Posted by: ryanmontbleau | December 28, 2012

Connection

I’m reading Studs Terkel’s famous oral history book called “Working.” It’s a collection of over 100 interviews with people of different professions. As the front cover says, “People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do.” Everyone from a gravedigger, to a studio head, to a policeman, to a prostitute, to a piano tuner.

It was published in 1972 and one of the most fascinating parts of the read is the way that jobs have changed in the last 40 years. Certain professions don’t even exist anymore, and many others are now a far, far cry from what these people describe. But equally fascinating are the ways in which things haven’t changed. The human element remains. People are people and humanity endures.

Tonight while reading a section about a telephone solicitor in Chicago, I got the idea for this blog. The woman’s job required her to cold-call people all day long on behalf of a big newspaper, soliciting people for subscriptions. It was a high pressure job and she would be told to lie to potential customers if needed. She would tell them for instance that their money would support a charity for the blind, anything to fill her quota of subscriptions and keep her job.

When describing her guilt at taking money from people in the poorer sections of town, she said:

“A lot of them were so happy that someone actually called. They could talk all day long to me. They told me all their problems and I’d listen. … They were so elated to hear someone nice, someone just to listen a few minutes to something that had happened to them. Somehow to show concern about them.”

I’ve been pretty lonely away from the stage this year for various personal reasons and lately I find myself in an endless loop of: check Twitter, check Facebook, check my email, check Instagram, check Twitter, check Facebook, send a text, check my email, text again, check Instagram, post a pic, status update, and on and on and on…

And why? In a nutshell it’s because I’m craving connection. To use the same words from the quote above, I want “someone just to listen for a few [seconds] to something that had happened to [me].”

Don’t we all? We use social media and other modern connection tools for so many different reasons, but I have to believe that this idea is at the core of why we do it.

The lesson I need to take from this? Lend people your ear. Listen to them. Hold a little space for them whenever you can, give them a few seconds or a few minutes whenever you can spare it. We are all connected and these connections lie far, far deeper than Facebook or a text or an email. Although it’s not a bad start if we can use those things in the right way.

And this goes for everyone. Strangers, friends, hell even your enemies. The danger of social media is that we can insulate ourselves in a bubble with only the people we agree with. But it’s the “us against them” mentality that’ll be our undoing. People are hurting. People are scared and lonely and confused and misinformed and everyone gets trapped by their own ego. Everyone. Even you.

Show yourself compassion and show it to somebody else today.

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | December 20, 2012

I Aspire to Be a Practiced Practitioner

I was just playing my guitar for a while alone in my room. I wasn’t practicing really, just playing. Well, at first I was practicing to a metronome, trying to nail down a few little melodic licks that ran through my head. I have done so little of that over the years and must do more. But then I was just playing. That I’ve done A LOT of over the years to be sure. But it felt like it had been a little while and I was just standing there, playing to my heart’s content, letting my inner ear and my fingers take me wherever I could manage to go.

And eventually I hit upon this one little thing. Very simple. Based off an A chord but with a tiny little melodic thing attached. So simple that many, many, many, many guitar players could play what I just played. But it struck me that there was a little something in that “lick” that I was really feeling inside. And it struck me further that if I kept playing that, and played it as purely and as deeply as I could, then maybe I could play it unlike anybody else on earth.

Hubris… maybe, but I think there’s an element of truth in there. All those years of just playing. Playing, playing, playing, which for me essentially started in a dorm room at Villanova in the mid 90’s and lasted right up through my room session tonight– at some point during that time I inadvertently developed a style. Certain things come out of you when you beat on a guitar over and over and over for years. One major thing that came out for me years ago was a slappy percussive thing. You can hear it on 75 & Sunny, Honeymoon Eyes, and a bunch of other tunes. That’s not a guitar style that I consciously set out to learn. It’s just what happened from playing and trying to make it sound good over and over and over again.

