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.
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.
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.
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.