Singer-Songwriter Ryland James Reveals the Powerful True Story Behind 'I Give Everything'

Canadian singer-songwriter Ryland James never misses, and his latest single, "I Give Everything," just might be his best yet.

The multi-platinum artist bares it all in the new track, which tells a true story in Ryland's own life of falling madly in love, and the sometimes scary process of the transformation that can bring, and the fear of losing your sense of self along the way. We can't get enough of the song's dancey sound and profound lyrics, and we got the chance to ask Ryland himself all about precisely what the song means to him in the following interview.

Sweety High: What was the songwriting process of "I Give Everything"? Was it inspired by a real relationship?

Ryland James: I wrote this song in September of 2020, a few weeks after my boyfriend moved long-distance from Toronto to live at home with his family during the pandemic. We'd been dating for two months when he left, and he was my first love and serious relationship, so you can imagine how heartbroken I felt at having to be separated. In the short amount of time that we'd known each other that summer, we just knew we were meant to be for the long run. The connection was so intense and felt so right, but all these outside circumstances felt like they were inhibiting it; the pandemic, for one, but also the fact that I hadn't come out to the world or most of my family yet.

I was undergoing a massive transformation at the time, and emotions were running high. It felt like all this buried hurt, anger and joy was coming to the surface to be seen and known for the first time that I hadn't realized was affecting me so much. During those first months of our long-distance relationship I wrote a lot of music that reflected the emotions I felt during my summer with him, "I Give Everything" being one of them. It was the first day of one of my trips to Toronto that it came to be (I was living in my hometown two and a half hours away at the time). I was in the studio with Mike Wise, Prince DCF and Geoff Warburton, and we just started writing a song about throwing yourself into a relationship, but feeling resistance in not wanting to lose yourself in it at the same time. I'm someone who often feels swallowed whole by my emotions, and with love being the most intense I've ever experienced, I absolutely felt swallowed whole by my relationship, mostly in the best way possible. At times, though, I felt like I was losing myself in a negative way. I was becoming an entirely different person, which I realize now was a great thing but at the time felt dangerous and scary. "I Give Everything" is a snapshot of all those feelings at once bundled into a song.


SH: How do you think the upbeat feeling of the song captures that experience?

RJ: The sonic landscape of the song is very upbeat and dancy in a way, but the actual content of the song is definitely more intense and serious. I always love a song that has that juxtaposition to it. They always trick you into thinking they're about one thing, but then on closer examination, they're actually about something completely different. I like that "I Give Everything" has that element to it. The production and sounds represent the intense, lovey, euphoric feelings, but the lyrics represent the more cerebral thought process of "What happens if this?" "What happens if that?" "What happens if I lose myself in it all?" But at the end of the day, I just dance in the feelings anyway and see where they take me.


SH: Do you have any advice for giving a relationship your all without losing sight of yourself and what matters to you?

RJ: Yes! For sure. I'm still learning how to do this myself, actually, but I can speak to my experience and what I've learned thus far from it. At first, the love is very all-encompassing. That's unavoidable. I think basking in the feeling is very important—at least it was for me. I still look back on that time very fondly. I was in a bubble. My boyfriend and I existed in our own world that seemed to exist outside of space and time. I did lose myself in it, but that was a good thing because what was happening was growth. I was giving my old self over to becoming something new and better. That's what the best relationships do. I've had my struggles with feeling co-dependent or feeling like my relationship alone can solve all my issues, but that search is futile.

The same issues will continue to show themselves until you confront them in yourself. Taking time for yourself and exploring yourself through activities and practices you enjoy alone is very important. Looking within at your greatest dreams and creating tangible goals you can work towards achieving will set you on your own individual course. Having a supportive partner on top of that is heaven on earth. We should all strive to feel complete in ourselves first with our partners being our biggest cheerleaders right next to us, not searching for those people outside
ourselves to actually complete us.


SH: What's your favorite lyric from the song? Why?

RJ: My favorite lyrics are from verse two: "I know I can't go back, and I can't bite my tongue with you, I could try but it's no use. I keep, I keep overthinking, that just leads to over-drinking, feelings for you start to sink in." Those lyrics feel like they summarize it all, the whole feeling of the song. I'm basically saying "I can't go back to the way I was, and now I'm here with you being completely honest, so please don't hurt me. I overthink a lot, and I tend to do things in excess without realizing it when I'm experiencing a lot of feelings. But here I am, the feelings are solidified, and I'm going to give it my all. I just hope I don't lose myself in the fire." To this day I still feel that straight to my core.


SH: How is this song different from what you've released in the past? Do you feel like your music is moving in a new direction?

RJ: This song is quite different from anything I've ever released before. My first project was based on my ideas of love or what other people had told me about it. "I Give Everything" and "3 Purple Hearts" are really the only songs I've put out that come directly from my own personal experience. "3 Purple Hearts" was very intimate and acoustically led. "I Give Everything" is a lot more sonically diverse. I was a lot more open to experimenting with sounds during that writing period than I ever had been before. It's one of the originals I personally feel like dancing to the most. My music is definitely moving in a new direction, whether I realize it or not. I've evolved so much as a person so it only makes sense that the sound has, too. It kind of just happened, and I'm allowing myself to be more open to the flow of things rather than trying so hard to control them. Songwriting is a lot more fun that way. I have so many songs in store that have very new perspectives and sounds attached to them, so keep an eye out!


Love discovering the stories behind your favorite music? Click HERE to read our interview with Kidd G on his rereleased debut album, Down Home Boy: Gone Since Last October.