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S1E4 – Recording & Songwriting feat. Higgs

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My special guest today is my friend Ryan “Higgs” Higgins. He is a fabulous songwriter who lives in a hip-hop-ish vein of music with the ukulele as his main instrument. We talk on this episode about his experiences and tips for recording and mixing uke tracks and how he creates more contemporary sounds on his productions.

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Edited slightly for clarity.

Aloha! Welcome to the Live Ukulele Podcast my name is Brad Bordessa and I am joined via ZOOM today by my good friend, Ryan Higgins aka Higgs. Higgs is an ukulele player slash originally a rapper and percussionist who has been spending his time lately working on a couple of hip-hop projects and incorporating the ukulele into those different projects.

And so I thought it would be interesting to catch up with him see what he’s been up to, maybe talk about his recording process, and how he’s arranging and incorporating the ukulele into his different tracks.

BB: So welcome, Ryan!

RH: Hey, Brad, what’s up? Good to be here.

BB: Yeah, thanks for joining in. You’re working on a new album of hip-hop stuff, but also incorporating your ukulele into that. Can you tell us a little bit about how that’s going and what it is?

RH: Yeah so uh, yeah I’ve been working on this thing for a while now. It’s kind of the project that never ends. My my goal is to produce an album with uh 10 tracks. A couple of them are going to be sort of interludes. Yeah a lot of rap, a lot of kind of low-key hip-hop, which is my my sort of vibe acoustic based hip-hop stuff.

But the ukulele is my main axe, I guess, when I play live so I try to, you know, incorporate that as much as possible into my recordings to keep it more realistic and I just love the sound of the ukulele. But it’s uh yeah, it’s been a fun, sometimes frustrating, but always a learning experience recording.

BB: So how are you finding the ukulele incorporates into hip-hop stuff? I imagine most people are kind of approaching that with a question mark, wondering like, “well how does that work?” How do you make it work?

RH: I’m just trying to… I try to find unique sounds and, like, I think a lot of people when they think of ukulele, they think of just like your major basic kind of strumming patterns of, like, you know, like a either a one drop kind of reggae thing or like a you know, like, your old school, like, just a regular strum. And that can be cool, but I think for hip-hop it’s cool to add it more as a nuance, like some of the upper register stuff. Add little uh little licks and just kind of stuff that that adds flavor instead of necessarily being the main ingredient of the track. Because otherwise it can kind of get buried beneath the the drums and the bass and the vocals and all that stuff. So just trying to carve out space for it.

BB: So you’re arranging your tracks so that you’re building on top of existing parts with the ukulele. So you already have drums and bass and that kind of a thing?

RH: Yeah for the most part. A few songs I’ve tried to start with uke and build around it kind of have it as the central um focus. But uh just sonically it’s kind of been a interesting challenge trying to figure out like where does this ukulele fit like in the sonic space of a recording with when you have all these different frequencies, you know the low end, the mid, and the high end, and all this stuff. And I play a low-g tenor, which can sound great, but recording it is uh is interesting in that there’s a lot of that kind of mid-rangey mud. So just trying to figure out, first of all, how to get a great recording of it – I think that’s the most important thing, but then also sometimes you got to do a little eq’ing and scoop out some of that gravel.

BB: So how are you normally finding your parts? Like what is your approach to “Oh, this song needs this little fairy dusting,” or, “It needs more of a chord chank,” or do you have any kind of a set method where you work through possibilities?

RH: I look into the oracle and then it tells me, “this is what you will play!” and I’d say, “thank you, oracle.” No… It’s a lot of, like, I get little melodies in my head a lot of times um or I’ll have a song that’s already written and I’ll be like, what can, you know, add more to this song? And a lot of times I have a melody in mind and so I’ll be like, “Hey maybe this will sound good on ukulele,” and I’ll try it, you know, with different octaves or I’ll try a harmony of it, or whatever. So a lot of it is just like fiddling around trying to figure out like what sounds the best. But yeah, I think for the most part it’s just like, I have these ideas and then it’s just refining them down from my brain and getting them out into the recording sphere.

BB: And so how how are you doing that? What is your approach to recording if somebody maybe isn’t familiar with that process or the gear that you need or the programs that you use?

