Greetings, Solid State.
If you're reading italics at the head of a post, that usually means we have a special guest contributer — granted, it has been a while though. Today, freelancer extraodinaire Matt Bushlow checks in with some overflow material from his most recent 7D piece on Ryan Power. Take it away, Matt. [DB- ed.]
Tasty Leftovers #1: Ryan Power
Over the years I’ve found that there are almost always great bits and pieces left over from interviews I’ve done with musicians and sources (the folks who go on the record about a musician’s backstory, talents, etc.). These are usually insightful stories or quotes that, for one reason or another, just don’t fit into the larger story.
I’ve decided to start posting these tasty leftovers at a new Tumblr called Tasty Leftovers. There you can find little anecdotes, thoughts about recent interviews, and perhaps even some audio. I will also be posting all of my Seven Days-related Tasty Leftovers here at Solid State.
Let’s get started. I wrote a profile of Ryan Power for the 11/17 issue of Seven Days. You may have read it. Power’s talents run the gamut: He’s an accomplished and original songwriter, performer, guitarist, and engineer/producer. As part of my research for the profile, I emailed several musicians he has worked with and asked them to contribute their thoughts on his work in all its forms. I could only use two short quotes in the piece, but there was so many recollections and kind, honest praise for the man that I wanted to include some more of them here.
Burette Douglas, The Cush
We played at a party at Brett Hughes’ old apartment in Winooski. We didn't know anyone there except Brett, but the place was full of people. I think it was Creston [Lea] who introduced himself and we got to talking, then Ryan wandered by and he joined up in the conversation. Ryan and I really started to hit it off when we started talking about recording music. Recording is a real passion of mine and when you find someone else that is into it, you could talk all night. Which we did. At that time he hadn't yet released his first album. So we were all pretty new to town.
A little later we were still working on rounding out the band. We knew that Ryan could play just about any instrument so we asked him about playing keys for us. He said that sounded good. Over time he ended up playing keys and drums for us.
Ryan is a superb musician, he really knows music from the inside out. He knows all the technical parts as far as reading music and such. But he goes 100 percent off of vibe. He is so much fun to play live with. He really gets into it.
He quit playing with us full time once he released his first album, but we continued to play with him in Rock ‘n’ Roll Sherpa and he would sit in with us on drums from time to time. Although he didn't play in the band, he was still like a member in the band. He mixed New Appreciation For Sunshine as well as The Lonestar Chain album. He has golden ears, and has such a natural knack for mixing music.
We always bounce ideas off of each other and can talk for hours about recording. He is one of my favorite human beings. Truly a humble genius.
Brett Hughes, Monoprix, Honky Tonk Tuesday
I finally got to play with him some in The Cush. I somehow found myself playing drums in the band, and he was on keys, playing parts I assume were mostly written by Gabby and Burette. Ryan plays pretty much everything, and he's got a great ear for phrasing and nuance. I loved his playing in The Cush: He held the songs together dynamically, and I took a lot my cues from him.
I love his songs, his singing, playing and arranging, and of course he's also a really talented recordist, engineer and producer. I'm jealous as hell.
I first noticed Ryan in Michael Annicchiarico's freshman ear-training class at UNH in 1995. He had long hair and sat in the back and I had a crew cut and sat in the front. Mike would be going through the answers to a series of test questions and he always said "Who got that?" and had people raise their hands as he went along so he could gauge where the class was at. As the examples got harder it would just be me in the front and him in the back reluctantly raising our hands. That was the beginning of the twins thing.
Tristan Baribeau, Villanelles
Ryan Power absolutely transformed how we heard our self-titled album, VILLANELLES. We had been mixing and playing with things for a long time before we brought Ryan in, and the man just has a way with sound. He was able to make things sound much more "organic" in the mixing process, which only comes with plenty of practice and patience. And on top of that he really is just the nicest guy.
He was always very eager to work things out, based on our budget and time frame, and was always appreciative for the opportunity to work with us. I have no doubts that I will use the resource that is Mr. Power for upcoming projects, because there really isn't anyone better in the area - and his resume proves that.
Kyle Thomas, Happy Birthday
When we first started talking about recording, Ryan mentioned to Chris [Weisman] that he would love to help out if we wanted. I was used to doing everything myself, so I thought it would definitely relieve some stress for me to have him come help, and we all appreciate his recording skills so we asked him to do it.
He has a really great ear and he's not afraid to say if he likes something or doesn’t, which is really important in music production - having someone who doesn’t just say everything is great.
I think he was most important in the mixing process. There were about five months or so where I was just sitting alone in my studio working on the record and adding too much shit. When I brought it up to Burlington and mixed it with him, he just started subtracting shit and all of a sudden the music was breathing again and it sounded so much better. He really is great at mixing. It’s definitely extremely important to have an outside ear to give constructive criticism. And dang he is charming and attractive too!
Seth Eames, Eames Brothers Band
Ryan and I go back awhile now, [to] right around the turn of the century. He has played drums on some gigs with us over the years. We also recorded a couple of songs for the Gezellig album with him holding down the beat.
Mostly though, Ryan and I are good friends. I have high respect for his music. His ability to translate what he hears. His songs are funky, abstract and honest... Recording with him recently was mostly just an excuse to hang out. Hopefully we caught some good music with his string of wires and tape, his raw sense of perfection and his serious humor.
Gabrielle Douglas, The Cush
The first time [Burette and I] met Ryan was at a party and my first impression of him was that he is such a gentle soul. ... He is always able to lighten the room he walks into; he can provide you with a different perspective as if he is handing you a cookie; and his intentions with creating music are genuine, honest and compassionate. ... He has an incredible ear for music and his ideas always made logical sense with the emotional feel of the music.
I love Ryan. He is like a brother to me and I miss him very much.
When I first encountered Ryan's music it was a pretty random thing — like, a CD coming across my desk at Seven Days. Pretty much instantly I knew Ryan was a genuine talent. I started to hear his name being mentioned among my musician friends, and after I reviewed his disc, I made it a point to check out his live sets. Those were pretty excellent, too.
The thing that was difficult for me as the music guy at the local weekly is that it really made it tough for me to be involved in the scene as a musician and to connect with the local artists on that level. It's like there's always an artificial wall between you and the musicians, even if they respect you. Having been very involved in the local scene for a number of years as a player, it was kind of frustrating. The thing I loved about Ryan was that he had no airs — he was a genuinely open, gracious dude who didn't treat me like I was some kind of outside entity. When we talked about music or whatever, he was always humble and on the level. Not trying to bullshit me or sell me on anything. How refreshing!
We ended up working on records together occasionally, but not actually together. I'd sometimes do post-production on sessions he recorded or mixed. I think he's got real talent there, too. Good ear, light touch, not afraid to experiment. He's also someone that other artists feel comfortable around, for all the reasons I mentioned
The only thing about Ryan is that I am still a bit jealous of him! I haven't listened to his new record(s) because some of my old Burlington friends are like, "have you heard Ryan's new album," and I think, why put myself through that? I'm only half-joking. Duder's like all smooth and creamy and handsome and talented and bearded and all the cool shit. Plus he's a really nice guy. Fuck that!
Seriously, though, he's a real gem and I will always appreciate having had the opportunity to listen to him and witness some of his artistic evolution. Tell him to send me his stuff so I can sob silently in the corner.