Four-piece Skinny Living have slowly been building a reputation as a formidable live band in the UK since their inception in 2013. Lead singer Ryan Johnston’s passionate vocal delivery has garnered the group over 26 million streams on Spotify alone. This, coupled with the band's work ethic and old-school 'any place, any time, anywhere' approach to gigging eventually caught the eye of RCA Records, who signed the group in 2017.
Skinny Living live and die by their last live performance, clearly as passionate about music as the day they started they have endeared themselves to fans with their impromptu cover versions and Ryan Johnston's deeply personal lyrics that deal with his struggles with mental health and other issues. We caught up with Johnston ahead of the first night of the latest leg of their never-ending tour in Whelan's on March 8th. (Tickets details below).
You have your first headline gig since December in Dublin on March 8th. How excited are you to get back on the horse?
So excited! A lot has happened since December and we've loads of new music to play.
How did you hook up with Punctual, for the track King Without A Crown?
They were looking for a vocalist to jump on the track and we were signed to the same label at the time, so we got put in a room together to see if it would work and things went well. The lads are proper sound and in our early days as a band we made music like this with a few friends in the north so it felt good.
You’ve also worked with Barney Artist on 'Only I'. Are you guys big fans of the British hip-hop scene?
Yeah we love hip-hop in general and Barney really tells stories in his music! There’s no bullshit so it was great to get an opportunity to work with him! Lovely guy.
If you could bag anybody for a guest spot who would it be?
We would like to work with a female vocalist at some point but we haven’t explored that idea properly yet.
Over the last five years, you’ve delivered a steady stream of singles. When can we expect to see an album?
I think once we have really settled on a sound. We have been experimenting the last lot of years. It feels like we are close to that place now but an album won’t be out until we have released a few more singles.
Last year’s Live and Acoustic project was your biggest to date. Why do live recordings appeal to you so much?
It feels like there is something good happening when we play live and we’ve only ever captured that a few times in recordings. It seems the rawer it is the better for us so that’s probably why.
You guys love to do what appear to be impromptu cover versions for YouTube. What makes a song worthy of the Skinny Living treatment?
It’s just got to be a song we would listen to or put on our own playlists. A song that speaks to us and something we feel has or will stand the test of time. Plus we’ve got to feel like we are able to do it some sort of justice.
You guys signed to RCA in 2017 and released the EP 'VI'. What was it like working with superstar producer/song writer Jake Gosling?
That was one of the best times we’ve had as a band. Jake's sound, he really understood the roots of who we were and maybe at the time a bit more than we did ourselves! All the shiny lights of a record deal and a mixed bag of new opinions and expectations can really throw you off course and it did make us wobble! Some great lessons learnt.
'VI' yielded a more mature sound and your two biggest hits to date 'Let Me In' and 'Why'. Why do you think those songs resonated with the public?
I think people can relate to them and I feel like the slight RnB/Soul sound in those particular songs has a part to play.
'Why' deals with mental health issues. Why was that a subject you felt compelled to cover in a song?
I was in a pretty shit place a load of years back and that’s where Why comes from, but the reason I decided to write about it was because so many people around me at the time were at the lowest I’d ever seen them and i wanted to make something that would make them feel less alone and make them have a bit of hope that things would turn around eventually.
I feel like our generation, in fact not just our generation, people in general in the world right now are going through a hell of a lot of anxiety and depression! Even little kids as young as seven years old. My son's friends at his school are having panic attacks etc and that’s just shite!
We need to talk about it, sing about it, write about it and do whatever we can to put a stop to it or at least bring back some kind of balance by gaining a social understanding! Life is up and down, but too many people are staying down and not enough people are doing something about it.
Skinny Living play Whelan's on March 8th. Tickets €12.50.