RH: Let me just preface this by saying that I am an artist a singer-songwriter first and foremost and rapper, and recording is not really something that I’m naturally gifted at. So if I can learn how to do this stuff, I feel like pretty much anyone can. As Brad knows, you know, I asked him him and some of my other friends for help all the time.

So that being said, I’ve kind of stuck with this program called Reaper, recommended by my buddy Alan who’s a engineering friend of mine, just all around musician guru-guy. But uh yeah so Reaper is a great program um and I was on Windows for a long time and then I just recently switched over to to Mac. And then I use an interface which is just like a preamp for going from the the mic – it’s like the middleman between the mic and the computer. I was using a Scarlett 2i2 for a long time and I just recently upgraded that also to a Audio Fuse 8 pre so I’ve got some more channels to work with and it’s just a little bit more quality sound. And then for my mic, I got a a Rode. It’s, this one’s a NT-1a. It’s actually the one I’m talking on right now. And then I also use some SM57s which are like standard, you know, everybody and the dog has recorded with those guys.

BB: Especially the dog!

RH: Especially the dog. Yeah, a lot of barking and growling.

My preamp that I have now has what’s called a pad so it’ll actually increase the gain. Because those tend to be kind of on the quiet side. So it it’s basically like a Cloudlifter; it gives it a couple more dbs of recording gain.

BB: So recording gain is basically the input volume of whatever your signal is going into the computer. And a lot of times on the lower end preamps, like what I’m running here, I have again the Scarlet it’s the 2i4, but basically the same product line, they don’t always have enough gain to really get your signal, to give it the legs that it really deserves. And the Cloudlifter we’re talking about is a little box that converts phantom power – which is basically voltage to run a mic – and it converts that into more gain for a dynamic mic like what I’m using which is the SM7b and it tends to be a quiet mic so by having that little bit of extra gain, that input volume, I can get a stronger signal into my computer and I don’t have to on the other side push my computer quite as hard and jack the volume up inside my recording program. And the the input gain can be at a more appropriate level before we even get started. So are you using the Rode for your ukulele or the sm7?

RH: Uh, I’ve tried a bunch of different things for my ukulele. Lately the the 57s have done the trick. They’re kind of just like it is what it is like you get it’s just a straightforward sound there’s not a lot of…

BB: Don’t be saying that, Ryan!

RH: …it’s not a lot of sweetening um going on there. But uh I kind of prefer, I think the sometimes condensers can add a little more high-end sparkle than what I want for my uh particular ukulele. I think, you know, all instruments are a little different – and sometimes if I’m doing a lot of strumming stuff I’ll definitely use this guy – um and I think condensers can have a really nice um, you know, uh shimmery kind of sound, but I’ve found that, for a lot of stuff, just pointing a you know a dynamic or like a 57 kind of thing at the ukulele I can get a.. get what I’m going for.

BB: Nice. Well, that’s something else we could discuss: the difference between a dynamic mic and a condenser mic. And a dynamic mic is, I guess, it’s more of like the old school passive design where you’re not running voltage to the microphone and it has a dynamic diaphragm. I’m not the – we should be we should have Alan on here as well to tell us about these nerdy things.

RH: Right!

BB: But, basically, a dynamic mic is a little bit quieter and it has something called the proximity effect where if you’re further away from the mic, there is less bass. But if you get close up on the mic you start pulling more and more bass frequency into the sound. Whereas the condenser mic doesn’t have that proximity effect. It’s powered, a lot of times they have a little bit bigger capsule, I believe. I shouldn’t even be talking about this because I don’t know what I’m talking about. But the condenser mic, they’re a little bit um a little bit more flat, maybe a little… they represent especially the high spectrum a little bit clearer perhaps. Whereas a dynamic mic can be a little more muddy. They both have their their appropriate places.

RH: I think uh recording dynamics tend to be a little more, take a little bit more volume and punch too. Condensers tend to be a little more delicate and sensitive to sounds.

BB: For sure. I feel like if I was to recommend somebody just getting started recording, I would probably recommend some sort of a condenser mic. Just because they’re a little bit more straightforward to use, you don’t have to worry about having a preamp that can drive them quite as much. And even just a USB plug-in kind of a mic can be really, really great. I think like the Snowball the Bluebird Snowball or something is a popular one. And I’ve heard it sounds fabulous for most things you might want to do.

