Finding His Sound: The Journey of a Young Artist

It was just a normal summer day for Pat Cotter. He watched the seemingly endless posts on his Twitter feed disappear one by one as he kept scrolling. Cotter wasn’t expecting to find anything, and then a tweet liked by the University of New Hampshire’s SCOPE (Student Committee of Popular Entertainment) appeared.

“[It] probably won’t seem like the biggest deal, but last night I broke 1,000 listeners on Spotify,” the tweet said, which came from genre-bending musician Ryan Farinas. Cotter’s attention was captured, and little did he know, he’d be meeting with Farinas the following week to discuss their plans for the future.

Cotter was entranced with the unique approach that Farinas takes in music, and wanted to help him spread his voice to new listeners; a voice that’s raw yet soothing, with a subtle raspiness akin to Chance The Rapper.

The flow that Farinas wields is sporadic, oftentimes hanging over the bar line and resolving thoughts in syncopated rhythms. I remember meeting with Farinas to get a better idea of how he writes a song. He took his time, like that of a storyteller. He methodically wrote each bar, carefully choosing the words with which he’d tell his stories, and scribbling with unrest until he felt he had found the right expressions.

He took the same approach in choosing the instrumentals that back him. There was a moment where he and his producer were unhappy with the drums in a song they were working on. Farinas stepped into his kitchen and returned with tinfoil and a tennis racket. He held them into the microphone and made percussive sounds that couldn’t be found in a digital audio workstation.

Cotter and guitarist Adil Hamdi came to discuss business with Farinas in August of 2020. What started out as a brainstorm of ideas to spread Farinas’ music quickly led to the creation of a new song.

“Adil started playing an original song called ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ on his guitar,” Cotter said.

“All of a sudden, Ryan says, ‘Lead me into a verse,’ and starts freestyling. When you think of a rapper, you wouldn’t typically think of someone who can hop on a Jack Johnson type of song so smoothly. It was one of the best verses I’ve heard.”

Farinas’ impromptu verse on Hamdi’s song wasn’t just a fluke—it was the beginning of a feasible collaboration that would carry them to the present day.

“He’s got such a good musical flow and knowledge that can’t really be taught,” Hamdi said. “Making music with him is really easy, even if the stuff we’re working on is immensely complicated. I think his ability to come up with songs and structure for them is incredible.”

A Conversation with Farinas

I sat down with Farinas in his home in downtown Durham. The walls were coated in pop culture icons such as Jimi Hendrix and Mac Miller. A hip-hop instrumental softly resonated throughout the space, and his dog, Blanco, paced around the room looking for his ball. Farinas sat on the couch, laid-back and grinning as I picked his brain about his influences. He took his time, much like he does with his music.

Contrary to the contemporary style he evokes now, his roots are deep-seated in the old-school hip-hop sounds of Eminem, Jay-Z, and KRS- One, his father’s favorite artists. His early years of adolescence were met with the sounds of John Legend and alternative bands such as We The Kings. However, the tides turned for Farinas when rap collective Odd Future exploded into the mainstream.

“Odd Future was super pivotal for me,” Farinas said. “I came out of my indie phase still loving skate culture and going against the grain, and Odd Future was the perfect mix of all of that. I still loved rap and Odd Future mixed the genre with the Los Angeles skate culture. They were all about being who you are and not giving a fuck, and that drew me in. That’s how I wanted to live my life.”

Numerous musical influences and an affinity for being on stage led to writing songs. With a little help from his creative writing teacher, Farinas began to find his voice, and the best ways to express his thoughts through music.

“We’d break everything down from a literary perspective,” Farinas said. “He helped me put names to the tools I was using, and knowing when to use them. He kept me going, and taught me to believe in myself. Sometimes you might be on the brink of doing something great, but you tell yourself not to. He was always there to give me that push.”

Farinas later had his first live performance as he moved into his senior year of high school. His new song, “Euphoria,” had just dropped, and his new fan base showed their support.

“We sold a lot of merchandise that night,” Farinas said. “I never thought people would be so responsive to what I was doing. I always made music for myself, but knowing that other people love it is the icing on the cake.”

Farinas decided to pursue music that night. Now as a 21-year-old college student at UNH, he’s actively looking for new ways to define his sound.

“I don’t have a goal in terms of who I want to emulate, I’m more focused on getting my own sound out,” Farinas said. “But the great thing about music is you can use other artist’s tools and make them your own. I try to be a style-bender, kind of like Israel Adesanya in the UFC. He takes different styles of martial arts and incorporates them into his own tool kit.”

With a heavy college course load and the stresses that come with it, it can be hard to enjoy the grueling process of making music. For Farinas, it’s his favorite part.

“I feel like the process of making anything is always going to be better than the fruits that come at the end,” Farinas said. “Not to quote Miley Cyrus, but it’s the climb. Sure, the view at the top of the mountain will be amazing, but you have to love the process of getting there.”

Even with dreams of success in the music industry, Farinas is adamant about receiving his degree in program and event management.

“I used to think that if you have a plan B, you’re not giving your all into plan A,” Farinas said. “I matured a little bit as I got older and found that you can have both. Life’s a balance, and you don’t have to dive head first into everything you’re doing.”

When asked about his future, Farinas said his main goal is to be happy with where he ends up. He is aiming for financial stability to support his family, and a position where he can help young artists who face the same adversity he faces now. As for his music, Farinas wants listeners to reap the same benefits that he did.

“I want people to find meaning in my songs the way I found meaning in them,” Farinas said.

“Maybe it’s in a different way than I intended, but that’s the beauty of music. It’s like when you’re trying to express something but you don’t know how to say it. A great artist can put that into words and help you understand.”

As Farinas continues his pursuit in music, he offers advice to other young artists who are in a similar situation, and aren’t yet sure if they should chase their dreams.

“Content is everything,” Farinas said. “You have to constantly make music, even if you don’t intend on putting it out. You might love a song that you made, but if you sit on it and don’t make anything else you’re not growing. The next song you make could be even better, so don’t give up, and don’t fret about ‘making it.’ Even if it’s meant to be for you, it might not work out in the end, but if you truly love music it won’t be the biggest issue.”

Pat Cotter, who is now Farinas’ manager, has high hopes for the future. With an album set to release this December, Cotter says the team is focused on spreading Farinas’ music as much as possible.

“With music, it’s all about getting it in the right hands,” Cotter said. “One person could hear him and change his life forever, so we want everyone to hear him. The bigger net you cast, the more fish you catch.”

After a long interview, Farinas shared these final words:

“Go Mets, go Knicks, and I love my dog.”