Interview and Photos by Scott Preston
“Time hangs heavy on the vine/Let’s make wine,” Ryan Montbleau sings in the lulling, sensual verse that gives his group’s new album its title. Ryan Montbleau Band has been tending its own musical vineyard for a few years, on the patient cusp of a breakthrough. Their distinctive, long-fermenting blend of neo-folk, classic soul, and kick-out-the-jams Americana finally comes to full fruition in Heavy on the Vine. It’s an album that represents the product of — and further promise of — a very good year. (from ryanmontbleauband.com)
Jamband News: How much has Martin Sexton influenced your music?
Ryan Montbleau: When people ask me who my influences are, he is the first person I mention. When I first opened for him I was worried his fans would think I was ripping him off. His music has definitely affected me more than anyone else.
Jamband News: How did Martin end up producing your most recent record?
Ryan Montbleau: Well we were already rehearsing with him to be his band for his upcoming tour. He came over to my house and we sat and rehearsed a few tunes. He knew we were going to try and finish the record before the tour started, so he said he would love to be a part of the project if we wanted him. At first we were trying to get John Medeski, but he couldn’t do it. So when Martin offered , we of course said yes. It couldn’t have turned out any better especially since we were already rehearsing and playing with him so much.
Jamband News: When was the first time you opened for Martin?
Ryan Montbleau: We opened 8 shows on the Martin Sexton’s “Seeds” tour back in 2007.
Jamband News: What kind of approach did you take with this new record? How would you compare it to your previous releases?
Ryan Montbleau: Martin wanted to track it live. That approach is similar to previous records because we used to track a lot of songs live. But at the same it was different because he wanted to really hear just us, to keep the sound raw. The last record we did on our own we added string sections, just a lot of stuff. This latest record has very few guest musicians. We also had very little time to get it done since we were in between rehearsals for Martin Sextons tour. At the same time we were also playing our own shows. So to have Martins ear to fall back on while making the record was invaluable.
Jamband News: Do you have any upcoming shows you are excited about?
Ryan Montbleau: We are excited to just get out on this tour since the new record is out. We are going out on our own again which we haven’t done in a while since we were on the Sexton tour. That was a great experience, but its nice to be out on our own again. Then in November we have some shows with JJ Grey & MOFRO, which will be exciting. We are going to have a show in Boston the night before Thanksgiving with JJ Grey, so that will sort of be a hometown cd release show.
Jamband News: How is the band affected by playing a packed house hometown Boston show to say somewhere in Kansas where there might be 10 people in the crowd?
Ryan Montbleau: I think its really cool to play to fewer people from time to time. I think if every show was like our shows in Boston, we would be spoiled (laughing). When you play somewhere to a few people, it really keeps you on your toes, keeps you hungry. I remember a few years ago rolling into the Blue Door in Oklahoma City and there was literally 2 people there. But now when we play there, we have watched that crowd grow into 50 people and it seems huge. You really can have a great show playing to 20 people. It just depends who is listening and how locked in they are.