On March 22, 2023

Rockin’ with Ryan Montbleau

By Dave Hoffenberg 

Ryan Montbleau is bringing his band to the Pickle Barrel this Thursday for a show not to be missed. I’ve seen Ryan a few times in the past, both at festivals and in Killington, and I’ve been looking forward to this since I first saw it on the calendar. This will be the first show of their tour and first with this new lineup. Ryan is pumped about the band and said, “It’s a killer lineup, I have a serious band coming with me.”

Ryan has a long history of being a singer/songwriter who plays solo acoustic but also has a band. He said this is the best lineup he’s ever had. There’s a great funk band out there called Turquaz and Ryan has two members in his band. On drums is Michelangelo Carubba and on guitar is Craig Brodhead. His long time bass player is Michael Friedman from The Slip which is a band Ryan used to pay to go see and said he still will when they play. Ryan said Michael is amazing. Paul Philippone from West End Blend is on keys, and this will be Ryan’s first time playing with him. Ryan said, “I’ve basically collected some of my favorite people and players I’ve met over my whole career. It’s more than just hired guns; people are emotionally invested in this. I think it’s going to be a pretty special band.”

Ryan is excited about this band. They rehearsed a bunch in January and rehearsed last week in Burlington where Ryan now calls home. Ryan said, “I’m trying to get them when they’re not doing other things but they’re committed to this, they’re really into it.” They’ve been learning Ryan’s catalog from the past twenty years. Ryan is proud of whatever band he gets to play with and has played with a lot of amazing musicians over the years. 

It’s been a while since Ryan played in Killington. Back in 2010, he did Snoe Down with moe. and remembers playing another time at the base of the mountain. He said he’s been a proud Vermont resident for the past six years, having bought a house in Burlington.

Ryan has been on the road, touring across the U.S. for the past twenty years. This month marks twenty years in the music business. It was March of 2003 that he left his Substitute Teaching job to become a full-time musician. He said, “My music is lyrically driven, it’s the centerpiece of everything. If the show goes great, I’ve made you cry, I’ve made you laugh, dance, have fun and contemplate things. I’m trying to get all the experience into the music and into shows. I try to pour my heart and soul into writing tunes. If I do that right, I can connect with other people’s truth and tug at their heart strings. Put words to the feelings that we all have. I’ve built my whole life around trying to do this. With the band, I can hopefully do that and move you viscerally; move your butts, move the room, move the air and I got some killer players to do that. When it works, everyone gets what they came for. If you want to dance, you can dance. If you want to sit there and listen, you can sit there and listen, but everyone finds the space and gets down. We sculpt the show so we don’t take too much of one thing or another. We kind of take you on a ride.”

A Ryan Montbleau show is an experience. There really is something for everyone. You can chill or you can dance but I believe it’s all enjoyable. Ryan said, “We’ve never been a straight party band or just a funk band but we’ll throw the dance party, but I’ll also make you think, try to feel this whole truth that I’m trying to get across.”

Martin Sexton is a big musical influence on Ryan and they’ve become friends. Ryan said, “He’s become one of my heroes.” Others for him are; Deb Talan, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Medeski, Martin & Wood, De La Soul. He added, “I’ve been affected by a lot of music. I don’t know how much of that you hear in my music, but it affects me big time.”

When Ryan started out, he was playing six nights a week around Boston. He knew when he graduated Villanova in 1999, this is what he wanted to do. He went in a chemical engineering major and came out an English major. Throughout his four years, he was writing a bunch of songs, studying poetry and playing a lot of guitar. His senior year, he started singing. He said, “When I got out, I knew I wanted to make music. It all formed as I was getting out of college. I had no doubt this is what I was going to do.” Ryan has worked various jobs in the past but it was just a means to an end. He added, “It was all to figure out how to do music. Music was always the number one.”

He played everywhere he could when he was starting out. He played open mics, sports bars, Harvard Square, on subways, TGI Fridays, Starbucks. He said, “Whatever awful gig I could get, just to do it, all while working my day job. Eventually he started working with a guy who put him out on the road. He added, “That’s when my first band got together. We did 10 years, in a van with a trailer, doing 200 shows a year.”

Over the last two years, Ryan has put out four EP’s: “Wood,” “Fire,” “Water” and “Air.” Just last week they were released as one, full collection with two bonus tracks. Ryan said, “That’s been a labor of love for the past few years that’s just been totally released to the world. I’m already starting to work on the next one. You can find that and him on all the social platforms and on his website www.ryanmontbleau.com. 

Ryan said it’s all about connections. “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? I can write all these great songs that I think are great but if they don’t connect with anyone, it doesn’t matter. You almost like to think you’re this artist in a vacuum and you don’t need feedback but screw that, I need to feel that people feel it. There’s nothing like moving the air in a room together and feeling something together with these songs. That’s the whole thing. I try to be aware of what’s going on in the room, be in the moment. The best performances are in the moment.”

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