RH: I actually used that exact mic for like the first two years of my recording experience. I used to write these raps on this site called Fiverr and uh that’s what I used to record I use a Blue Snowball and I used Audacity. It was like the cheapest setup you could possibly have. And it did the trick, you know?

BB: Yeah, it’s amazing what you can get away with this day and age. There’s really affordable gear that you can you can purchase. Whereas in the old days you had to, like, go to a dedicated studio and buy studio time and really invest a lot of money in it. Whereas you could get out the door with an under-$100 USB plug-in mic – assuming you have a computer – and off you go. You use Audacity or Garageband, whatever free recording program you can get away with. So it’s very accessible to anybody this day and age.

So once you have your ukulele into your digital audio workstation, what do you do with it?

RH: Um… I spend hours and hours trying to figure out what I did wrong. No… Usually once I get it recorded, then I’ll listen back and then I’ll listen back within the context of the mix – assuming I’m not just doing a solo thing um – and I’ll set the levels, you know, I’ll adjust my little fader knob, make sure the volume is okay, and then I’ll maybe add some effects – or actually I’ll probably EQ it first. I don’t know how technical we want to get… But I’ll probably just put on an EQ, just a stock EQ that my DAW has. I’m pretty sure most DAWs have EQs built into them that you can just add. And that’s just either adding or subtracting frequencies that you find offensive or, I don’t know if that’s the right word, but you don’t like it.

BB: That’s the word I would use.

RH: Yeah, that’s offensive! Get out of here 200 hertz, I don’t like you!

So yeah I’ll scoop out some stuff usually and then if there’s anything that sounds really good I might do a little adding, additive EQ as well.

BB: What do you find those frequencies are for the ukulele?

RH: Um… For my ukulele I tend to find that between like 275 and like 400 hertz – somewhere in that range usually tends to be kind of problematic as far as – there’s a lot of that mid-rangey oomph and that can come off in a mix as just woofy. So I i tend to scoop some of that out, just maybe three or four +dbs. I’ll occasionally add a little bit up in the high end just to give it a little sparkle, but it just depends on the song. I don’t want it competing with, you know, if I have a lot of other high stuff….

I think a lot of uh mixing I’m finding is, like, kind of like a puzzle, it’s like fitting all the parts together sonically and being, like, “all right, where is this going to fit in the spectrum?” and sometimes you listen to your ukulele track by itself and it sounds okay and then you put it in the mix and it’s like, what? What?! So you gotta… Like certain tracks I’ll just completely wipe out anything below 250 hertz, you know, and it’ll just be pretty much all the higher, mid and high stuff so it depends on, you know, mix to mix. But for the most part my instrument… um…. I take out usually take out a little mid-rangey and sometimes I’ll add some sparkle and maybe a little bit between like the the higher mids, like some of the 750 to 1000. Sometimes I’ll put a little bump right there.

BB: Have you spent much time EQ’ing a plugged in sound? Do you ever record a DI along with your mic track?

RH: Yes. I have.

BB: And how do you find that differs between the EQ on the mic track and the EQ that you need to put on the pickup?

RH: Well it’s easier to work with because you get what you get. You don’t have to worry about mic placement or anything like that. So in that sense I like it, but at the same time you’re limited to what your pickup sounds like. And so I have a – what is it? – LR Baggs 5.0 in my Pono that I use. And you know, it’s a nice solid uh pickup, but it’s still, you’re going to get that sound like it’s plugged in. So that’s kind of hard to get rid of. And so I think definitely if you’re going for like a high quality kind of natural, like the most natural sounding uh recording, then you’re going to want to use a mic. But sometimes it can be nice to have a combination of both if you want to add a little bit of that plugged in kind of meat.

