Posted by: ryanmontbleau | April 30, 2010

Elvis to Elvis

It’s a little difficult mentally for me to blog right now, but I want to be a man of my word.

I’m in my bunk in the big gray tour bus (I thought it was black, but it’s definitely gray), heading towards Atlanta from New Orleans, where we just played Jazz Fest today.  Jazz Fest.  Still can’t really believe we played it.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is the mecca of music in this country and maybe the world.  As huge as it is (half a million people over the course of a week) I still feel like not enough people know about this event.  They’ve been putting it on for 41 years and have 12 stages set up (used to be 15 before Katrina hit).  This year’s headliners were Simon and Garfunkel, Pearl Jam, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, The Allman Brothers, and about a million others.  Seriously, the list just goes on and on and on.  The Black Crowes, Lionel Ritchie, B.B. King, My Morning Jacket, Jeff Beck, P-Funk, Widespread Panic and on and on and on and on…

Plus, you could very happily sit in the Gospel Tent or the Jazz Tent all day and get your mind blown.  Last time I was here the Gospel Tent made me cry.  I didn’t spend enough time in there this time around, but I have not doubt the same thing would have happened had I stayed.  The true power of music.

The fest is an all-day affair spread over seven days and two weekends.  All the music is done by 7pm each day.  Pity!  Well, then I guess all these people will just have to pour into the streets of New Orleans to see and hear all of the RIDICULOUS music going down all over town.  Every club until the wee hours and beyond.

Oh,and the FOOD on the field!?!  Amazing, don’t get me started…

That’s my Jazz Fest rant.  If you love music and you ever get the chance, just go.

Martin Sexton was also in the lineup for Jazz Fest this year, and we were fortunate enough to back him up on one of those 12 stages.  Through all of this beautiful musical chaos and all of the thousands of people, there was little old me, playing my guitar in the shadow of legends.

All in all, the set went really well.  The crowd was amazing, Martin was amazing, and the band did it’s thing.  The guys are really eating up the material these days and it’s starting to gel more and more on stage.

I’m not going to lie, It’s still a little strange for me to be up there backing the man up.  There’s a crazy dynamic going on in my head.  This is a man whose musical prowess I hold in the highest regard when he’s just performing SOLO.  What can I possibly add to the equation, you know?  But in the end, I settle it with, “He asked us to back him up and I will do it to the best of my ability and then some.”  And hey, we sound pretty good!

I still have a ways to go.  There were tunes in the set at Jazz Fest where I still wasn’t 100% on the changes.  That’s something I shall have to remedy.

This was not our set.

Jazz Fest is worth it for the food alone.

The tour has been great so far and is getting better all the time.  As I write that I feel like a kid writing to his parents from summer camp.  “Hi Mom, Hi Dad, camp is great, I don’t know if the other kids like me much, but I scored the winning run in kickball and played a decent guitar solo on ‘Diggin’ Me, Diggin’ You’ today.”

I won’t go into some of the darker stuff going on inside my head these days.  Suffice to say that it’s there, even in the midst of this dream, and I’m working through it.  No matter what is happening on the surface, no matter how much success you have, how “well” you’re doing, if you’re a mess on the inside it’s all for naught.  My inside stuff falters sometimes and I’m trying to get it back on track so that I can fully enjoy all of this!  Or, rather, so I can let it enjoy me.

The shows really have come a long way in the two weeks we’ve been on the road.  In the first shows we would play Martin’s new album, almost in it’s entirety, to begin the set.  This album is brilliant, but it is a lot to ask of an audience to hear that much new material right off the bat.  Now, the set has evolved to where usually Martin starts solo, plays a few of his older gems, then we come out, play four or five cuts from the new disc, then another solo tune, then the band does some of his older stuff, followed by a solo/band encore.  It truly has been getting better and better every night.

In Madison, he threw “Angeline” and “Beast in Me” at us off the cuff and we closed with an impromptu “Helter Skelter.”  Martin certainly keeps you on your toes!  There has been quite a bit of Zeppelin getting jammed in soundchecks as well, and some of this has found its way into the set.

Had another great night out with Matt Light of the Patriots in Indianapolis.  That dude (and his wife and friends) is just a great hang.  I swear if that guy didn’t play professional football, he’d be doing something else worthwile and would be amazing at it.  He and I ended the night by agreeing to each keep a journal for 60 days.  Mine starts now and his will start later so as to go into the start of the NFL season.  When we’re done, we’ll compare notes.  I’ve been holding up my end of the bargain so far.  These journals will be kept private, at least for now.

I’ve bought a fair amount of second-hand shirts (mostly western) and two hats on this trip.  Plus, today I was given a copy of Trombone Shorty’s new record, which has my name in the small print as a songwriter!  I got to hang with Troy (Trombone Shorty) for a second today and last night too.  New Orleans is in his blood and man, that kid can blow a horn.  Very rock-star aura about him too.  I am honored to have written some lyrics for the record and hope to do more of that in the future.

Yesterday, I toured Graceland, the home and final resting place of Elvis Presley.  Today I stood in a field and watched Jerry Douglas play dobro, backing up Elvis Costello at Jazz Fest.

Summer camp is great.


Elvis' Kitchen.

Stained-glass peacocks!

Elvis Presley sold a few records. (Around a billion.)

Tell, em, John.


Summer Camp 2010. Wish you were here.




  2. You cast a mighty big shadow as well my friend! Its the dark stuff we keep at the back of our heads that inspires us to shine as bright as possible in the front!

  3. where can i sign up for this camp?

  4. Glad you are having fun Ryan! I am sure you have gained a lot in popularity, just a question, but how many emails do you get everday? You are probably like swamped down by them.

    • I don’t know exactly, maybe like 30 or so a day, probably not a many as you think. But if I slack for a few days, it’s really easy to get swamped.

  5. Man, I miss ya. Come back to the northeast sometime soon!

    and I hope you’re playing the Vibes again this year?

    lots of love.

  6. Glad to see you like Elvis!

  7. Hey Ryan, read you signed up for a 60-day journaling challenge, and wanted to let you know of a little thing on the internet that’s helped me out immensely in that department.

    Check out It’s a great motivational help in remembering to write everyday. I’m on 36 days in a row.

    It’s also amazing what daily writing can do for one’s mental health. It’s really helped me through some tough shit.

    side note: just gotta tell you that I read somewhere in your blog about the way that you looked up to Martin, and it reminded me of the similar inspiration you’ve been in my life.

  8. I was new to Martin Sexton’s music (and RMB’s) when I saw your show in Ann Arbor, and while I’ve never seen him solo (although my guitar teacher tells me he’s amazing)–except for the songs that he did by himself, I loved the energy that the band added when you were all together on stage. And I was so thrilled to learn about you guys that night! I love your music and am sure that there is much more well-deserved success coming your way.

  9. Why don’t they make make kitchens with rugs or that many drawers any more?

  10. I was just there 2 months back, when my dad passed. he always wanted to take me so i went. amazing city. where i got that “peace, love, and blues” t shirt you signed the other night… again… great show!

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