Words: Thomas Stichbury
Ryan Beatty lets his music do the talking when it comes to his sexuality - that much was clear when his soulful debut album, Boy in Jeans, became one of 2018's most underrated queer records. But it hasn't always been the case.
In an exclusive interview in the Attitude Body Issue, out now to download and to order globally, the American singer, 24, opens up about his early days in the music industry as a closeted teenager cast by execs in the role of a Justin Bieber-esque teenybopper.
“I was not only insecure about the music I was making, but I was like: ‘I don’t really know who I am, and I feel a lack of control,’” he recalls.
Ryan Beatty, shot by Noah Dillon exclusively for the Attitude Body Issue, out now
“Sometimes I look [back] at it and I feel a bit uncomfortable because I see a person who is very scared.”
California-born Ryan scored an iTunes chart-topping EP at the time, but his instant success was soured by the fact he couldn’t be his authentic queer self.
“I’m grateful for that time of my life [though] because if I really broke it all down and mapped it out, I’d be able to show people how I got from point A to where I’m at now", he reflects.
Ryan wears button down by COMME des GARÇONS at Blends, vintage Levi’s, underwear by Tom Ford (Photography: Noah Dillon)
“It taught me many valuable things. If I hadn’t been through all of that, I probably wouldn’t be as good a songwriter. It’s experience that I gained."
Rising star Ryan publicly came out at 20 on Instagram in an announcement that cam just weeks after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, in June 2016.
The tragedy was one of the many reasons why he decided to finally declare that that he is “proud to be a raging homosexual”.
“I was also dating somebody at the time who meant a lot to me and I hadn’t been able to share that with anybody", he says.
"I felt so held back. I wasn’t comfortable enough to be a part of conversations because I hadn’t addressed my sexuality.
"I was in traffic on the 405 [highway in Los Angeles] and thought: ‘You know what, fuck all of this, the only thing holding me back is me, I’m in my own way and I’m just going to do it.
LA-based Ryan, who released new single 'Casino' last week, says that sense of liberation can be heard loudly and proudly in his music, from Boy in Jeans – where he sang about kissing boys for the first time – to impending follow-up Dreaming of David, out this Friday (31 January).
“It’s amazing that I can talk freely about my relationships and not hold that back,” he exclaims.
Ryan wears button down by COMME des GARÇONS at Blends, custom vintage boots (Photography: Noah Dillon)
“When you’re making music, you have to be fearless.”
Shaking off the shackles of his introduction into the world of pop, Ryan stresses that, for him, honesty will always be the best policy.
“If there isn’t any honesty in what I’m doing, it almost makes me feel sick,” he insists.
“I can’t continue to work on something if it feels as if it doesn’t come from an honest place.”