It strikes me that most people have some kind of unique element to their playing if they keep reaching for what they hear and spend enough time on their instrument. Beyond what you hear in your head, people’s fingers are shaped differently, their dexterity naturally differs, they play with different levels of tension (not that tension is a good thing for your body), they use space in different ways. This is not to say that it’s not essential to imitate the sound of others. (In fact, that is a crucial learning tool for anyone and I could be a much better musician today if I had done more of that over the years. It’s not taking away from your own unique style, it only helps you in the long run.) But it fascinates me the different sounds that come out of different people, even if they’re trying to play the same thing.

Peter Prince’s “The Gift” is a great example of this. The tune is pretty easy to learn, based off of simple guitar chords. G, D, C, etc. We used to cover this tune so I’ve played it. But I can’t quite play it like Peter. And I believe somehow that no one can. Listen close. It’s not so hard that even a beginner couldn’t learn how to play the song. And what he himself is doing is not so impossible that someone couldn’t spend a bunch of time on it to get every little nuance of his performance on the acoustic guitar. But Peter didn’t have to do that. He just played it and what your hear is how he played it.

All of these ideas fascinate me:

The nuances that come naturally from playing your instrument your way.

The nuances you can learn and hone in on from practice.

The beyond.

What is the beyond?

Maybe the new nuances. The ones that naturally sprout up from your unique playing, but that you can now find more easily, hone in on and nurture all the better because you are a practiced practice-er.

(Errr… practitioner. )

It’s just a hunch. Maybe someday if I’m a practiced practitioner I can tell you for sure.

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | March 9, 2012

Have I made it?

It was a Facebook message from a friend of a friend that sparked me to write this blog. That and looking at the van and trailer outside the Red Roof Inn just now in Kalamazoo, MI.

 

gotta tell ya what ur doing has many ppl crossing their fingas and holdin’ thier breath till YOU think you’ve made it. personally, u made it a long time ago. keep on keepin on. :-)”

 

The question of whether or not you’ve “made it” is one that you turn over in your head from the get-go, I think. When you start out in this business, you have some unrealistic expectations. But you know you’re supposed to be humble, and so you are. I think I’ve always held the belief that there really is no making it, at least not in the usual sense. It’s all about the journey, etc., etc. You don’t just become rich and famous one day or night and say “OK! Everything is perfect now.” I think most people know that.

 

But the question of when I think I’ve actually made it is very interesting to me right now. I’m going through some sort of transition in my confidence as of late. It’s weird and maybe contradictory to say this, but at times I think I’ve sort of been humble to the point where it can affect me and my career negatively. I get wishy-washy in my fight for people’s ears. It’s a fine line as a performer. You need to practice humility, but you also need to be the man up there, you know? You need to believe that you’re good. Damn good. Otherwise, why are you doing this?

 

So I’ve been trying to “find my feet.” I’ve been trying to stand up straight, to stand up tall. Hell, just standing up in general has been a big deal for me. Two weeks ago I played my first gig ever where I didn’t sit down the entire show. It’s liberating. I stand all night every night now. I do a little goofy dance here and there, I move around. I observe the crowd and I sing out as strong as I can. Everything is starting to loosen up, and this is a much needed transition.

 

OK, a little off topic there, but some factors popped into my head tonight that make me think I’ve made it. One is the vehicle we’re traveling in. We bought a great, huge, new van in the fall. Early this year we pimped the hell out of it with a leather couch and amazingly comfy seats and bunks to nap on in the back. We pull all of our gear in a trailer.  This is such a far cry from some of the vans of years past, I tell you that’s making it.

 

The guy who built all of this in our van, and the guru of the trailer is also the guru of our sound every night. His name is Luke Milanese and he’s the next reason that tells me I’ve made it. I can’t really imagine a better sound engineer. Luke is special and has a special way of identifying weaknesses and making things better and better and better. We also travel with our own soundboard now and Luke wields that thing like a powerful weapon. We stream the shows online every night. We offer pristine recordings right after the show. We have a serious operation going on here.

