Ryan Cassata is on a mission. Besides being a singer/songwriter with six album to his credit, he’s also a well-known motivational speaker whose focus is on developing an anti-bullying awareness campaign. He has spoken at high schools, colleges and universities, and many of the major LGBt events nationwide. He also several television appearances to his credit.
Originally from Long Island, New York, Ryan started performing at the age of 14. Now 19 and living in San Francisco, Ryan has quite a few major accomplishments under his belt in such a short period of time. Along with performing at major LGBT music events, he has also performed on the legendary Van’s Warped Tour, has been awarded the Harvey Milk Memorial Award, was the youngest keynote speaker at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference in 2012, and has been featured in several nation publications. Ryan is also the composer of the soundtrack for the award winning film Loop Planes.
TGForum/Perpetual Change is pleased to present the following interview with Ryan Cassata as this month’s feature. He’s an incredibly talent and dedicated young musician and transgender activist who has a lot to say. .. and will not be deterred from doing so.
TGForum: You’re originally from Long Island, New York, and now live in San Francisco. When did you move? Is San Francisco a more “positive” place for you to live?
Ryan Cassata: That’s right. I moved to San Francisco last summer. My girlfriend and I drove across the country from Long Island, New York to San Francisco. San Francisco is definitely a more positive place to live. I feel that the LGBTQ community is treated much better here … I feel much safer here.
TGF: You were 14 when you started gaining national attention. How old were you when you first started dealing with your gender issues?
RC: I was also 14. As soon as I realized I was transgender, I came out and started looking for support.
TGF: You obviously are blessed with a very supportive family, but was it hard to come out so young? And what about your extended family and friends…have they been as supportive?
RC: I wouldn’t know if it was harder or easier to come out at 14 versus coming out now. I think that it’s better that I came out when I was younger because I’ve been able to live my life to the fullest now since coming out. My brothers were originally the only ones to support my transition and then my parents came around after that. My extended family struggled for quite some time but they are all doing okay now. My grandma has made big improvements and I would say that we are very close now. My friends have always been very supportive.
TGF: Who are your musical influences? Do you have any formal training? And what do you listen to for your own enjoyment?
RC: I have had guitar teachers throughout the years: Frank, Tony and Lou. Frank taught me from when i was six years old. He taught me the basics and later taught me some jazz. Tony taught me all about jazz chords and rhythm. Lou taught me the meaning of passion and he also introduced me to some of my favorite classic rock bands. He passed away when i was 12. He was my biggest influence. My piano teacher Dave taught me everything I know on piano. He also became my mentor. I also had vocal training for a short period.
I listen to classic rock and roll. The Doors, T. Rex and Led Zeppelin are among my favorite bands. I am very into a new indie band called Houndmouth.
TGF: When you perform, do you use a back up band or are you primarily a soloist?
RC: I had a band for about a year. Now I just play solo.
TGF: Of the six albums listed on your website, three are acoustic sessions. Why?
RC: The acoustic sessions is an ongoing project that I started. I have many songs. I thought “Why not record them all and put them out? My fans always want more to listen to and it’s important to deliver. I can’t wait around for a record deal to put together another full band album. I can’t make the fans wait.
TGF: You’re also extremely involved in activism. Because of this, you’ve spoken on both national television shows as well as at conferences and even high schools and colleges. Therefore, this is a sort of two-part question: a) Do you favor one type of speaking engagement over another? B) How are you received by younger audiences, especially in high schools?
RC: I really enjoy speaking to youth because I know they will be the ones to carry on the message. They are the most important group to speak to right now. I also think that they really need the support and they need to be exposed to someone who “gets them” and supports them. They also receive me very well. I think we all come out of the speech equally inspired.
TGF: Have you found that the use of social media outlets is a better way to reach younger trans people? Are there any drawbacks to the use of social media for activism?
RC: Social media definitely helps for outreach and networking. The drawbacks of social media are because some people bully and find it easier to bully online rather face to face. This is hard for many youth.
RC: Practice as much as you can. Spend all your time practicing. Learn other people’s songs — write your own song. Experiment. Learn the rules of music, break the rules of music, and rewrite the rules of music. Listen to as much music as you can get your hands on. Go to open mics. Play with other artists.
TGF: If you had one thing to say to the transgender community as a whole, what would it be?
RC: Be nice to each other!
TGF: At your age, have you experienced much bullying? How did you personally deal with it?
RC: Yes, I was bullied frequently in middle school and less often in high school. I also deal with bullying online. The best ways to deal with it are to just ignore it. Put the negative energy into something more positive.
Hands of Hate
RC: Jupiter, It Won’t Be Long hit iTunes, Amazon.com, Spotify and other online music stores/streaming websites on September 13th. It’s an extremely personal album. The stories on it are real things that have happened to me and the people very close tome. It’s extremely raw and real.
TGF: Any future plans you can share at this time?
RC: I have plans for a 4th Acoustic Sessions album and then I am hoping to have made enough money to release on vinyl. Maybe one day in the future….
TGF: In closing, any final words?
For more information, please check out Ryan’s website. Also on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. As already mentioned, Ryan’s music is available through most online music sources as well as through his website.
ALSO THIS MONTH
Justin Vivian Bond
Justin Vivian Bond has posted a new item concerning an interesting gig he did recently with Melanie, (That’s right. THAT Melanie…), at NYC’s The Cutting Room. For more details, plus further information on V, please visit V’s website.
A new CD called House Blend, produced by DJ Doyle, and featuring several TG performers has just been released in download format. The CD is a fund raiser for a building fund for local transgender groups in Houston, TX. Hopefully, we’ll be able to also post a review of this project soon. Until then, for more information, to purchase the music or make a donation to the building fund, please go to the House Blend website or blog.
Wayne County & The Electric Chairs, Man Enough to Be a Woman (Clip)
Beth Isbell has announced the date for the office CD release party for her new project We Are The Gods. It will be held Saturday, November 9th at Blue Moon House Concerts in Oklahoma City. Also check out Beth’s website.
Get Wet Krewella
Krewella is a dance music threesome of Chicago natives, Kris “Rain Man” Trindl, and sisters Yasmine and Jahan Yousaf. Get Wet is the trio’s debut, and it’s a mix of techno and dance material, with a short sprinkling of rock thrown in for good measure.
The techno grooves are found on Come And Get It (which has some of the better vocals on the project); Ring Of Fire; Killin’ It; and This Is Not The End (featuring Pegboard Nerds).
The best dance material is Live For The Night and We Go Down. The aforementioned rock moment is found on Pass The Love Around, which is by far the heaviest moment on the project.
Krewella, Live For The Night (Clip)
Krewella can also get a bit more laid back when needed, as evidenced in Enjoy The Ride, Human, and Alive, which is keyboard dominated at the beginning, but turns into one of the better dynamic moments.
Perhaps the most musical moment on Get Wet is found on Dancing With The Devil (featuring Patrick Stump and Travis Barker). This one tune contains the best production moment along the project’s most intense moments.
All in all, a decent first outing by this Chicago trio. For more information, including tour dates through the middle of November, please check them out online. Also on Facebook and Twitter.
Give Us Back Love by Meital
Meital Dohan has been working extensively throughout Europe and North America on a promotional, personal appearance tour to promote her new single Give Us Back Love. The remix disc for the tune has just been released, and features nine different mix versions of the song, with mixes by Sidney Samson, Cryogenix, Disco Fries, Dave Aude, Reid Stefan, Guy Scheiman, Midid Mafia, and DJ Reflex. (For more information, please check out her website. She’s also on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.)