BB: Nice. Well and you mentioned the 5.0… This is kind of a whole different subject of – like live performing is where it usually crops up – but even in recording it would affect the sound, is the difference between a passive and an active ukulele pickup. And the 5.0 is an active pickup so, for instance, Ryan or myself we could just plug it right into the computer and not have to worry about it, but if you have a passive pickup, a lot of times the frequencies will occur in a certain spot and all you’ll get is like, high mids and that’s like almost your entire signal just because of the way the signals are mismatched. And if you use a preamp, a preamp can balance that and will bring the passive pickup into a more active pickup-like sound so that you get the full frequency spectrum and then you’re working with, you know, everything – a full tank of gas basically – on that track. So that’s something to keep in mind as well, is that if you have the the quality active pickup, you’re good to go, but if you have a passive, you have to have that extra step in line, otherwise you’re going to be kind of fighting that a little bit more than you need to.

RH: Right.

BB: Yeah those were the days when I had a passive pickup. Oh boy, it’s a struggle bus all day long. Yeah.

RH: Could you also get away with just using a DI if you don’t have a good preamp?

BB: Yeah… Usually a DI will will do the impedance match for the most part. But that’s not to say that passive pickups are bad – you can get fantastic sounds with them – but you kind of need to know what best to match it with otherwise you’ll have have a hard time. But yeah, a DI is another good one to have in your gig bag.

RH: Yep.

BB: So on the album how are you handling the other instruments? Are you recording them yourself? Are you programming, flying them in from other artists? What’s what’s the scoop?

RH: I’m flying them in from Ecuador mostly, and some some Beijing… No. Um yeah, I’m doing a kind of a mixed bag. A lot of stuff I’ve been doing “in the box” they call it, where I just have um MIDI plugins that emulate the sounds. So whether it’s a piano or a drum kit um and then I just play them either on my keyboard or on this beat machine thing that I have called The Maschine. It’s literally called The Maschine MK2. But uh yeah, so I’ll try to play it with as much feel as possible. Even when I’m using virtual instruments I think it’s important to be able to play it instead of just programming it, because that takes away some of the magic, I think.

A lot of that and then I’ve had some fly-ins from different artist friends. Alan plays a really mean electric guitar so he’s been shooting me some stuff and uh got a another good friend, John, that’s a violinist. He sent me some stuff and some some other vocalist friends. So yeah, it’s a mix.

BB: So these songs, are they all original?

RH: Yes. Yeah, I mean, I might have stole, you know, half of them from Bob Dylan, but, you know… Right yeah, I mean what is what is originality anymore anyways? Everything’s derivative… No. But yeah I uh my songs… I write such wordy songs for the most part that it’d be pretty hard to be like, “Hey that sounds just like another song!” because I think that’s one good thing about rap is that it’s usually pretty original sounding.

BB: Well let’s have a listen to one of your originals. I believe we have “Livin’ on the Rock.” This sort of showcases Ryan’s ability to combine the two worlds of maybe a typical ukulele song with a little bit of a reggae chank, along with some hip-hop verses which kind of tell the story and set the the context of the tune. So this is called “Livin’ on the Rock.”


Oh yeah, that’s one of Ryan’s original songs called “Livin’ on the Rock.” It can be found on his EP, The Letdown, available on all of your favorite streaming or download sources. I actually play the ukulele solo on that track!

So maybe it’d be interesting for people to hear about your lyrical process for writing songs. Because I know you come up with all kinds of very clever lines that I hear and go, “Oh man!” It’s just like a total zinger that’s so classically Ryan. And it’s so impressive when you do it, but I don’t have any idea how I would ever come up with something that rhymed and was clever and had some funny reference to it. What is your process for coming up with that stuff?

RH: Oh thanks man. Uh, appreciate the props. I like the word zinger also. This is… I think this is something I’m most most passionate about is lyrics. My process, man, it really varies, but a lot of times I’ll have an idea basic idea of what I want for a song. An example would be like for “Livin’ on the Rock” I kind of knew what I wanted the song to be about when I first started writing it. I wanted just to explore, you know, my my version of growing up here and um on Big Island and in Hawaiʻi in general. And then after that it was just filling it in with the specifics of, you know, what I had to say. And I tend to be one of those people that… I uh, I rewrite a lot. Um, some people are of the school of mind that are like, you know, once you write a song – that’s it and, you know, it’s good. And I’m honestly kind of jealous of those people because once… As soon as I write a song, I’m like already thinking of ways it could be better. So especially lyrically I usually take my time and I’ll have like probably five to sometimes even 10, 11 drafts and just kind of really relentlessly uh go, you know, go at it.