 

And I will take our guitar player over anyone’s. And our bassist. And our keyboard player. And our percussionist. And our drummer.

 

And I mean that. Seeing a bunch of professionals assembled around me night after night, kicking ass at their jobs, showing years of hard work on their instruments paying off– that’s the real stuff that tells me I’ve made it.

 

I have to go to bed so I won’t even get into the other thousand reasons that I think I may have made it. But I’ll leave you with one:

 

You just financed a record of mine that no one has heard.  And then some!  There is no adequate way to show my gratitude for that, there is nothing I can say except…

 

I can’t wait for you to hear it.  And I can’t wait to make another one.

 

http://bit.ly/4higher

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | January 27, 2012

Jam Cruise 10

This was my second Jam Cruise. Two years ago, our band got voted on to the boat for Jam Cruise 8. This year they invited me to play as a solo performer. 5 days and nights on a luxury liner with with my girlfriend in a cabin that had a balcony off the side of the boat. 3,000 raging party-goers, five stages, maybe 35 bands with about a zillion musicians who would blow my mind.

It’s hard to fit it all into words, it’s actually impossible. I remember one of my favorite little personal moments of the trip was in the artist’s lounge/wine bar on the seventh floor near the jam room. The room was nearly empty (it usually is), but in the corner sat Bill Kreutzman of the Grateful Dead giving an interview alongside Papa Mali. Kreutzman told a funny story about how he was a little nervous when he was going to be playing with George Porter Jr. but when he showed up for their first gig together, George was already there, setting up Bill’s drums for him. I turned to head out of the lounge when the interview was over and there at the piano in the same room was Nigel Hall going over a tune with Living Color’s Corey Glover.

Just waiting in the artist/staff line to get on to the boat is enough to make any fan of the jam world’s head spin. We made room in the aisle where Neal Evans caught up with Karl Denson in front of us. When the line started to move, we passed Marco Benevento sitting to the side with his wife and beautiful kids. Met Raul from Ozomatli for the first time. Said hello to Anders Osborne and to George Porter and met George’s wife. Chatted with Robert Mercurio from Galactic. Slapped hands with Trombone Shorty’s guys.

My intention is not to name-drop here.  I’m just saying this was THE FIRST 30 MINUTES OF GETTING THERE, WAITING TO GET ON THE BOAT.  I was like:

Holy shit there are some talented people getting on to this boat right now. If a terrorist blew up this building there would be no jamming in the United States for the next two decades.”

And that, by far is the overwhelming force of jam cruise: the music. This sounds obvious, but bear in mind, you’re on a enormous cruise ship with 15 floors, restaurants, bars, lounges, a spa, a mini-golf course, a disco. You’re cruising into the Caribbean Sea making stops in Haiti and Jamaica… believe me there is plenty of other stimulation to go around! But the tidal wave of music on this thing just trumps it all.

Some thoughts:

I think Eric Krasno is a genius. Beyond his musicianship, beyond his guitar playing, I tend to think that he’s this kind of special connector point for a ton of music and musicians coming together. It’s hard to imagine the jam scene without him. And it’s a testament to his vision of music that what he does is not really “jam band” (whatever that means anymore) in the first place.  I will say on that note, he sounds better than ever. Dude is RIPPING, not to mention he had some beautiful, sublime quieter moments during Soulive’s theater set. And watching him at work in his home studio a few months ago, it’s clear that he understands the ins and outs of tunes as well as anyone out there. Breathes music.

Speaking of Krasno… Lettuce must be the sickest funk/soul band on the planet. It’s just hard to imagine it getting much better. Adam Deitch is a special drummer. They’re all special players.

Mike Dillon has moved into my “favorite musicians on the planet” category.

