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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Local Music Spotlight: Scott Ryan Ingersoll taps into life struggles, healing in ‘Black Hole Dispatch’

Scott Ryan Ingersoll will perform with Jenny Anne Mannan and friend at One Tree Cider.  (Brandon Vasquez)
By Julien A. Luebbers The Spokesman-Review

Scott Ryan Ingersoll has been a songwriter since he was in high school when he and his brother Caleb Ingersoll started their first band.

His passion for the art took him to Southern California, where he got a degree in music, and then ultimately – when L.A. started to feel too big and lacked a tight community – here to Spokane.

Outside of his work with local bands such as Water Monster and Super Sparkle, he has had a solo project for years under the name Scott Ryan. However, with his latest record, “Black Hole Dispatch,” he releases music under his full name. It was a small change that felt like a significant one for Ingersoll.

“In a way,” he said, “it’s like starting again, it’s kind of a re-debut if you will.”

A new page on Spotify seems to give Ingersoll, 37, a fresh start.

“Black Hole Dispatch” doesn’t work unnecessarily to be new for newness sake. It certainly develops out of Ingersoll’s previous solo work, but it also sounds different. The writing is mature and tight, equally eclectic but more cogent.

Ingersoll described his songwriting as ever-evolving.

“From the beginning, I was always very wary of being pigeonholed as any sort of singer-songwriter,” he said.

Even over the span of this record, it’s hard to pin him as any one type of artist.

The record works on a pretty consistent palette, what he described as “your basic indie rock instrumentation and those ideas and textures, but crafted in ways that fit me.”

The record sounds anything but basic. “Couldn’t Stay” and “The Ladder,” two standout tracks, draw on a slower-moving, almost ‘80s-inspired sound, “New Leaves” is more arena-rocky, and “Sick Day” is a broken-down acoustic jam.

But the tracks cohere because of Ingersoll’s wonderful vocals, consistent energy and his lyrical content: “sometimes (the writing) can play out almost as theatrical or dramatic as you’re listening, and sometimes it’s real, intimate and personal.”

“I trace (‘Black Hole Dispatch’) to a conversation that I had with (sister-in-law) Karli (Ingersoll) on a trip with Super Sparkle,” Ingersoll said. “This was in 2019 and my wife was going through cancer treatment at the time for brain cancer.

“It was a pretty huge disruption to our life, it’s almost like it takes everything and filters it through that lens. Your whole life becomes about this one thing for a while. In the midst of that I remember Karli saying something like ‘I can’t wait to hear what music or art is born out of this.’ ”

It took some time for Ingersoll to find space for reflection, given the difficult circumstances.

“I was afraid to trivialize it, to make light of it somehow,” he said.

The end result does no such thing, tackling the subjects of pain, grief and fear with vivid, open-hearted frankness.

The album’s opening trio brings the record’s difficult subject matter to the forefront, narrating that period in Ingersoll’s life through a series of images and anecdotes, brief but illuminating. On “Brain Surgery,” he sings emphatically, “They’re holding your brain in their hands,” and his voice emphasizes the shock of this thought.

“I wanted to write a narrative around the specific things that had happened, but I didn’t necessarily want to go into detail,” he said. The lyrics, filtered through the funky, dynamic music, give an effect more akin to “vignettes of what happened and how it felt.”

After the album’s powerful opening, it moves into a broader set of subjects, from growth and healing to long-term commitment and living with optimism.

“Can’t Stay” is one of the album’s catchiest tracks, opening on a slow, iconic ‘80s beat, spacey and faded. But as the song approaches its chorus, the bass and Ingersoll’s layered vocals fill it out to a thoroughly satisfying sound. The guitar solos throughout tie down the sensual, shadowy tone.

In spite of its difficult subject matter and the struggles out of which it arises, “Black Hole Dispatch” ends on a note of untethered optimism. “It’s Only the Night,” which features vocals from singer-songwriter Jenny Anne Mannan, is another slow jam, twinkling with guitar flourishes and affirmation: “We’ll continue the climb, and we’ll find it’s only the night,” Ingersoll sings.

On that note the album ends, bringing its winding, heartfelt course to a close. “Black Hole Dispatch” is a challenging but engaging album that draws on years of experience with songwriting, instrumentation and lived experience. Ingersoll works the most difficult of times into a piece of art that does nothing by way of reduction, rather amplifying his struggles into a broadly enjoyable, reflective album.

To stay up to date on Scott Ryan Ingersoll’s music, follow him on Instagram @ImScottRyan.