SXSW artist Ryan Cassata talks songwriting, inspiration

Nataleah Small

Ryan Cassata is a musician, actor and LGBTQ+ activist based in Los Angeles. The 26-year-old is originally from Long Island, New York, and came out as transgender over a decade ago. 

Cassata’s most recent folk-rock album, The Witches Made Me Do It, was released March 27, the week after he was scheduled to perform at South by Southwest. 

On March 6, the city of Austin announced the cancellation of SXSW due to concerns about COVID-19. Upon hearing the news, Cassata sent an Instagram message to the Texan and said he was devastated about the cancellation. 

“As an indie artist, playing this festival was a dream come true for me,” Cassata said. “Safety has to be our main priority right now. It’s sad we had to sacrifice part of our dreams, but people’s lives and safety are definitely more important.” 

The Daily Texan spoke with Cassata about his personal journey with music three days before the city canceled the event. 


The Daily Texan: Tell me a little bit about your personal story and the types of stories that inform your songwriting. 

Ryan Cassata: My songwriting comes from real-life experiences. I have a lot of love songs. I also have a few songs about being trans. I came out over 10 years ago, so I talk about that sometimes … I also talk a lot about drug addiction. I’ve been sober almost six years … The message for my music is just to connect people and show people that they are not alone. There are other people in this world that are going through the same things that you’re going through or your friends are going through, and none of us are really alone. 

DT: You said that you came out over 10 years ago. At the time, were any artists or was there any music that touched on the emotional and personal experiences you were having? 

RC: For me, it doesn’t matter much about the identity of the artist. I’ve really been able to relate to a lot of classic rock and punk rock. That’s because a lot of those artists are talking about political things and rebelling against things. For me, I really resonated with that. I resonated with the feeling of feeling you don’t fit in and feeling like you don’t belong, and a lot of artists are talking about that same thing. I don’t think it matters what identity they are. 

DT: Do fans come up to you and tell you how much your music inspires them? 

RC: I’ve had such a great response. I feel so lucky for that. Everywhere I play all over the country, people do show up to my shows. My shows are on the smaller scale right now, but it is growing every tour that I go on. And (at) many shows, there (are) people that come up to me and they say, “Your music saved my life.” It’s so powerful. To me, that’s what success is as an artist. Success is music literally changing someone’s life, and I really believe in the power of music.