Ryan Trey may only be 24, but one of his biggest goals to this point is to make his 18-year-old self proud, and it’s a mantra that one of his idols preaches.
The St. Louis singer is as ripe for his time in the spotlight as ever. Currently residing in Atlanta, he’s experienced the difference between living in a big city and being in one where he feels he can be lost. Moving from school to school during his adolescent years, Trey never really established a lifelong group of friends during his childhood but always understood community.
The isolation also caused him to focus on himself and what truly made him happy. For that, St. Louis was perfect.
“You gotta really know who you are because there's just not a lot of distractions, so that's what benefited me was it just being a smaller city,” Trey told BET during a recent interview. “I was able to sit with my thoughts a lot… but then the older I got, I'm like, Damn, I just really appreciate the city for what it is – a tight-knit community.”
Trey’s music is modest but full of contemporaneous emotion. It’s almost as if each song he releases is a different diary chapter that eventually becomes an album. Singles like “Ain’t Even Friends” and “30 Floors Up” on his newly-released debut album Streets Say You Miss Me are just a few that chronicle the most toxic and memorable relationships he’s had and how he was able to move on.
Not as moody as it sounds, Trey’s new project is vulnerable to its core. For him, it’s a release and a “rollercoaster” of feelings that many of his fans can certainly relate to. “This album is a reflection of an angry, upset place I was in, a rebellious place towards love I was in at the time or I had hurt someone,” he explains. “Instead of me trying to mature and fix myself, I try to stand on it, kind of embrace it.”
Trey likes to say he can simply “hold a note” and is not necessarily a “singer” in the traditional sense. But his ability to discover and employ melody in his music makes it both catchy and necessary to listen to repeatedly. He chooses whether to rap or sing depending on what message he’s trying to relay, the analogy being rapping to make a point and a “gravitation toward the singing part” when things get more sensual.
One of Trey’s biggest songs is his 2019 collaboration "Nowhere To Run" with Bryson Tiller. The track has the pair harmonizing during the chorus about a woman’s potential unhappiness and them being the solution to right the ship. Musically, Trey and Tiller are definitely on the same spectrum when it comes to their voices, but their relationship is one of brothers, which has helped him much more than being a feature on a song of his.
“He's always been a big brother to me. That's why I never mind mentioning him throughout the years,” he says of the fellow singer. “I always like giving credit where it's due as far as people who have helped open the door for me.”
Ultimately, Trey continues to reach for the mantra that keeps him going. Even though it’s only been six years since he was of legal age, everything in his life has vastly changed. Perhaps that’s how it’s been set up for him.
“Virgil [Abloh] has this quote where he's like, ‘Always live for like the 18-year-old version of yourself,’” he says. “I always want to make the 18-year-old me proud. This industry can make you bitter, can make you cold-hearted or have a heart at heart towards certain things, but one thing I learned like with music and the profession is that everything is timing.”
If Ryan Trey continues relaying his authentic self to his fans, it won’t be long before he’s on another level in the business. Until then, he’s just looking to improve his craft and grow when life experiences present the opportunity.
“I'm the most confident in myself right now. I think I found it. I think I know what separates me from other artists,” he says. “I'm super competitive and one thing I really want to work on is understanding who I am and finding myself. I know if I did that the music will just write itself.”