Ryan Torregrossa’s first solo album is not an ode to his youth and his time as a student at TU, but rather a journal entry.
“This was really just for myself,” he says. “I’ve been a singer-songwriter for a long time, and I’ve done a lot for other people, but this is my own thing.”
The album is called “6:23” and was released March 30, 2016, but according to Torregrossa, the songs on the album were written between 2006 and 2013, a time period that encompasses his four years as a student at TU (he’s a class of 2012 Energy Management major and Music minor). The album can be streamed on Spotify or purchased from iTunes.
“6:23” is what Torregrossa refers to as “a DIY project.” His coursework at TU played into the making of the album, which he recorded and produced by himself at his home studio in Houston.
“I studied digital recording at Tulsa,” he says. “These classes gave me the know-how to literally record the music and also use the software. I also drummed up some websites, did marketing and photography just kind of to see if I could do it. And it came out alright.”
The result is a mellow, easy-going nod to immaturity and self-discovery, set to acoustic indie-country guitar riffs and the smooth cadence of Torregrossa’s voice. It seems like you should be listening to it by a bonfire on a nice patio, or sitting in an armchair in a log cabin. Like he says, it came out alright — better than alright.
Torregrossa attributes this musical style to the fact that “6:23” as an album is “certainly internalized.”
“[The songs on the album] are songs I like and would listen to. The style is super acoustic, there’s not any noises or production.” He does admit, however, that in the future he might like to incorporate some more electronic styles into his music. The album draws from jazz influences — Torregrossa studied jazz guitar at TU — but also from late 90’s and early 2000’s alternative.
“It’s really a combination of [when I was in high school], wanting to be cool and listen to Blink-182, but also wanting to learn jazz guitar and get a scholarship for college,” Torregrossa laughs as he recalls asking a friend to bring him alternative albums on the sly so he could listen to them without his mother finding out. He cites musical influences such as Alanis Morissette, Jimmy Eat World, and Led Zeppelin, as well as jazz giants such as Chet Baker and Miles Davis.
He cheekily describes his work as “music to play ping-pong to;” low-key and casual, not a pop or rock album. He’s right — the best word to describe the album is “smooth,” ranging from the easy bass and light-hearted vocals of “Wading” and the flowing piano on “The Truth.”
Torregrossa’s time at TU was not only a contributing factor to his musical success, but also a strong influence on the lyrical content of “6:23”.
“Really there is a whole lot of influence from Tulsa, not just in the songs but because of my age, maturity level, what was going on in [my] life. I was at music school at Tulsa so I’ll always remember Tulsa when I play these songs…I remember writing [a] song after a football game and I couldn’t sleep. Or going to Tyrell after failing a test and writing,” he recalls.
Torregrossa continues to reminisce about his time at TU: “When I was there, there was an older music building, and I don’t know if they even let people into Tyrrell Hall any more,” he laughs, “because it’s like asbestos.com in there. Vocal majors would complain about the black mold.”
Torregrossa spent his fraternity-mandated study hours in the basements of Tyrell, before the Lorton Performance Center was built. “I was practicing piano 6-7 hours per week, being at Tyrell hall, meeting new people” he says. The album, he contends, represents this part of his life, a time when he was simply learning about himself.
The lyrics on “6:23” are concise and simple, and he brings this up. “There’s an element of immaturity to it and that’s kind of the point. Some of the words and songs were something that maybe I wouldn’t put in an album I would release today, but [at the time] it was for me.”
Some songs on the album are based off of people Torregrossa met at TU. “I particularly remember writing “Then I Realized” and finishing the song and realizing it was about a Tri Delt [sorority member] I used to know at TU,” he says. Another song on the album, the laid-back “Wading,” is a nod to one of his fraternity brothers and good friends.
The album’s smooth, mellow, bass; bright acoustic guitar, and slight notes of americana flavor are indicative of the influence of both Tulsa and Torregrossa’s hometown of Houston. “I’m going to continue to be a Tulsa musician,” he says. “I’m from Houston but I usually make sure [people] know it’s my Tulsa album.”
In addition to “6:23”, Torregrossa and two friends (also TU graduates) recently released a project entitled By Chance, a three-song EP written and recorded over a span of seven days while Torregrossa happened to be visiting Tulsa. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where he teaches for an organization called Freebird that offers free guitar lessons to children with cancer.
Torregrossa also notes that we should keep an eye out for an upcoming project. He’s working on some americana tracks with a singer-songwriter from West Virginia that he says should be available on his website, www.ryantorregrossa.com, in the near future.
He wraps up the conversation by throwing in a final nod to his college years: “Tulsa really put me in a good position education-wise and financial-wise. I was able to get a really great job right out of the University of Tulsa, which set me up with the time and means to record the album. I really owe a lot to the university.”