But I have been finding that it’s really important to when you’re first getting your idea down, like getting the inspiration and putting it onto a voice memo or recording or writing it down, um it’s important to not have that critic on. Like, just turn off that critic and just get the idea out. There’s gonna be a lot of garbage in there, a lot of crap, you know, there’s that one little nugget and you’re like, “All right, this this is all worth it!” and then from there, um you can kind of refine down.

I know a lot of people have a hard time, they might ask me like “Oh, how do you write a song, like, how do you get a song down?” and I think, like, it’s really important to, just once you’re inspired… First of all, like, try to put yourself in position to be inspired. You know, like, listen to good songs and great writing and, you know, find time to practice your craft. Just like playing ukulele, like, if you don’t do it all the time then you’re probably not gonna progress. You’re gonna kind of get stuck at a certain level until you start really committing to it. And so songwriting as a craft is the same way. If you’re just one of those people that waits for inspiration to find you then, unless you’re one of those rare songwriting, you know, virtuosos, then you’re probably not gonna ever put out a great body of work.

But yeah so so my process is I write a lot a lot of crap and some of it turns out okay. And then I just refine and refine from there.

BB: So do you think you could, like, live, on the spot, walk through kind of, like, a fake drafting process of, like, if you have, like, a line or a rhymed verse or something? Like how you would take something – just if you just make something up right now and then improve upon it – is that something you could kind of demo? Just so people could get in your head and kind of see how you work through the process?

RH: Oh you don’t want to be in my head, trust me! It’s a it’s a bad place. No, um, yeah. We could try something like that.

So let’s see… um well first of all, I would probably start with, like, what is something that I want to rap or… not rap, but just talk about. So it could start off really broad, like um love. Okay, from there where do I go, like what about love and what do I want to say? Like, is it good love? Is it like just got in a relationship and I’m stoked, or is it like uh I just got out of a relationship and I’m heartbroken? Or is it like angsty and this is the one that I tend to go with because me and relationships don’t tend to gel too do well these days…

But um yeah just so kind of feeling like, “Oh man, I really like this girl, but the feelings may not be mutual…” And it’s like you’re kind of in this weird angsty spot. So maybe I would pick that. So then I would be like okay, what would be a good vehicle? Uh or, like, turn of phrase to express that? So I would probably write down a bunch of stuff, you know? Maybe like um this is just a like a angsty kind of person – in this case me – saying “you’re my if only.” So that would be kind of the the tag maybe? Um and so I might start off with um, you know, saying where I was, like, being descriptive. I think the verses a lot of times are nice to have a lot of description going on. So I might say “1am, collecting thoughts by the window” or, you know, something nice and poetic dramatic. “Wishing someone would hold me, finding out that love is not that simple, I guess you’re my if only…” So, you know, something like that I would probably take that simple thing and then I would expand on it and keep uh writing more verses.

BB: So, you know, maybe this won’t be your your best work, but what would your second draft of that verse look like?

RH: Okay, so what I had in the beginning was “1am, staring out my window, wishing someone would hold me – or wishing she would hold me” this is about one person “finding out love ain’t so simple, she’s my if only…” So what I might do from there is I feel like I would look for any words that are out of place, first of all. Or if it’s too long or too short of a line, I would cut or add. And then, from there, uh I might just see what’s cheesy and take that out. So, like, the first line I think is all right, for now, “1am, staring out the window, wishing I had someone to hold” or “wishing she was here to hold me” that just added “wishing she was here to hold me.” So I like little things like alliteration “here to hold.” I would just kind of… That’s always in the back of my mind. If, like, what can add to this line and make it more interesting? So “wishing she was here to hold me.” And then I might say… I think I originally had, “love ain’t so simple,” or, “love isn’t so simple,” but I might say more like, “turns out love ain’t so simple.”

BB: So a little more conversational?