Here are my favorite musical moments/sets from Jam Cruise X:

  • Keller and the Keels in the theater. This one surprised me. Jaw-dropping picking and fun, fun, fun.
  • Soulive in the theater. The early originals, the Beatles tunes, and for me, the crusher: D’Angelo’s Untitled (How Does it Feel), which got quiet and sublimely beautiful.
  • Dead Kenny G’s late night in the Zebra Lounge. Mike Dillon and Skerik taking you to hell and back with sit-ins from Stanton Moore and Brad Barr. Mind blowing musical genius with punk rock energy.
  • Toots and the Maytals on the pool deck in the sun. 54-46 into a gospel jam out in the breeze with frozen drinks as we leave Jamaica? Yes please.

And my own musical moments:

  • Sitting in with Galactic for “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
  • Singing “Love Rears It’s Ugly Head” with Living Colour’s Corey Glover and Galactic. Total dream come true for me. I used to listen to that song over and over in my Walkman in the backseat of my parents car as they drove. Cut to Jam Cruise 2012 and Corey’s got his arm around my neck and we’re singing it together on stage.
  • Watching the end of Trombone Shorty’s set from the back of the stage on the pool deck.  People in the crowd singing the words that I wrote to “Something Beautiful” while Troy performed it.  I got tears in my eyes.
  • Playing a set on the pool deck with the crowd yelling either “Polo!” or “Benevento!” every time I yelled “Marco!”
  • Serenading the good folks of Positive Legacy in the fine dining restaurant. When I played “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” even the waiters started singing and dancing.

I also sang “Pumped Up Kicks” on stage with Toubab Krewe but it wasn’t my finest work. Still, an honor to sit in with that band.

I leave tomorrow for a tour that will take me on another cruise: Cayamo. WAY, way different then Jam Cruise by all accounts and I am blessed to be able to do both. Ironically, we will have the full band.  This one is a songwriter cruise: Lyle Lovett, John Prine, John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown, many others. More about the listening than the dancing and raging. Still, I am psyched to throw down with the guys and I will be sure to blog about it.

Ahoy!

 

 

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | December 27, 2011

Gluttonous with Gratitude

“Success is gratitude.”

Another gem from Livingston Taylor’s book.  Think about that.  Successful people are thankful.  There is so much power in that idea.  They say if you take time every day and make a list of what you’re thankful for, it’ll transform your life.  I believe that.  Not that I’ve been making lists.  But I do pray sometimes.  And beyond praying for others, I always try to speak a silent “thank-You” for what I have.

Spent Christmas Eve and Christmas with Jess’ family.  A feast of food and gifts and conversation and family love around an old table in an old house in an old town in Massachusetts.  Warm lights and the smell of a huge pot roast with delicious vegetables and fresh baked bread.  Endless desserts.  Wine.  Little barking dogs.

And now I’m back home in my big cluttered room in a cold house in Lawrence, the space heater humming and the old radiators whistling, trying their best.  I just watched a documentary about Jean-Michel Basquiat on Netflix.  The other night I stayed up until 5am to watch a fascinating show about plant-life (no bullshit).  Skate videos have been in heavy rotation, political articles, a full-length documentary about Christian Hosoi, an inspiring little interview clip of Kelly Oxford, Thrasher Magazine, a great article about sleep cycles, recipes for cilantro-honey-lime marinade.  And I’ve been reading Josh Ritter’s novel “Bright’s Passage.”  It’s great.

I’m soaking stuff in.  The guitar feels good when I pick it up, I’ve practiced a little too.  I haven’t really been writing, except for this blog.  Mostly I’m just taking in.  And semi-stressing about the New Year’s shows.  They will be great but we have to make them great.  We need new things to happen, new covers, new collaborations.  I always stress about this stuff heading in but that’s just part of the process I guess.  Can’t wait to snowboard.

This brain dump has been brought to you by a few needed days without shows.  I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this, why I feel the need to share.  But I do.  I’m floating in the cosmos, keeping the feelers out for whatever passes by.  I’m looking for a little clarity, a little direction right now.

And I am thankful that you’re listening.

