photography by Matt Young
The spirit of “Stackin’ by the Plenty”, the latest release from singer and songwriter Reyn Hartley, could best be described as the feeling of drinking whiskey and having a deep conversation with a complete stranger, successfully moving on after a heartbreaking relationship and feeling the freedom, and watching the sunset in a blissful and sublime awareness.
The New York based artist is always referred to as the Internet and TikTok sensation phenomenon. But we think this description does not show his true qualities. His music sounds too timeless, his reflections on “real” life too wisely. In this interview, he talks about reflecting and studying what you’re telling yourself, how he write songs, and the nicest compliment anyone can give him.
When I look at your bio, I see impressive numbers. Like over 2 billion views on TikTok etc. Also in your Instagram captions you occasionally mention numbers like “we just hit 100,000 streams per day globally.” How important are these numbers to you? And to what extent do you think that people, the music industry and art in general gets too lost in such numbers?
I’m really glad you asked this question. Numbers in artistry can take on two very different meanings. When an artist is truly independent, numbers are a celebration of community. A representation of a collective group of people voluntarily coming together to connect through art. This is where I come from when I post numbers, because I’m truly independent. There’s no label, no publisher, no veteran management team that’s super connected behind the scenes. That is the second meaning numbers can take on, and it’s a really dangerous and toxic one if used in the wrong way.
With my art, I always encourage people to question what is put in front of them. We live in times where art is completely tarnished by numbers. Is a hit record really a hit record? Or were we brainwashed to believe it is? There are signed artists that have 2 to 3 million monthly listeners or more, yet nobody knows who a lot of them are, because their teams had the political connections to force those numbers. There’s no engagement, there’s no connection, there’s no focus on the art, because it doesn’t exist. No one actively chose to listen to the music, we were forced to. When I post numbers, it’s to celebrate with my fans that we are connected, that it’s real and there’s a purpose behind what we do. It’s also taking a stand to encourage other artists and songwriters out there who may be afraid of releasing music by themselves that they can do it. It’s a reminder that good music will always find its way, regardless of politics, and that the artist will always have the power.
“With my art, I always encourage people to question what is put in front of them.”
Your new single “Stackin’ by the Plenty” is about protecting yourself from the truth in order to cope with pain, using a strategy or coping mechanism. Life in its entirety is a series of emotional experiences that trigger pain or joy. What would you tell people who are also more sensible, that might give them some strength?
I think being sensible is a really good thing, but if you’re more sensible like me, you’re also much harder on yourself than the rest of the world. They seem to go hand in hand. Learning to become your own best friend is essential but it’s not easy to do. It takes a lot of lying to yourself, especially in the beginning, to cope with the overstimulations of life. The reality is, we all lie to ourselves every day to protect ourselves from the world, while we work on becoming our highest self. We tell ourselves we feel fine when we are sick, because we have to go to work and provide for ourselves and the people we love. We tell ourselves we are safe, when we are the brink of a third world war. We tell ourselves we are happy in toxic relationships, because of other necessities like image, church acceptance, familial approval, and financial needs. We tell ourselves we don’t suffer from addictions, because in reality the addiction might be the only thing keeping us going in that moment.
In my song Stackin‘, I tell myself I wasn’t worth the care, and that I don’t care, because that’s less painful for me to admit than the reality, which was that we both loved each but couldn‘t be together. If I had admitted the truth to myself in the moment, subconsciously I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle that. Over time, I pulled back that lie and was able to admit to myself that my path in life was going in a different direction. As you learn to become your own best friend, you gain the ability to start recognizing those lies, and in doing so, you uncover beautiful truths about yourself that are directly underneath the lies. My advice is that it’s okay to tell yourself what you need to in the moment, to keep going, but it’s important to slowly start reflecting and studying what you’re telling yourself, and why you might be doing that. That’s a good, sensible approach to coping. It takes time and patience. Once you do that, you’ll start to grow into your highest self.
“The reality is, we all lie to ourselves every day to protect ourselves from the world, while we work on becoming our highest self.”
“Stackin’ by the Plenty” truly touched me while listening. How and when do you write songs and lyrics like that?
Thank you, that’s very nice to hear. This one was a different process for me. Normally the lyrics and melodies all hit me at the same time. With Stackin‘, I wrote the melody in highschool back in Texas. I loved the melody but I had no lyrics, no story to put with it yet. I could hear all of the arrangements in my head, but I didn’t know what it was going to be yet. As I lived life and felt a lot of loss and change, the lyrics came forward vividly clear in about ten minutes one night and it was done. It was pretty cool because I felt like the melodies were a foreshadow of what would come in the oncoming years. A gift from the higher power in a way, despite the song being quite dark. I write songs really fast, but there are always specific elements to each of them that follow me around for years before the song comes to life.
What is the main message of your debut album “Georgia,” that you want to communicate to others?
This one is a really hard question to answer. It’s not one simplified message and I think if I tried to do that I would discredit the songs, because they all distinctively have their own messages, while working together to create one cohesive body of work. Each song is meant to spend time with, to live life with, and likely in doing so you’ll experience a character arc of your own – just like I did as I wrote them, and as I continue to do in the next body of work. They all reflect on very important parts of our human experience in real time.
In a 2018 interview you said ” I’m a Gemini to my core, so my mood is about as unpredictable as it gets.” Does that still apply to you today?
It definitely does. I haven’t changed, but I have learned how to control the different energies as a result. Moods are a gift, they tell you what you need to know. I have more control now and I can channel what I need in order to evolve in the right direction.
“Each song is meant to spend time with, to live life with, and likely in doing so you’ll experience a character arc of your own.”
What’s the nicest compliment anyone can give you that has nothing to do with appearance?
Thank you for listening. That’s a really good compliment. Spend less time talking about yourself and more time listening to others. People need to be heard and not everyone gets the chance to be heard.
If you could change one thing in this world tomorrow, what would it be?
I would end discrimination against handicap people. We live in a very woke culture right now, but no one is standing up for handicap people. There are millions of handicap people that are discriminated against everyday. From every religion, race, sexuality, and part of the world. They are all fighting a very loud but very silent battle.
Learning to become your own best friend is essential but it’s not easy to do. “
Where do you see yourself in about 10 years?
Hopefully writing songs somewhere far away and out of site with a lot of land.
Thank you so much for your time!
Thank you Christine, it was great to meet you!