that means breaking patterns, going outside, spending time with my kids when I’m “supposed” to be working, etc. When inspiration comes is certainly my favorite part of the process, as it feels like receiving an unearned gift!
[RAVENOUS]: How do you know when your song is done – it’s time to stop revising and put it down?
[RYAN]: I always have trouble letting go of a song, but over the years I’ve developed the ability to know when a song is done. In those moments, my brain tells me to keep chipping away, but my gut knows that it’s done and that I need to let go.
Making series of music, releasing songs as singles instead of the traditional album helps me with this, because there’s a joy and a thrill to letting go of a song and having it immediately reach listeners, instead of the long wait times of sitting on songs while waiting for an album release.
There’s very little time between my completing a song and when it releases publicly and that has been a lot of fun and definitely encourages me to let go a little more easily.
[RAVENOUS]: Do you ever get songwriter’s block? If so, what do you do?
RYAN: Absolutely! In fact, I’d say that the majority of the time I spend “writing” is actually just being blocked. So if a song takes a month to complete, I feel like at least 3 weeks of that time is spent banging my head against a wall, waiting for the right puzzle piece to appear.
I think the best medicine for writer’s block is just patience. Embrace the discomfort of not being able to write and remember that not writing is part of the writing process.
[RAVENOUS]: Last year, Earth was by far my favorite song. I carried it with me everywhere I went. What led you to write it? What’s the story behind it?
[RYAN]: Thank you so much! Means a lot to hear that! That song belonged to my series of songs inspired by our Solar System, so when it came time to write “Earth”, I wanted to capture the fragility of our life here on this planet.
We learn to forget, and become immune to the fact of how seriously incredible it is that we get to exist right now, in spite of the endless danger and mess that make up the universe.
So I wanted to capture that in the context of natural disasters, which tend to remind us how vulnerable we are.
[RAVENOUS]: What is the story behind your moniker?
[RYAN]: “Sleeping At Last” as a name has been with me for a LONG time. As I was trying to figure out a band name for my music, I was in a bookstore with a friend and had a book of poetry in my hands and jokingly said “whatever page I turn to next will be my band name” and so page I turned to had a poem titled “Sleeping at Last” by Christina Rosetti.
I thought it was interesting, but probably not a great band name, until I couldn’t get it out of my head and decided that it just makes sense for the music I want to create. So it stuck.
[RAVENOUS]: What is the best part and most difficult part of writing songs?
[RYAN]: The best part is getting to do the thing I love with my life and that anyone is kind enough to listen. The hardest part is staying inspired and getting out of my own way.
[RAVENOUS]: What can you tell me of the upcoming theme “Enneagram” of Atlas Two? You mentioned it’s helped you to understand others and yourself. What’s one thing Enneagram has helped you to understand?
[RYAN]: The Enneagram has been in my vocabulary for over 5 years now and since I was introduced to this old personality typing system, I’ve had a far greater understanding of people I love and myself. Why we do what we do.
So as I was developing the idea of my Atlas series themes, the Enneagram felt like a perfect fit, as the series essentially follows the origin story of all things. So I’m writing 9 songs from the perspective of each of the 9 Enneagram types.It’s been SO much fun already to better understand how each type operates and what drives them.
As for one thing Enneagram has helped me understand – I’d say my recognition for my own avoidance strategies is pretty huge. I’m an Enneagram 9, which Fr. Richard Rohr explains as the “Need to Avoid” – which on face value doesn’t really ring many bells, but the more I learn and observe my past, I see a staggering amount of patterns of me avoiding conflict that aren’t always very healthy. There are countless things I’m learning via the tool of the Enneagram, but that’s a sliver of one.
[RAVENOUS]: What are you currently reading/listening to?
[RYAN]: Listening to a lot of Violents, Other Lives, Júníus Meyvant and Bruno Mars lately. Currently reading “The Sacred Enneagram” by Chris Heuertz.
[RAVENOUS]: Three words to describe your music?
[RYAN]: Gentle. Vulnerable, and I hope, Hopeful.
[RAVENOUS]: At this moment in time, what is your favorite word?
[RAVENOUS]: And lastly, any advice for other songwriters or writers in general?
[RYAN]: Do it as often as you possibly can. Record ideas always.
RAVENOUS: Ryan, thank you again for allowing me to interview you for Ravenous For Reads. RYAN: Thank YOU so much for the wonderful questions!! So appreciate it!! Love, Ryan.
Hungry for more Sleeping At Last? Visit Sleepingatlast.com