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | December 20, 2011

Bottle of Red

We drove home all day yesterday from Wilkes-Barre, PA to Lawrence, MA. Not the longest drive in the grand scheme of things, but those six hours always seem longer than they are. It probably has something to do with the fact that I’m inevitably hungover when I leave Wilkes-Barre, PA.

 

I’m starting to feel like I used to feel when I got home from touring. Exhausted and antsy at the same time. Very tempted to get fucked up, to get out of my head at any cost. When you move around so much at a million miles an hour (or 75mph, whichever) and then you come home and you suddenly stop… it can be hard to know what to do with yourself. I’m trying to eat good, I went to yoga tonight, I sent my parents some wine and a Christmas card and ran some other errands today.

 

After yoga I cooked a meal for one with more than enough food for two. Even when I’m home, my house is 98 miles and a ferry ride from my girlfriend, so that’s just the way it goes sometimes. And I found a nice bottle of wine tucked away from some pot-luck or dinner party of yore. The smell of garlic in the air, seasoned warm chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, the steamed broccoli. I uncorked the bottle and happily downed a glass of that Chilean red with dinner in front of the TV. When I ate my seconds I drank water to rehydrate from the Bikram. But I was so much looking forward to that next glass of wine. I wondered if I would maybe end up downing the whole bottle.

 

And when I set out to do the dishes, I opened a cabinet and knocked the near-full bottle of wine clean off the marble counter. It smashed on the floor in a million pieces. Shards of dark green glass and red pools that made our kitchen look like a murder scene, all spreading over the hardwood and seeping under the fridge.

 

Fuck.

 

Maybe that’s a sign that I’m not supposed to be drinking.

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | December 13, 2011

The Neverending Tour-y and The New Record

We sold out two nights at Fairfield Theatre Company’s small room this weekend. Last week we sold out the Paradise in Boston with Assembly of Dust. Two weeks before that we sold out City Winery in New York City. That was the end of a two-month tour during which we played 37 cities, carrying seven guys and pulling a 6×12 trailer with our new van. I can’t say many of those were sell-outs, but every night there was a crowd of some sort (except for Athens, GA, but that’s still a great town) and every night was positive.

 

It all feels on the up and up. My body has suffered some from all of the touring, but the shows have been feeling outstanding for the most part. I read Livingston Taylor’s book “Stage Performance”  while on tour and it has really rocked my world as far as being on stage. You may not see a big difference, but I certainly feel one. I’m there to observe you, not the other way around. Amazing.

 

A couple of notes about my forthcoming “New Orleans” record:

 

–It is not a record of New Orleans music. I did the recording session in the crescent city with four of its amazing, amazing people and players (George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville, Anders Osborne, Simon Lott, plus producer Ben Ellman), but we did a mix of originals and semi-deep covers of the funk/soul/R&B variety. It is very different from other records I have done.

 

–It looks like it’s coming out May 15th. We had to push it back slightly mainly because…

 

–I will be my own record label again. This is not something new, I’ve never in my career had an actual record deal (although I did sign a small distribution deal a few years ago for “Patience on Friday” and ended up owing that label money. Awesome…) I thought that something might work out for this new album and for the first time I was actually looking forward to the opportunity to really work with a label. There was definitely some interest, but in the end I’m going it alone again. Well, not alone, I’ve got two managers, an agent, Trader Dan, the band, Ryan Laurey, friends, fans, family, and soon a temporary publicist if I can raise the funds.

 

–So I think we’re starting a Kickstarter, or PledgeMusic campaign in January. I’ve always been leery about going to the fans for funding. But selling the house concerts on eBay is what allowed me to make this record in the first place. I think we can have some fun with putting it out and I will only do it because people get something directly for what they give. Incentives, y’all…

 

What else… Oh, hoping to blog more. Heh…

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | June 22, 2011

No A/C Until We Get to Mars

(I started this on the road in Wisconsin last week and finished it today in Massachusetts..)

