Former PCHS grad makes musical waves
Ryan Hiller is a graduate of Park City High School and the University of Utah’s music program.
After additional training in New Orleans, La., the singer and songwriter moved to California to further his music career.
He is now living his dream.
Last year, Hiller released his first CD, "How It Works," a six-song extended play of original works.
A few weeks ago, Hiller released his first music video for the song "Always Gonna Be Something," which is one of the tunes on the CD.
The video is available for viewing at http://www.ryanhillermusic.com and on YouTube.
Hiller said the video wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for some inside connections to the music business.
"I definitely had video ideas for the songs that I recorded for ‘How It Works,’ but I didn’t have the budget to take those thoughts to the next level," Hiller said during a phone interview from his home in San Diego, Calif. "However, as luck would have it, my uncle is a professional film and commercial producer in Hollywood, who, back in the day, filmed many music videos in the 1980s and early 1990s."
Through his uncle, Hiller was introduced to a team of young filmmakers who are trying to make names for themselves.
"We hooked up and ended up getting along," said Hiller, who put up the cost for the production.
"They directed the video and it just ended up being an amazing partnership," Hiller said. "I’m happy with the result."
The filmmakers, including director Michael Matzur, chose "Always Gonna Be Something," because it was one of the standout songs on the CD.
"When I gave the songs to the team, we all agreed they could do the most with that song, than the others I had recorded," Hiller said. "It’s the most upbeat song on the CD and had naturally came out."
The song itself came about in an interesting way, Hiller said.
When he decided to record the CD, Hiller had recruited producer Andy Williams, who has worked with T-Bone Burnett, Peter Case, Rhett Miller and Jessica Simpson.
"I needed to get at least six songs ready for the CD, and I had most of songs ready," Hiller said. "But things happened that inspired me to write one more song."
A week before the session, someone broke into Hiller’s car.
"All my music and equipment was stolen," he said. "I mean everything, including my very first guitar, which was my mom’s first guitar that was played at her wedding. It was a gift given to her while she was a child living in Japan, and had huge sentimental value."
Shortly after the breakin, the car broke down completely while Hiller was driving to an audition for some big-time music producers.
"There were some more things that happened, and it was one thing after another," he said. "I felt things were literally falling apart. You know, when it rains, it pours."
One day, Hiller thought over the mishaps and the words "It’s always going to to be something" came into his mind.
"No matter how I was able solve one conflict in my life, there would always be another one just around the corner," he said. "And that sparked the idea for the song."
Hiller sat down and quickly wrote out the lyrics.
"I took the song to Andy a week before the recording sessions were supposed to happen, and he told me that the song needed to be on the CD," Hiller said. "It was one of those magical things that evolved into what it is today."
Once Matzur heard the song, he knew it was the right one for a video, Hiller said.
"I worked very closely with Michael," he said. "Michael already had a vision for the video, which was great, but he was also very receptive to my suggestions."
Creating a visual concept for the video was easy for Matzur because the lyrics speak for themselves, Hiller said.
"The song is pretty straightforward, and there really isn’t any room for ambiguity," he explained.
The crew shot in Los Angeles and Hollywood.
"They knew about a secret spot on top of a hill that overlooked the entire city," Hiller said. "The funny thing was as we shot those scenes, we were constantly hoping the cops wouldn’t drive by and shut us down."
The music video was the first major visual production that Hiller had ever done.
"It was cool to see how much work had to be done for a four-minute song," he said. "There were four guys handling the camera. There was someone working on makeup, design and the props and other people working the lights and other technical duties."
Filming took two full days.
"One day was by myself and one day was with the band," he said. "After the shoot was finished, we spent many hours in phone calls and emails."
The editing itself took more than a month.
"I wasn’t a part of that, thank God," Hiller said. "It was all the production crew."
Another thing that surprised Hiller was how Matzur’s vision was translated to the screen.
"There were some shots we did that I didn’t quite understand, because I didn’t know what he was thinking in regards to the bigger picture," Hiller explained. "There were times when they would set me in the middle of a dirty vacant lot and I wasn’t sure what they were doing, and I was amazed at the artistry that goes into making a video and me, as a musician, didn’t understand that until I saw the final product."
Hiller felt "pure excitement" when he first saw the video.
"They worked so hard and were so determined to do it and I felt so lucky to get to know these guys," he said. "I felt like we gave it our all."
After reflecting on his musical accomplishments, Hiller said he is amazed at where these past 10 years have lead him.
"It feels like it was only yesterday when I was walking down the halls of Park City High School," he said. "But as the years go by, I find myself looking forward to the next step. I look for better gigs and projects, trying to make sure that I keep living my dream, without having to buckle down and get a nine-to-five job."
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The County Council doled out grants supporting ventures ranging from discounting plane tickets to supporting a classical music festival.