Some artists work well when they put constraints upon themselves. Ryne Doughty is one of those people. The Des Moines based singer-songwriter’s latest album, “Spring Done Sprung,” was recorded and mixed over the course of just two days.
Doughty was introduced to folk and country music at an early age by a folk singer who lived across the street from him in his hometown of Washington. He’s now been performing solo for about 15 years, and credits open mic nights at The Mill in Iowa City for his early experiences.
“I've pretty much always been solo,” said Doughty. “I've always admired the art of solo performance and the stripped down, raw nature of it. I do put together different groups here and there, but my focus remains on solo performance for now.”
Doughty later moved to Boulder, Colorado, where he recorded his first two albums. He’s been back in Iowa for about 10 years now, and currently lives in Des Moines. “Spring Done Sprung” is his fifth album overall and third since moving back to Iowa.
“I wrote all of the songs on ‘Spring Done Sprung’ over the course of a year or so, although the bulk of them came within about a two-month span,” said Doughty. “I had not recorded them yet, only because they were the next batch of songs to be recorded by the time I had the money to go into the studio. That's pretty much how I operate: I generally always have songs ready to go, but I like to give myself the proper amount of time to flesh out some of the songs that don't stand the test of time.”
Doughty describes the time during which he wrote the songs as “a period of significant growth as a human” as he and his wife both faced medical challenges. “My wife went through a period of very serious medical issues that became life-threatening," said Doughty. As for himself, he had an accident involving a ladder, fracturing his upper jaw and requiring stitches.
Both have fully recovered, and have a new perspective as a result. "These were both traumatic events and had minor setbacks, but we both came out of our respective ailments stronger and more motivated succeed," said Doughty. "'Memento Mori' has become a favorite mantra of mine."
When it was time to record his new songs, Doughty turned to Flat Black Studios in Lone Tree. The album was finished over one weekend in late October, with recording completed on Saturday and with Sunday dedicated to mixing and post-production.
Doughty’s band for the album included Ryan Bernemann of Iowa City on upright bass and Russ Tomlinson of Des Moines on drums. Doughty has worked with Tomlinson many times over the years, but this was his first time working with Bernemann.
“My last album I spent a lot of time going over everything and fussing over a lot of stuff,” said Doughty. “This time around, I wanted to get back to more of a raw and real feel. Hell, there's even some boo-boos that I wanted left in there. It adds to the realness of the experience of making this album. We did not use any auto-tuning or time manipulation.”
Luke Tweedy, owner of Flat Black Studios and one of its engineers, is no stranger to such time constraints.
“As much as I would love to work Monday-Friday, and as much as I would love to have long stretches to work on records, I have made hundreds of records between Friday-Sunday, and dozens on a single weekend,” said Tweedy. “Really, it’s all about expectations, how well rehearsed you are, and what you are willing to live with in the final product. When you are working on these kinds of time constraints, you are making choices and living with them. Before I can even learn the songs, the record is finished.”
“This was the first album where the title of ‘Producer’ landed squarely on my shoulders,” said Doughty. “The past four albums, I had a co-producer of some sort. But this album is more about just getting the songs out. Every song is the same setup as a trio, and there were zero overdubs for solos or harmonies. Every song on this album has its own voice and guitar part, but there are no big solos or background noise. It just stays in line with this whole, slim, trim, get-in, get-out, model. It was quite refreshing to return to this model. This is kind of how my first album was recorded, and I really felt the need to get back to the simplicity of just singing songs.”
Tweedy echoed this sentiment. “Ryne’s a good singer, and great songwriter. Making a record like this shows you exactly what you are getting when you see him live,” he said. “There is no production trickery. No vocal pitch correction, no heavy edits. It’s honest. If you like Ryne’s music, you’ll like this record.”
As with all other musicians, Doughty’s plans for the year were upended by the global pandemic, leading him to quietly release the album.
“My plans for 2020 were to have a release show for my new album and to continue to travel around and play shows all over the region,” said Doughty. “Those plans were definitely altered as all of my spring shows were wiped off of the calendar, just like a lot of musicians.”
Doughty and his wife also made a music video for the album’s title track.
“Spring Done Sprung” is available on CD and most major streaming services. In the meantime Doughty is gearing up to play shows again, and he’s made peace with the trying times.
“This has been an interesting year and I still don't think I would change a thing,” he said. “I'm very proud of what has all come out of it. Both in song and here at home, being a stronger unit.”