Ryahn Carina: "If Lauryn Hill and Mick Jagger Had a Baby, It Would Be Me"

Self-taught indie R&B/soul songstress Ryahn Carina hails from Lauderhill.EXPAND
Self-taught indie R&B/soul songstress Ryahn Carina hails from Lauderhill.
Photo courtesy Ryahn Carina

Ryahn (the "h" is silent) is only 17 years old, but she sings and plays guitar like a woman who has experienced.

The Jamaican/Bahamian indie songstress first started playing music around five years ago, when her dad gifted her a $35 guitar off Amazon.

"I was so excited when it finally came, I couldn't put it down," the singer says in a confessional-style behind-the-scenes video uploaded to her YouTube channel. "I remember not being to play, like at all. Finally, with my chord book, I learn one chord, then I know two, then I know four. Before I knew it, I was putting words to it ... For the first time, I'm like, 'Wow, this really resonates with me. Out of all the things I've tried before and all the things I failed and I wasn't good at, this is the first thing, I feel like, it feels really natural to me."

It's exactly how her music sounds: Natural. In her first single, "Baby Boy," Ryahn croons about raw infatuation, her dynamic voice bouncing from soft, deep registers to the strong high notes of the chorus, blending in subtle rasp and delicate falsetto with a refreshingly easy flow. In the music video, she looks at the camera head-on, alone, strumming the chords and swaying to the stripped-down soul tune, which she wrote and plays all the instruments on.

"Finally, I'm writing full blown songs and it's so freeing," says Ryahn. "I finally got my first song produced in the studio ... Each instrument sound you hear, I was playing: the tambourine, and the little morocco, the little egg-shaped instrument. I always said, 'I don't want to go to the studio. I don't want my songs to sound like pop music, or to sound overly produced.' But I'm so happy with how it turned out. I feel like it's so organic, it's still soulful, and exactly what I wanted."

Ryahn grew up in South Florida, but recently moved to Palm Bay, a two-hour drive north. While living in Lauderhill, she bounced around high schools — Dillard, Piper, Taravella, then two other schools — before moving away. "I've been to a bunch of schools, but I'm really sick of high school, so I'm doing my senior year online," she says.

The independent, self-taught singer-songwriter counts Al Green, Denise Williams, Queen, and the Rolling Stones as some of her influences. "I think if Lauryn Hill and Mick Jagger had a baby, it would be me," she laughs.

While she's still fairly green — Ryahn's only got a handful of recordings up online so far — she's begun performing all over Central and South Florida and feels ready to start sharing her art with the world. "It was like this bond I was building with myself all this time. I'm alone for so many hours playing and writing so many songs," she says. "But what I feel like I'm doing now, I feel like I've been finally getting a chance to share all that music that I've written. I'm not writing my music just for myself; I'm not being selfish, you know? I'm sharing it with the world, with people, and it feels right."

While details have yet to be announced, Ryahn says she'll be performing "several times" in Miami at Art Basel this year, and that her "next project should definitely show another side of my expression."

Until then, we've got her smooth, warm "Baby Boy" on repeat, perfect for these breezy fall days. Keep up with Ryahn at ryahn.com.

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