22 November 2021

The Rainbow Lullaby Album - Ryan Bauer-Walsh Interview

"Every family is different- but the love is the same and we all deserve the comfort of a lullaby."

Rainbow Lullaby is a brand new album from the talented inclusive mind of Ryan Bauer-Walsh. The album is a celebration of LGBTQIA+ artists and is the world's first dedicated LGBTQIA+ lullaby album. I spoke to Ryan to discuss the album and the inspiration behind it.

For a British reader who may not know of Ryan's work. Credits include roles in Billy Elliot, Les Miserables, Zorro, and Miss Saigon. Ryan explained "I was born and raised in Minnesota where my acting career started. I was bullied a lot growing up so my sophomore year of high school I auditioned for a professional show in downtown St. Paul. I ended up cast in the production and skipped most of my sophomore year- and I went from being a victim of bullying to finding comfort in my identity as a performer and a queer person- in a supportive community of actors that included openly gay people.

It was that year that inspired Ryan into a career in the arts."This formative year ended up pushing me to pursue a career in the arts and a life focused on arts activism. I have worked as a professional actor in a range of shows including Billy Elliot, Les Mis, Miss Saigon, and originating many roles Off-Broadway.  During the lockdowns, Ryan has kept his creative mind going "Recently, due to the pandemic, I have been focused on my career as a painter and voice actor, creating a hand-painted non-gendered clothing line- and voicing the roles of lead characters on several TV shows. But the last year has been almost entirely focused on creating this album of Queer lullabies; The Rainbow Lullaby." 

Ryan Bauer-Walsh. Photo courtesy of Skollar PR.


Rainbow Lullaby was inspired by Ryan's own childhood experience, his inspiration came from the sad death of his mother and the comfort of a good lullaby. Ryan explained "I had gone home to Minnesota during the height of the pandemic in NYC to take care of my mother who was fighting cancer- a battle which she would lose 4 months after I arrived.  Left to my grief in my childhood home I was desperate to feel the maternal energy and love my mother gave me. So every night before bed I would write lullabies to comfort myself and to help me sleep. I had always wanted a family growing up- so the lullabies turned from songs my mother would have sung to me- to songs my future husband and I could sing to our children."
 
It's clear that Ryan's mother was the inspiration to Ryan for creating the album. Ryan explained further about her legacy "My mother has a great legacy of charity and led a life dominated by a determination to be kind to others. The proceeds of this album will all be donated to charity. The Ali Forney Center in New York City is a wonderful organization that works with queer youth, the homeless, and the trans community. She would be so happy to know she was still helping others and helping children off to their dreams for generations. 

Ryan turned the loss of work due to the pandemic and the heavy loss of his mother into a creative project which allowed Ryan to discover a whole new family. "A few years ago I made a conscious choice to persist with joy. When the pandemic hit the East Coast I decided it was a wonderful opportunity to invest in my artistic ideas. The one thing I had always lacked was time. Instead of the pandemic devastating my career path- I feel it has blessed me with a whole new family. Over 50 queer creatives helped compose and create this album. It has enriched my artistic outlook and after so much grief, this process has brought so much joy into my life."

The Rainbow Lullaby is an album made by LGBTQIA+ artists and Ryan hopes that audiences will continue to be inspired and relaxed by listening "I think singing to our children is part of human nature. I think many people fall in love and that love is so great that they want to share it by creating a family. I think all families deserve a voice that sings to their family dynamic. Every family is different- but the love is the same and we all deserve the comfort of a lullaby."

Ryan explained how important an album like this will be for a younger audience, something he didn't have when he was younger. "I didn't have the opportunity to grow up with queer role models. The generation that was meant to be my role models was devastated by the AIDS epidemic and the ridicule of homophobia. The creation of queer culture, queer family traditions, and queer music create a change in the landscape of queer identity. No longer will children only have the stereotypes of our community presented to them as the only publicly acceptable format for existence. The effeminate villains in cartoons, and the foppish extroverts will be exchanged for the genuine article; parents who love their children, best friends who play "Queens" or "Cowboys" depending on the day, and a whole world of people who are ready to love them- no matter how life goes. An album like this humanizes us- and it is about time; because Lullabies and Gay people have ALWAYS existed. Now we have songs that are timeless to express that fact.".

The Rainbow Lullaby album artwork. Image courtesy of Skollar PR.

Ryan explained, "It was important to me to have queer people create this album.". The album features tracks written by Ryan themselves, Tony, Oscar, and Grammy award-winning Marc Shaiman, Jonathan Larson Performing Arts Award winner Debra Barsha amongst others and features performances by artists including Tony Award nominees Jenn Colella and Caitlin Kinnunen. Ryan explained how he selected the artists. "Even today, gay roles in movies are going to straight actors. Representation matters and is critical in the march towards equality. Within the queer community, there are so many different voices - voices that needed to be part of this album to help make it as diverse as the rainbow. I didn't begin the casting process for the album till I had moved back to New York. By then, the world was excited to 're-open'. Many of the performers and composers I had contacted ended up calling me back saying they were suddenly booked into a new show- which ended up being a wonderful way to be introduced to new people I hadn't worked with before. I ended up with a team of 50+ people with performers scattered around the country. From East Village Rock Stars, Broadway Actors and Opera Singers from the Met- this album has a wide array of voices to add to the chorus of diversity."

The album is a collection of wonderful songs beautifully performed, I asked Ryan about his favourite numbers from the album, he explained "I honestly listen to this album all the time. The world has become such a stressful place, full of people seeking out differences to use as weapons of division instead of more reasons to celebrate the wonder of diversity- and this music is calming, gentle and sweet. I really love Two Mama Flamingos by David Dabbon and Michelle Chamuel. Christine Dwyer sings it and it really carries the essence of a lullaby."

The title track, 'The Rainbow Lullaby', is also an important track to Ryan ." I also love the title song; The Rainbow Lullaby. It functions as a thesis for the album. It opens with a soundscape that is nearly identical to the sounds of the marsh behind my house in Minnesota- the sound I grew up falling asleep to. The song opens with the lyrics; ``Across the Great Valley a dream slept; awaiting- all people to one day arrive. But only the rainbow that held every color could reach to the other side. Come 'cross all you people with love in your heart. This dream is a dream we can share. Come cross the Great Valley and help one another to reach the dream waiting there.``"

It's clear from talking with Ryan how important and inspiring this project has been to him. Ryan ended with "I believe there are better days ahead- but only if we all decide to create a better, more loving world together.". I can't put it better myself.

The Rainbow Lullaby is available to stream on all major platforms now and can be purchased at Broadway Records

For more about Ryan, you can follow him at @Ryan.Bauer.Walsh and see his art on @RbwArt. Purchase his Gender Optional clothing line, Banana Duck, at TinPin.com

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