Ryne Doughty's Folk Transformation

Ryne Doughty was always something of an early adopter.

“I've been singing for as long as I can remember,” he said. “I used to perform for my parents. I'd lip sync in the living room.”

Like most musically inclined children, living room performances gave way to garage band practices. Eventually, Doughty traded Pearl Jam and The Pixies for Utah Phillips and Arlo Guthrie.

“I grew up across the street from this guy who was kind of an old hippie,” he recalled. “All of his musician friends would come over to his place for bonfires. I started going to those when I was 14, and I'd listen to them play all night(...)I really got into the storytelling aspects (of folk music).”

In college he started writing his own songs, but it wasn't until his sophomore year that he wrote what he calls his “first real songs.”

“I started writing about 2003,” he said. “When I moved to Iowa City, I started hitting it a little harder.”

Doughty—kindred spirit to countless folk artists before him—writes about the life he knows. So for him, much as for fellow Iowan William Elliot Whitmore, that means a rural, blue collar life.

“I've had a lot of labor jobs; I come from a kind of working class background,” he said. “I keep it simple, just life stories. Most songs, I write fairly quickly. I don't spend a ton of time revamping them. It seems like the songs I try and work hard on don't come out so great.”

A typical writing session for Doughty starts mainly as a jam session. The guitar is his first love, so often times, inspiration will come just from finding the right chords.

“I'll just be playing for 30 minutes straight, and the lyrics kind of jump in,” he explained. “So yeah, I would say guitar definitely comes first. I love to play the guitar.”

Once the idea is fleshed out, Doughty doesn't tend to fuss too much over re-writes or edits. He's a believer in a certain fluidity in his songwriting, and it comes across in the casual feel of the finished product.

“I'm always like 'what else does this need?' But for me, if it tells a complete story with few words, I really enjoy that,” he concluded. “You always think there's something more you can do, but sometimes leaving it alone is all it needs.”

Originally appeared in Cityview January 15, 2014