 

Thought my laptop was completely fried, hard drive, files, unfinished songs and all, but James fixed it and here I am!  Writing from a cottage on a beautiful lake in Wisconsin.  Elkhart Lake, to be exact.

We continue to lead charmed lives.  With hardcore space-shuttle van missions in between to get to the charmed destinations.  The rear A/C unit in the Sprinter broke.  Not the end of the world, but it can make for some uncomfortable 13-hour drives, which we’re doing regularly as of late.  Got to get to the end of the rainbow!  On Saturday we played in front of maybe 1000-2000 people at an outdoor beer festival in Denver.  The next day we played Mishawaka Amphitheater in the gorgeous Rockies, a river rushing directly behind the stage, tossing out cool moist mountain air.

Then we got in the dilapidated blue shuttle and drove 13 hours on Monday, munching on Colorado’s finest magical oyster crackers and winding up in a hotel in Iowa for six well-earned hours of sleep.  Got up and dove another six hours yesterday to get to this beautiful little lake town in Wisconsin.  The people are extremely friendly, the food is amazing, and bratwurst, cheese and beer are an art-form not to be taken lightly.

We are thankful to have a two-night stand here.  It means we didn’t have to drive anywhere today.  Or load out last night.

Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Des Moines, Iowa.  Wichita, Kansas.  Bellvue, Colorado.  Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  Everywhere we go, there are people who know the words to the songs.  People sporting the t-shirts.  People who drove from two hours away to see the show.  Even the places we have never been to (Kalamazoo, Des Moines), it seems we can count on 50-60 people showing up and being pumped on an off-night during the week.

Tomorrow we will drive 14 hours east and then another three or so the next day right into a boat cruise in Manhattan.  Huge boat in Boston the next day for our annual hometown cruise.  900 people on a boat.  And then we’re home.  Thanks to Yahuba for getting married the following weekend, thereby giving us a weekend off!  Those don’t come very often these days…

Mountain Jam was a blast and an honor.  Met Mavis Staples.  (!!!!!)  She said I have to write a song for her.  OK then!  The night before, James and I went to Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble in Woodstock, where Mavis was the special guest.  After a full set from Mavis and her band, a full set from Levon and his band, all 18 musicians did a combined 12-song set and recorded a record right in front of us.  If they didn’t feel they got a good take, they would replay the tunes.  Sometimes three times.  Larry Campbell running the show.  Mavis taking us to church.  Levon holding it down as he has for decades.  Amazing.  Felt like we were watching history being made.

On a different level, was also very impressed by the Avett Brothers set at Mountain Jam.  A couple of weeks ago we played the Canal Street Tavern in Dayton, Ohio.  In the kitchen/green room, as we sat around a table eating our subs, I noticed an Avett Bros. poster on the wall.  Someone said it was from 2005 or so when they played there last.  Made me think…  Five or six years later and now they’re playing on the Grammy’s, blowing up everywhere, and blowing up the very Mountain Jam stage that we played on a few hours before them.  You really don’t find many templates in this business.  Every act is so different and the industry changes fast.  But to see the poster of a band who has been at it longer than us, having played the same club that we now find ourselves in, a band who is still fighting the good fight and KILLING IT night after night on bigger and bigger stages…

That’s inspirational.

Some days I’m not sure how many more years we can go.  It’s been eight years in one van or another.  We’re grown men in a metal box day after day.  Might as well be in a submarine (no disrespect to those who actually do live in a submarine).  I remember hearing years ago about how Dave Matthews didn’t “make it” until he was 34.  I always thought that was a good number to shoot for.  And I thought I was quite the modest and realistic one for thinking that 34 would be when I would “make it.”  Although I would also tell you that there was no such thing as “making it,” and I still believe that for the most part.

I turned 34 on Saturday.  And as I told the boat, “Glad to see that I was right.”  I have made it.