RH: Yeah. Yeah, more conversational, more explanatory. Usually you want less… Less is more. Unless you’re talking about rap, which is a little bit different in the process. That’s more like, you know, finding the right banger rhymes that go together and multi-syllabic stuff and being clever and it’s a little bit different from what I’m doing right now, which is more of, like, a singer-songwriter song. So that’s two different worlds, but yeah, so I got, “One am staring out my window, wishing she was here to hold me, turns out love it ain’t so simple, I guess she’s just my if only.” Something like that.

And then from there I might find melodically how to fit that better and once you start singing you figure out, like, “oh this line isn’t working” or “it is working” and and uh you just keep kind of going. You know, I’ll probably… if I look at this tomorrow I’ll probably find something, you know, that would be like, “Oh that’s better too!” So I think that’s why it takes me a long time to write songs is that – and a lot of mixers talk about this too, where they they like to come back with a fresh set of ears – I think as a songwriter it’s important to come back with a fresh set of eyes and just a sense of, like, stepping back of, like, alright how does this look?

BB: And what is your process for fitting chords into the picture? Because I think a lot of times as an ukulele player you think… you’re thinking in terms of chords and words and people ask like, “Oh, what do you write first?” What do you write first, or how, depending on which one you write first, how do you fit the other in?

RH: I usually come up with, like, what I just did. I’ll come up with a melody um and then I will try to fit some chords under it. Sometimes the other way, sometimes I’ll find a chord progression I like and fit lyrics or melody over it. So I mean, there’s there’s no wrong way. I think that’s one of the things I love about songwriting is that there’s so many ways to get there. Some people are more um methodical about it. Like they take out their, you know, their word doc and they pull up their rhyming dictionary and their they get all this stuff and they have a sort of parameters of, like, “Okay, this verse is going be four lines with the two line hook,” and I tend to not do too much of that. I’m a creature of habit and routine and so I like having somewhat of a structure for that kind of thing, but I think it’s easy to get um formulaic if you’re doing this all the same thing. You know, it’d be like if you were constantly playing the same four chords on your ukulele. At some point you’re gonna wanna switch it up. Um you’re gonna have to switch it up if you wanna play with, you know, other people and things like that. So I think songwriting has a lot of similarities and uh so I try to just kind of go with what I’m feeling on any given day.

And then uh I’ll just try to keep the the muse going as long as possible and sometimes, uh sometimes you get to a certain point in the song and you realize this probably is not either not a song for me, personally, like, I’ve written a few songs that are kind of in the country vein. And I am not a country singer at all, even though I may look like one. So you know, those kind of songs you just put on the back burner. I’ve sent a few songs to other artists um just be like, “Hey, this wouldn’t fit me. Would you be able to do anything with it?” But I think that’s a big thing is, like, finding your own voice as a songwriter and as an instrumentalist too, and, you know, figuring out what you’re good at.

BB: Great well that’s some some good practical tips I think for folks. It’s hard it’s so hard to pin down exactly what songwriting is and how you can do it. There’s not really any easy answer. It’s one of those things you just work on and you figure out your own flow. But I think having that example that you just gave us will be interesting to folks kind of seeing the process firsthand and how you approach it.

But one thing that maybe we can wrap up with is that, when I first met you, you had kind of just started playing ukulele and, you know, it was kind of rough, but now you since since I’ve known you, you’ve been just practicing, practicing, practicing – really working on your chops and it’s been so much fun to watch you improve as a player. And now you’re at this point where you’re confidently recording your own album and, you know, every time I see you, you just sound better and better. What has been your kind of mindset for just that hard work you’re putting into the practice?

RH: Um, I just go to sleep and then I wake up better, you know? I don’t have to practice and uh sorry for the rest of you… No man… First of all, any compliments regarding the ukulele coming from you are, like, high praise cause uh, you know, you were a big inspiration for me early on – and still are. I think it’s just, you know, having a regular consistent work ethic. I remember when I first started playing I didn’t really… I think I knew, like, one strum and every time I tried to do anything besides a full chord strum, I would miss the strings, like, more than half the time. And so um I think it’s just practice. Practicing… you know… Finding songs that I like and then being like, “All right, I’m going to learn this song on ukulele.” Or if it’s already an ukulele song, “I’m going to learn this song!” You know, listening to recordings from like Brittni Paiva and your stuff and um, I remember I learned something that um – oh man, what’s his name. He’s over at Hawaiʻi Music Supply at the Ukulele Site um…

BB: Corey?

