Interview by Dave Tamkin, HeadAboveMusic.com
Ryan Montbleau comes to Boulder, CO this Valentine’s Day for a special solo performance at The Riverside. You can grab some awesome tickets that include a 3 course meal and champagne HERE It’s sure to be another great show by Homevibe Presents and Bolder Beat!
Ryan Montbleau is a rare breed of musician that seems to always be on tour. His songs jump in and out of a variety of genres while keeping a strong foundation on musicianship and connection with his audience. You’ll have to check out some of his live videos to capture his sense of authenticity.
Ryan, we are starting to open up every post with the same question. It sets the mood and a reminder to everyone reading that everyone has their own definition, their own goals. How do you define success?
Success is gratitude. I didn’t write that, but I agree with it. The older I get the more it makes sense.
One of the most unique parts about your shows is how you slide in and out of different styles of music. Can you take us inside the songwriting process for you?
Thank you. Yeah, I’m a songwriter at my core so I my life is sort of built around making songs. It can be a slow process, some of these songs take years to write, from the time of the original idea. Of course not all of them are that way, some come out more quickly. But I’m constantly working at it bit by bit, line by line, song by song. I generally get ideas for a song on the guitar or in my head while I’m driving. And I can usually immediately hear a melody that I want to sing. The hard part is writing the words and clearing away the debris to see what it’s about. I’m always writing in a notebook or keeping notes on my phone, keeping voice memos of ideas. I have hundreds of voice memos that are all song ideas. And I’m not trained in music per se, certainly not in any one area. So I write what I hear. And so far that has seemed to come out in various styles, because that’s what I’ve been exposed to as a listener.
After watching a lot of your videos, our favorites have been the videos showcasing you live. However, you have some pretty entertaining production on the others. What was your favorite music video to make?
“Yeah Man.” It’s an Eddie Hinton tune that I did on the For Higher record. Spookie Daly directed it and I know Spookie from back in the day as a tremendous front man in his own right. He put together this whole concept of a Tony Robbins-esque infomercial and it was so fun to make. When we put it out, a few people thought it was real. I remember one lady emailed me and said something to the effect of “I’m shocked and saddened that this is what your career has come to.” So funny. The video is so over the top it’s hard to imagine anyone believing that it’s real.
How important is social media to you?
My Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube links are at the top of the page and my Twitter feed is right there on the home page. I’m on social media every day. Too much every day, honestly. I spend more time alone that most people would think and social media gets to be a problem when I start looking to it as my source for connection. But that’s how much it means to me, that I’m actually craving for connection through it every day. I think about this stuff a lot and I try to pour out my feelings honestly about it all. On Facebook. Heh.
How did you approach the recording process differently for Growing Light?
Well, I had done a record in 2011 that Ben Ellman produced called For Higher. On that record, Ben got together a session band of all these amazing players (George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville, Anders Osborne and Simon Lott). I’m very proud of that record and I love the production on it, but the focus was more on the grooves and on some deep cover tunes (there are four covers on the record). The idea with Growing Light was to do another record with Ben (and Count, who mixed both records and was there for the session this time), but do it with my own band that had been on the road with me for 10 years. So the focus was more on my own writing and my own band. And I think the result is a pretty deep record. There’s a ton of emotion in this one. And we recorded it right exactly at the point when we knew that our band was about to change.
Can you tell us more about RMBLIVE.COM got started?
That’s a dedicated website that I have for live streaming my shows. It keeps evolving and I’m just a guy with a band who is lucky to have been surrounded by smart people who figured it out. It started years ago when my old keyboardist Jason Cohen and my former engineer Luke Milanese found a sly way to stream multi-tracked audio through our digital soundboard. At the time, we got written up in the New York Times, as they had made a minor break through for streaming. Since then my buddy Mark Klein and I have picked up the reins and added video. Mark will be driving the bus on this tour and will be live streaming every night with a multi-camera shoot. It’s a pretty impressive setup. Get on the site and join the chat! We’ll also have Chad Galactic with us on this tour and Chad is a veteran of The Hippy Fiasco, Nathan Moore’s brilliant project where they live-streamed tours 24-hours a day for months on end. Maybe we’ll get into some of that…
What is your favorite piece of gear and why?
My dad’s guitar strap from the 60’s. That and my Collings acoustic. But even that guitar is replaceable, I suppose. Not the strap. I also have a ‘65 Super Reverb that I love.
What musicians are you listening to these days that inspire you?
There’s a record called Love and Sound by Garrett Mason that I’ve been listening to for years and I still can’t get over. Beyond that, just an endless well on Spotify that I dive into every day. Too much to name.