I’m still my own record label, I’m still in debt and fairly broke, and I’m still riding in a van trying to make sure everybody has enough money to eat.  But the music is better than ever.  And all of these seeds we’ve been planting for years…they’re sprouting.  People sing the words every night.  And we play bigger and bigger stages, we’ve opened for Dave, we’ve seen that operation.  His level of success is not a pipe dream now.  I mean it is, but we can see it for the reality, even the impossible reality that it is.  We have witnessed it.  And maybe we’re just getting started.

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | June 1, 2011

Still Driving

Let me give a brief rundown of recent touring and then I’ll get into the bigger stuff.

We took the first two months of 2011 essentially off.  It was like a dream.  By far the most time we’ve had at home in seven or eight years.  Most of it I spent on Martha’s Vineyard with my girlfriend.  I took an online lyric writing class at Berklee and tried to learn to chill out.

Since the break we’ve done 48 shows.  This past weekend was insane.

We were home for two days after a month-long run that included me recording a new album in New Orleans (more on that later).  Two days and then we hit the road again, straight to Pittsburgh.  Then Dayton.  The next afternoon we played Summer Camp festival, a huge jam fest, 19,000 people, outside of Chicago on two hours of sleep.  Played a very enjoyable set there, got in the van and drove for EIGHTEEN STRAIGHT HOURS back east.

18.

Straight to a Men’s Wearhouse in White Plains, NY where we picked up our tuxedo rentals and loaded into a beautiful chateau to play a Jewish wedding.  Fully tuxed, the guys did a jazz set for the cocktail hour, Jay played for the ceremony, and then we threw down two sets for the reception.  I sang Hava Nagila while the guys played it and the crowd threw the bride and groom around on chairs, the whole nine.

Slept in a hotel and drove to StrangeCreek, where a hometown audience wiped the grime off of any road fatigue and left us all with huge grins on our faces.  AMAZING crowd.  From my vantage point, they all moved and slithered as one joyful and excited beast.

Lyle’s been killing it on guitar.  The guys and I could not be more excited about where we are musically.  And where we believe we can go.  Realize, we’re just at the very beginning with Lyle.  And it’s been almost entirely gigging, we’ve barely even had time to rehearse together.  And he has slid in and the music already feels better than ever as far as we’re concerned.  And it truly is the beginning.  It’s not all just face-melting guitar solos and it’s not going to be.  Although that’s in there.  It’s parts, it’s our pocket and cohesion as a band.  Just wait.

——–

Laurence.

We all miss him.  I miss him.  There are times when I expected him to come walking around the corner or expected him to be at the van.  It’s hard.  In Burlington I looked out over the audience and swore that I saw him for a second in the crowd.

I think the perception is that we replaced Laurence with Lyle.  It certainly looks that way, but this is really not the case.  You don’t replace Laurence Scudder.  You can’t.  (After he left some of the fans after shows would ask me, “So what are you going to do for viola now?”  The answer is we don’t have viola now.  We’re different now.  That’s just the way it is.  You can’t replace Laurence.)

Lyle had played some gigs with us in December, with all of us, including Laurence.  There are spatial and economic concerns with taking too many guys out on the road.  I wanted to try something different for a tour, leave Yahuba and Laurence at home and take a 5-piece out with Lyle.  Just to mix it up, stir the pot.  Not permanent, see how it works, try something different for once.

Laurence left.  Suddenly everything was permanent.

That’s about all I’ll say about that for now.  Suffice to say, I love Laurence Scudder and maybe in time our paths we lead back together again.  That dude put in seven of the most hardcore road years that you could imagine as a part of this band and I’d like to think that there’s quite a bond built up from that.  One which can never be broken.

For now, we’ll be heading down separate roads.

NEW ORLEANS-

Three weeks ago, I recorded ten tracks in two days at a beautiful studio in New Orleans and the session band was: George Porter Jr. on bass, Ivan Neville on keys, Anders Osborne on guitar, and Simon Lott on drums.  All put together by producer Ben Ellman, of Galactic.  Ben produces Trombone Shorty’s records.  After I wrote some lyrics for Shorty last year, the idea was, “Why don’t you write that kind of stuff for yourself and get into the studio with Ben and see what happens?”  So Ben put together this RIDICULOUS dream band of New Orleans players.  I freaked out about what material to bring to the table.  The next thing I knew I was in a vocal booth looking out at George Porter and talking song structure.  Totally surreal.