RH: Yeah! Yeah, Corey. He did a a John Mayer cover on ukulele – yeah, like a fingerstyle thing and I was like, “I gotta learn that.” So I spent, you know, a month or so just trying to get that down. And so it’s really just, like, specific practicing I think is, like, really, really key because it’s… Practice is one thing, but it’s easy to kind of, like, let the practice become distracting and just kind of do it to do it. But if you have a goal you’re working towards I think that – and also playing out. Like, if you can play well while you’re playing live or recording, even, like, under pressure, um then you know you’ve got the part down. So I think that’s a good barometer for kind of…

BB: Well, it also teaches you so much about about what you’re doing. It’s kind of like, you have built the boat out of the water and then when you go on stage you put the boat in the water and find all the leaks.

RH: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Pretty much just uh, just keep sucking until you suck less. That’s my way to do it.

BB: How has your style come to evolve along with that practice? Because, you know, every one of us has kind of our own musical fingerprint of just how we play, and you come from a drumming background before playing ukulele so, you know, from, in that sense, you kind of have a weirdo approach, just like me – and most other people around – it’s like, just their own kind of funny blend of spices.

RH: Spices! Yes. Um, definitely. I think my right hand suffers from, like, restless hand syndrome. There’s like that restless leg syndrome. I have restless hand syndrome um just because I spent so long, you know, constantly being active with my hands and, as a drummer, you’re always moving. And so once I started playing guitar and ukulele it was like, whoa, like, I have to be really still all of a sudden. And I wanted so badly to be, like, percussive with it and, like, you know, act as the drummer and the melody and the chords and, like, I wanted to do everything. But turns out, like, you don’t have to do everything and sometimes uh it’s the space. Like, leaving spaces up to the imagination um can be just as effective as, like, trying to fill in all the gaps with sound.

So that was a big learning process for me and I’m still, you know, working on it. I still kind of get riled up when I’m in, like, a solo, or, like, you know, playing a really dynamic part I’ll start really grinding and trying to hit the the strings as like a percussive thing, um but I guess that’s part of my style too.

BB: That’s great. Well thanks so much for spending the time with me, Ryan. This has been very interesting and I’m sure folks will appreciate having your expertise up on the podcast.

RH: Yeah, right on, man. This is awesome.

BB: Yeah, so you can check out Ryan’s music on iTunes or Spotify or Bandcamp. He probably likes the Bandcamp option best. More of the money goes in his pocket.

What’s the time frame on the new album coming out and where will people be able to find out more about it? Do you have a newsletter list?

RH: Oh, God… I hate that question. Um, the time frame I mean. No, I’ll be posting updates on both my website and my social media. @higgsofficial is my Insta and Facebook handle. I will be releasing a single from the album in the next month and then the rest of the album will be – fingers crossed – done and out by the end of the year. So that’s what I’m looking at, time wise and, we’ll see, but that’s my little self deadline.

BB: We’ll hold you to it!

RH: Okay.

BB: No, Ryan, stop mixing! It’s done!

RH: Yeah.

BB: So if you want to find out more about Ryan’s music, you can check out his website,, or find him on Bandcamp or your favorite music supply outlet (aka digital download place), and keep an eye out for his new album, dropping maybe by the end of the year. But, if anything, look for the new single. I’ve been hearing some sneak previews off the album and it’s all been great and I’m excited to hear what else Ryan comes up with for it. So stay tuned!

All right, thanks again, Ryan

RH: All right, see you, Brad. Aloha.

BB: We’re back here on the first and third Saturdays of the month. You can catch the Live Ukulele Podcast, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast app. You can find find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or, of course, on, along with the rest of my learning resources.

We’ll play you guys out with a bit from Ryan’s single, “No Plans.” Aloha.

brad bordessa avatar About the author: Brad Bordessa I’m an ‘ukulele artist from Honoka’a, Hawai’i, where I run this site from an off-grid cabin in the jungle. I’ve taught workshops internationally, made Herb Ohta Jr. laugh until he cried, and once jammed with HAPA onstage in my boardshorts. More about me