Acoustic Americana duo Tu-kay & Ryan are heading towards the end of 2023 following their most successful year together.
This month they released their debut album Companion, were honoured at the annual Northamptonshire Local Music Awards and played a series of shows in Nashville, Tennessee.
Having already played a sold-out LP launch gig at Delapre Abbey in Northampton, the pair are now out playing a series of dates across the UK to celebrate the release of the record.
“We’re really excited, this record has been a long time coming,” begins Rebecca Ryan.
Her songwriting partner Ash Tu-kay adds: “We’ve been working on the album since around 2018 when we first started working together.
“We were going to do an album that summer and it didn't happen because of COVID so we’ve been concentrating on doing EPs.
“Some of the tracks on this record were written back then and some are newer ones we’ve written since.
“It’s probably good the album didn't happen because we hopefully made it better than it would have been back then.”
The pair released six tracks from Companion this year ahead of its official release, the most recent being September’s single Time To Heal.
“The reaction to the record so far has been really lovely,” explains Ryan.
“We’ve had a lot of radio play and some really nice reviews - and that was just on the basis of the six tracks released.
“We’ve learned singles are definitely the way to go in terms of getting yourself known and getting people to have a taste of exactly what the album is going to be like.”
The album’s title, Companion, talks about the relationship between Tu-kay and Ryan and is a record which deliberately aims to champion hope and positivity.
“The songs have all come from personal experiences in life,” explains Tu-kay.
“They’re written from a place of positivity which is something I really try to do with our songs rather than coming from a place of ‘doom and gloom’ or negativity.
“The hope of moving forward and overcoming whatever it is that we might be dealing with.”
Ryan adds: “We know that the last few years have, to put it bluntly, been pretty s*** for a lot of people.
“Without being too cliched, we just want to provide a little bit of light in the darkness.”
Tu-kay explains further that Companion draws from their own lives while the music is based in folky, Americana with rootsy influences.
Tu-kay & Ryan’s latest single, Time To Heal, talks about two people being friends – but not being in a relationship.
Tu-kay explains the pair share a friendship more akin to that of siblings, adding it’s still something a lot of people struggle to understand. “That’s the focus of the song,” he explains.
“Spending too much time looking for a lover, when all you need is a companion. That’s the subject of the album.
“I think so many people settle into a relationship because they are afraid of being alone and end up in a relationship which is too hard to get out of.
“I came out of a bad relationship, as a lot of people do, and I thought, ‘I don’t actually need it’,”
The album’s title is also a reference to how the pair’s friendship has developed in recent years.
Highlighting a track on the album which wasn’t picked as a single before its release, Tu-kay chooses No One Left Behind, which he wrote for Ryan.
He explains: “It was a song I wrote for Rebecca when she was in a place where she felt she was falling behind.
“I wrote this song to say take as much time as you need to, allow yourself to feel, and even if you feel like you’re falling behind, you’ll catch up, we'll catch up.
“I think that’s important for people to realise they're not alone and other people feel things too, but everybody deals with things in different ways and sometimes you need to allow yourself to feel whatever it is you're feeling to acknowledge those feelings and ultimately move through them.”
Explaining the pressures faced by musicians outside of simply writing and recording music, Ryan adds how it’s easy to become “bogged down” by the “social media treadmill,” and the pressure the industry puts on people to maintain an online presence.
She adds: “We write our songs together, but that one Ash wrote for me and I cried when I heard it.
“It’s another which continues with the running theme throughout the album of friendship.”
Tu-kay & Ryan met through a mutual friend in 2018, when the former was recording for a friend and needed a backing vocalist.
The pair then started working on tracks together and, while having a range of eclectic tastes, began writing Americana inspired music.
“We wanted to make music which was relatable, clear and easy to understand,” explains Tu-kay.
“There’s obviously bits where people can draw their own meanings, but I like the use of simple language.
“Even though our instinct might be to use metaphor and to be overly poetic, we try and keep it as simple as we can.”
Earlier this month, Tu-kay& Ryan won the Acoustic / Country / Folk Artist Of The Year Award at the Northamptonshire Local Music Awards for the second time having also won the award last year.
They were also nominated in the Album / EP / Mixtape Of The Year category for their 2022 EP, The Little Things.
In February, the pair headed to Nashville where they played a number of dates at different venues, including one at The Bluebird Café, an iconic venue in the city which features up and coming songwriters.
After securing one of only 18-slots to play, once they have performed, the pair were chosen to return to the stage to close the night.
Ryan adds: “It was my birthday and we went out for a holiday. I had the intention of getting us some open mic slots and we ended up playing five different venues during the seven days that we were there.
“The Bluebird is notoriously hard to get into, we got a slot and they pick two acts at the end of the night to play an extra song and we got to play and close the night.
“To play at The Bluebird, to a full house, was probably one of the highlights of our year.”
Turning to the next 12 months, Tu-kay & Ryan are hoping to secure more festivals spots while also continuing their intimate ‘house gigs’.
They are also planning shows in Ireland and Tu-kay reveals they are working on an acoustic album or EP which may revisit some of their earlier work.
Companion is out now. For more information, visit https://tukayandryan.bandcamp.com/album/companion