What do you get when you put pop music and psychology together? Wesley Ryan…
Wesley is a well-known and respected individual working in various mediums across the entertainment spectrum. This includes being a music journalist, an Associate Professor of Psychology & Chair of Social Sciences at Gulf Coast State College, to hosting his current radio and online show, The Positive Psychology of Pop. Yep, it’s a varied and interesting combination and you can read all about it below.
We caught up with Wesley in between his busy schedule and managed to pin him down long enough to answer some questions.
We like to start with some silly ‘get to know you’ ones first so here we go…
What’s your favourite pizza topping?
People frequently make fun of me because of how boring my food choices are. I never get any sauces, I eat hamburgers with zero vegetables, and pepperoni is the only thing I want touching my pizza.
Would you rather trade some intelligence for looks or looks for intelligence?
I’ve always been really self-conscious and would have answered this with wanting better looks until a few years ago. I think I’m at the age where I value intelligence more now, so I’d want more of that.
If you could skip to the future and ask your future self one question, what would it be?
I think I’d ask my future self if he felt like he’d made the most of his life. If he said no, I’d be motivated to do more.
Are you much of a daredevil?
I am absolutely not a daredevil in any way, shape, or form lol. I don’t speed, I follow every safety rule whenever I do anything, and if you ever see me jumping from a plane, it’s because it was on fire.
If you had to describe yourself as a flavour, what would it be?
I’m gonna go with cookie dough because it looks like plain vanilla on the surface, but inside are these not immediately noticeable nuggets of sweetness. I come across as quiet and shy to a lot of folks, but hopefully, they find something worthwhile when they bite into me…which sounded much less inappropriate in my head.
*Chuckling* Divine loves these answers, thanks, Wesley. We like a little cookie dough ourselves…
Now for the more serious ones.
We’re fascinated by the whole concept of the positive psychology of pop. We aren’t surprised as it’s long been known that music can play an important part in therapy, personal well-being and health. It’s solace for the soul. The way you use it though, is rather creatively different. Could you tell us what inspired you to get your message of positivity across in this way?
To put it simply, music saved my life. I’ve struggled with depression and low self-esteem since I was a kid and when I started realizing I was different, I would lay on the floor of my bedroom, put the speakers on either side of my head, and drown out all of the fear and sadness. When I realized I was gay, it was the music from folks like Madonna and Janet Jackson that helped me start to realize that was okay. I didn’t open up to anyone about how I felt inside or about everything I’d dealt with until my mid-20s. It was music that kept me going until then, and it was music that helped me finally begin expressing myself. So I really love being able to share music and stories that help others do the same.
You acknowledge in your bio you were a troubled teen and found music was a way to heal yourself- as someone with a Masters in clinical psychology, and you’ve found a way to mix this learning with a love for music to promote a healthy message of self-confirmation and acceptance. Do you ever hear back from anyone you may have helped, who say they found comfort in your show or your personal appearances?
I do, and it’s the best part of this whole gig. I taught psychology courses for about 10 years before I started the show, and hearing how the classes had a positive impact on students’ lives has always been incredibly rewarding. But hearing from people I’ve never met, from all over the world, about how something I said or a song I played helped them or even just made them smile for a minute…there is literally no better feeling. Every time someone thanks me I hope they know I’m actually the one that should be thanking them.
You’ve interviewed and hung out with many musicians and no doubt you have your favourites. What genre of music brings you the most pleasure when you listen to it, and makes you mellow?
I love such a wide range of music, but my favorite is and always has been unapologetic pop. People sometimes ask me how I can get into heavy and deep music like Fiona Apple or love indie talents like William Fitzsimmons and still prefer a genre that some people don’t have as much respect for. But the pop songs from people like Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, and NSYNC have had just as significant of an impact on people’s lives over the years. The people who wrote the songs, the musicians who play on them, and the folks who sing them have all had a hand in making someone’s life better. So while I love sharing deep songs people have never heard. I also love helping them discover something new and positive in songs they’ve heard a thousand times, and may be surprised by.
We notice one of your top five songs of 2015 was from the very talented Troye Sivan, someone who we’ve showcased on Divine before. Tell us what blew you away with his track DKLA – ‘Don’t Keep Love Around’.
Troye is RIDICULOUS! Beyond his unique and beautiful voice, he’s bringing a perspective that we’ve never, ever, heard before, and not just because he’s singing about boy on boy love. His lyrical exploration of his innermost thoughts is refreshingly honest, vulnerable, and complex and the sonics he puts behind them are insane. As an incredibly sensitive person who unfortunately tends to throw walls up when he gets hurt, I feel like Troye snuck into my brain to write this song. And the sick beat, lush electronics, and mind-blowing rap all create a perfectly painful yet somehow beautiful atmosphere of fear. It’s been stuck on repeat for months.
Divine – *clears throat* we’ve been trying to get an interview with Troye for a while. Perhaps you can use some of your charms and put in a good word for us…
You’ve had a varied career, across the spectrum, from music journalist to Associate Professor of Psychology & Chair of Social Sciences, to hosting your current show, The Positive Psychology of Pop. It appears you’ve managed to combine everything you love into one single point of being. What advice could you give to anyone else wanting to follow their dreams and be successful? Passion, commitment, being in the right place at the right time?
For most of my life, I felt incredibly powerless and resigned to the notion that good things just wouldn’t be in my future. Studying psychology helped me see that I had the power to take control and make things happen, which is a piece of advice I love sharing with people. But I found I was still trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be, and I was frustrated that I never really fit in. I felt too nerdy for the folks I encountered in radio and I didn’t feel “professional” enough for the folks I encountered in education. It was when I stopped trying to control what other people thought of me and started just putting all my effort into being my authentic and kooky self, that all the parts of my life weirdly combined in a way that makes me incredibly happy and that I still have a hard time believing. So I guess the advice I’d really give is to embrace your unique, authentic self, put yourself out there for opportunities that allow that self to shine, and to work hard to make those possibilities happen.
We have to ask what the paint is all about in the picture you sent across…
That was my first photoshoot and it was with one of my super-talented best friends, Trent Oliver-Nelson. The idea was to let go of my fears of people seeing all the different parts, or colors, of me I kept inside and to give in to the messiness and vulnerability of the path I was about to follow. Also, I just thought it would look pretty.
Divine- And very pretty it is. Divine would like to thank Wesley for being part of this awesome interview. There are some wonderfully life affirming glimpses into your life here and we thank you for sharing them in such a frank and open way.
If you want to find more about him and what he does (and we know you will) you can find him on the links below