THE WORDSMITH FROM MAINE
Ryan Michael Peters, a rapper from Wells who goes by the monicker Spose, came into the national spotlight in 2010 with his comically ironic rap tune “I’m Awesome”—a Top 40 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Having wrapped up his national tour for the 2018 Spose and the Humans’ album We All Got Lost, Peters sat down in his Sanford studio/office to talk about life, music and his work in the industry.
Peters is 34, athletically fit, and he sports a short, dark beard. He is sharp, bright and quick—qualities that come as no surprise to anyone who has seen him perform live. In concert, Spose is endlessly electric, bounding about the stage with a never-fading urgency to engage every member of the audience.
Even after his shows, Spose waits to greet everyone who wants to meet him or have him sign T-shirts or CDs. He is anything but the stereotypical narcissistic pop star.
Peters speaks with reverence about his favorite acts such as Jay Z, Kanye West and Eminem. His inspiration, however, is much more homegrown: “I am interested in the stories of the people of Maine,” he says. “They’re as interesting and important as anywhere else.”
Storytelling, for Peters, is the key to his songwriting. The shelves in his office are not only filled with vinyl, but books—including everything written by Stephen King. He doesn’t mince words: “John Steinbeck is my favorite author. He is a master of character development and he tells the stories of everyday people.”
We All Got Lost is filled with stories about Mainers. “In my first projects,” he says, “I told the story of myself. Then came stories of other people. I found I could be a reliable narrator. ‘Jimmy,’ for example, is a storytelling song: As a kid on the playground, Chris gets bullied by Jimmy. Later, Jimmy robs the CVS for oxycontin; the story is told from Chris’s perspective when he is visiting the pharmacy.”
Peters is an incessant songwriter. “’Jimmy’ arrived in the middle of the night pretty much complete,” he recalls. “For me, finding the melody is key. There are five or six ways in which I write—it’s never the same.” To illustrate, he grabs a nearby acoustic guitar and plays a catchy, rhythmic hook, explaining that was how he started another tune.
“The next goal of Spose and the [his musical posse] is to write an album as a band. My other albums have happened with me completely in charge. I am very decisive and I always have been. Even in high school, I was always, like, ‘Let’s do this!’ And we would make it happen. Right now, I have this idea of ‘Dudes’—the [fouled]-up things guys do.’”
Peters sees himself as a facilitator. “It’s how we created an entire album in one day: 35 musicians, no egos in the house, no rock stars, no rappers in competition with each other—everyone got along. Knowing people’s strengths has really helped me as Spose. I bring in people who are going to help things move forward. It’s important for me to be a leader and connector of artists. You won’t find a person with bad vibes around me—someone who’s negative. The show has to rock. The album has to be better than people expect. You have to treat the fans like gold: The audience feeds the show. I am definitely meeting every person who comes to show love to me. I don’t have that many fans compared to other musicians. Every fan I got, I need to be a fan next year.”
One huge new addition to Spose and the Humans is Dave Gutter, former Rustic Overtones front man. “Dave is an amazing singer and he plays guitar as well as anyone in the country. This was my first national tour without a DJ. But with this band, things are different. In Houston, the sound guy was, like, ‘whatever’ at first. By the end of show, he was asking Dave all about his gear and vocals. He even bought a T-shirt.”
Peters, who began performing as a young teen feels his first shot came too early. “Most artists get a few albums in and organically build to that level. One year after releasing music, I had a hit and then got signed by a major label. It chewed me up and spit me out.” In other words, Spose didn’t immediately produce another hit song. In response, he released the hilarious video for his ironically catchy Pop Song (watch it below) in 2012.
“I was going to stay in Maine anyway,” he says. “I was going to move from Wells town to Wells Beach. More than being a musician, I am a leader. I like being my own boss, doing things. It’s felt like a whirlwind of course correction from January 2011 to now: I have done 12 or so major projects in the last nine years—albums, a book, an app, tours—it’s been a blur. But I do what I have to do to feed our kids. Do I want another at a major label ? Of course I do. I’ve learned a lot since the first time.”
What has changed? Everything.
“When I signed that record deal,” recalls Peters, “I had a 1-year-old daughter. Now I have four kids and I am trying to be the best dad possible. I am trying to keep this small business . The last tour was easier because we’re so solid as a family unit. We eat dinner every night together at 6. I don’t work from 6 to 10. I was ready to risk it all— friends, money, etc.—but never my family: Kristi and the kids. I am only really searching for more success with my music. I am not searching for meaning. My family gave me that by accident. What 23-year-old kid knows that? I think it saved my life.”