It takes a real spirit of adventure for a performer to sustain momentum. You’ve got to prod and poke the audience with new moves, new arrangements and plenty of tricks up the sleeve.

Young Mainer Audrey Ryan is well on her way to having a foothold on the national scene, but, not one to stand pat, she’s still acting on the premise that fortune favors the bold.

Her sound has gone from the hushed folkie murmur to the full roar of an orchestra on her latest release, “Thick Skin,” on which she’s citing math-minded arrangers such as Sufjan Stevens and Bjork as influences.

It’s a strong play to get louder and weirder. Easier to make a musical phrase more lush, and easier to add acidity to your message on a dime.

It’ll be a thrill to watch Ryan put all her new toys to use, so better catch her while she’s still playing locally.


First things first — as an ambassador to Austin, how the heck was SXSW (South by Southwest)? How did your shows go? Did you meet any other musicians?

SXSW is totally overwhelming, and the only way to survive is to not take yourself too seriously and enjoy the perks of free drinks and tacos. It’s like my friend Will Dailey said: “It’s like a bad version of high school” with the popular kids, who this time are hipster bands from every crevice of the world. I did have fun, though. I met and talked to Adam Duritz (singer of Counting Crows) for a while, also met the dudes from TV on the Radio when I got my morning coffee, and saw The Strokes play, although I can’t say the show blew me away. I’d rather see an unknown band, to be honest. My shows went pretty well. I think I played well, although there is so much going on at the same time at SXSW, it’s hard to get people to come to any one show. But I was glad to be there and give out my new record.


You just put out “Thick Skin.” How does the record show your evolution as a writer?

I think that the songs on “Thick Skin” are more refined and complex than some of my earlier work, and that is where the evolution and almost 10 years in the business pays off. Also, I did something I had always wanted to do, which is have practically an entire orchestra behind most of the songs, which only Pro Tools multitracking can make possible. Since I played half of the instruments, it’s a very Phil Spector production, and the music is more on the Sufjan Stevens/Bjork tip in ambience and instrumentation. It’s definitely my best work to date.


“Thick Skin’s” Boston release featured a 12-piece orchestra. How did that go? Why so many instruments?

It went really well considering that most of the 12 people had never met each other before the day of the show, let alone played together. I gave everyone charts and the CD a few months before the show to prepare, plus I rehearsed with whoever would get together with me. But really, we just did one big rehearsal right before the show and then performed, and it came together really well. As far as the ideology behind such an undertaking, I did it because I wanted to re-create the CD as best I could. We even did the songs in the order of the record, and it was another dream of mine to perform with an orchestra behind me — which, although a lot of work, was totally worth it, and a lot of fun.


You’ve had a crazy year, including trips to Dublin and a cross-California tour. What did you learn? What was the hardest part?

I learned that the weather is never good in Ireland, but the people there are amazing. On the other hand, in California, the weather is usually good, but the people, well, it’s a mixed bag. However, I went on a wine tour in California on my day off with my boyfriend, and we had a ball. We tried to go to some of the places in the movie “Sideways” since we were in that town, and I realized that I like pinot noir and not syrah or merlot, important stuff. The hardest part was losing my favorite scarf in San Diego either before or after the show; I just don’t know. I even made a bunch of phone calls, and no dice. I’m tempted to make another trip just to investigate.


Tell us why your book, “The Need to Be Heard,” is important to your writing overall. What ills does book writing cure that songwriting can’t?

My friend just made a documentary (called “Broke*”) about how messed up the music business is and how hard it is to actually “make it.” I wrote a book about the same thing. I think for both of us, it was just cathartic. You can put so much of your time, love and energy into music and get so little back on the business end. It’s just disheartening to know that talent plus hard work does not equal success. So you just have to come to terms with that and do music because you love it, because you need to. I guess writing about it helped me through my frustration with the business so I could map out the good and the bad, and then move on.


What parts of Maine will you never be able to let go of?

The whole thing. I’ll always be a Mainard; in fact, I think of Maine more and more as I get older. I built an addition to my small house there last summer, and my plan is to use it. I’ll move up there at the end of June and come back here on Labor Day, It’s usually the best 10 weeks of my year. I love being near the ocean, sailing, how quiet it is at my house to the point where I’ll read a book in the afternoon with a breeze and just sit there in awe, ’cause you can’t hear a thing that isn’t nature — no cars, no horns, no nothing. It’s also where I write most of my songs, so clearly I must be inspired, or maybe I just finally have the peace, quiet and time I need to make music.


So what’s your next move?

Well, I’m hoping that “Thick Skin” gets to some ears — on radio, to my fans, maybe to some TV shows and movies as I’ve had some success with licensing with my previous records (“I Know, I Know,” “Dishes & Pills”). I’m going on tour to the Midwest next month, and will also go see a Cubs game at Wrigley Field the day of one of my Chicago shows. Then I’ll take the summer off in Maine, and likely go back to Europe in the fall. I hope to write some new songs and figure out what is next for me for when it comes to recording. I’m open to how it all unfolds organically, I don’t want to force anything. I make my best music usually by accident.

Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland and Boston.