2010 BMS Band of the Year: Ryan Montbleau Band

, Staff

When the staff at BMS sat down to discuss the selection for our 2010 Band of the Year, the ideas were plentiful and varied – a testament to our beloved city. However, throughout the process, there was one band we kept going back to. A band that was seemingly everywhere we turned in 2010. A veteran outfit that has been called road warriors for the amount of time they spend touring. Yet, after releasing a brand new album this past spring, they always returned to the area for a memorable gig: headlining the Paradise Rock Club, rocking the Rock & Blues cruises (not once, but twice), impressing at the Nateva Music & Camping Festival and closing out the year with a headlining gig at Showcase Live on New Year’s Eve. That band was the Ryan Montbleau Band, our 2010 BMS Band of the Year.

“It was definitely a big year for us,” admits frontman Ryan Montbleau in a recent interview with Boston Music Spotlight. “We actually weren’t planning on being quite as busy as we were in 2010.  We’ve been on the road more or less non-stop since 2003 – 200 shows a year. So coming into 2010, we were going to try to take it easy, at least for the beginning part of the year.”

Those plans changed, however, when he got a voice-mail from a representative for Martin Sexton. The Northampton-native, a longtime inspiration for Montbleau with whom he had recently toured with, asked if they would be interested in serving as both Sexton’s opening and backing band for his upcoming tour. Of course, Montbleau and his bandmates – James Cohen, Jason Cohen, Matt Giannaros, Laurence Scudder and Yahuba – answered yes and rehearsals soon began at the band’s house in Lawrence.

“In the course of that we told him that we were still trying to record our own record before we left for his tour,” explains Montbleau. “He offered to produce it and we were psyched.” Having self-produced their previous releases, the band hit Camp Street Studios in Cambridge with Sexton.

“Having Martin’s ears to fall back on was just amazing,” says Montbleau. “It just gave you such confidence in what you were doing. He had ideas for some arrangements, and definitely had ideas for every instrument. But the main thing that he said was that he ‘didn’t want to put his fingerprints’ on the record. He wanted it to sound like us. And I think he did that and helped us make a much, much, better record than we would have made on our own.”

The final product, Heavy On The Vine, was released in September. Fusing a range of genres from Americana to soul and funk to folk, the band excels with a diverse sound on their third studio effort.

Sexton’s lessons went beyond on the studio and onto the road, as the band tackled the road with stops at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Bonnaroo and a few shows opening for the Dave Matthews Band. “We all tried to step up our game in all ways,” says Montbleau. In turn, the experience made their own band better and stronger. “I think the shows that we’re able to put on have gotten quite a bit better,” he says. “Our production overall is better, our sounds, our parts. My stage banter could still use some help, but I’m working on it! But seriously, overall, Martin has just helped me to learn how to put on better shows and be more of a pro at this.”

The band has also evolved over the years by constantly hitting the road and playing live to fine tune their craft in cities across the United States. The hard work has paid off with the band’s devoted fanbase expanding well beyond New England and the Northeast. “We played in Wichita, Kansas for the first time ever and this little room was packed to the gills with diehards who knew every word to every song,” Montbleau boasts. “Going nuts for original ballads at midnight on a Saturday night in Wichita?! Man, I’ve made it, that’s it.”

From Boston to Wichita, the Ryan Montbleau Band enjoyed a career year in 2010. Proof that hard work pays off. Of course, good music helps too. These guys have both.

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