I still don’t know what it’s going to be called.  We tracked six originals and four SWEET covers.  I’m not sure every single song is going to make it onto the album, but the grooves are so deep, the pocket is so amazing on every track.  Truly humbled to have been able to work along side such players and such men.  It comes out this fall on “Ryan is Still His Own Record Label.”

And then Ryan Montbleau Band is going to get to work on our next one.

Posted by: ryanmontbleau | November 9, 2010

If you’re in, I’m in.

We finished our show in Asheville the other night and drove straight home from the gig.  16 hours of final finality in the van and then we pulled up to our driveway for the first time since September.

Chilly, rainy day in Lawrence, MA today.  Head is groggy from the road.  It’s hard to know what to do with yourself when you get home.  You know you should rest but six straight weeks at 80 miles per hour tells you other wise.  So you want to move, but your body just can’t.  You want to maybe think, read, create, but your brain won’t budge.  Everything’s fuzzy.  The lights seem dim.

Not knowing anything else, I played more of the little word game (Scramble 2) on my phone that got me through all those van hours.  I checked Twitter and Facebook a bunch, just like I did during all those van hours.  I watched YouTube.  Skate videos mostly, but eventually music.  Django Reinhardt, Stochelo Rosenberg, Brian Setzer.  And dug out this classic that perfectly suits my mood at the moment (thanks to Andrea for pointing me to the original version):

Also I put on The Barr Brothers CD earlier and was amazed by it.

In the last 45 days we did 35 cities in 25 states.  A few shows were lightly attended but most were not.  Mostly, we had some very good nights full of hardcores from all over the country singing back the words I wrote.  People drove from hours away to get to the shows or used the shows as an excuse to make trips to see old friends.  There was strength out there, there were stories of people being truly affected by the music.  Amazing.

One man in Seattle wandered backstage after the show and told me my music saved his life.  Later, his wife would email me saying that this was, in fact true.  He had gone through a period where he had grown more and more dark, more detached from his loved ones, eventually contemplating suicide.  Something about hearing “75 and Sunny” for the first time at one of the Martin shows this past spring just lit some kind of light back up in him.  Right then and there he started turning things around.

It’s still amazing to me as I type this out.  I think about the woman who named her baby “Patience Friday” or the stories about all kinds of children singing the words to “Eggs.”  Ever see this one?

I’m not sure why I bring all this up now.  I’m just thinking about it all as I sit here in my room for the first time in a while.

Guitar case sits by the door.  The van and trailer are parked in the drizzle outside.  Mail still sits in an enormous stack on the floor that I will put off for as long as possible.  My banjo sits on the unmade bed along with my camera case and a dirty shirt that I will surely continue to wear.

What did we just do out there?  Bringing up these stories is an extreme way of reminding me.

It’s sort of a weird platform for me to write this, but I’ll say it again:  I just want to get the art better.

(This is a weird platform because if you’re reading this, you’re likely a fan of the music I’ve already made.  You’re the only people in the world who might not want or expect better.  You’re the only people in the world who are ok with what I’ve already done.  But I digress…)

There are many more shows to play to close out this year, including a run with JJ Grey and Mofro starting next week, a bunch of our own dates through December, and New Year’s in Foxboro, MA.  These should all be a blast.  On our best nights now, I feel like the band has reached a nice place of looseness and tightness all at once.

And in January, when the real decompression starts to take place, much more than will this week, then I hope to buckle down and start creating in earnest.  I just want to get the art better.  I want to get it better and I believe that I can.  And it seems that a fair amount of people are listening now.

So I’ve got that going for me.  Which is nice.

 

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers