Ryan Montbleau excited for return to Naukabout

BMS talks with the singer aout his new album, the band's "home" festival and more

, Managing Editor

It’s summertime so that can only mean one thing for the Ryan Montbleau Band: a busy schedule of shows. Known for constantly touring, the local group has been making frequent appearances at northeast venues this summer and this weekend they find themselves at Cape Cod’s Naukabout Music Festival.

Montbleau recently released a new solo record, titled For Higher. The Peabody native traveled to Louisiana to record the album, his first solo studio effort since his 2002 debut Begin. Produced by Ben Ellman of Galactic, the  new album includes guest appearances from New Orleans superstars George Porter, Ivan Neville, Anders Osborne and Simon Lott. The project was funded by fans through a successful PledgeMusic campaign, which also helped raise funds for the  non-profit Voice of the Wetlands organization. Check out the awesome video for lead single “Yea Man” here.

Montbleau and his band, which holds the unique distinction of performing at each of the Naukabout Music Festivals, will headline the fifth edition of the festival on Saturday at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds in Falmouth. Other dates on their busy touring schedule include the Redhook Fest in New Hampshire next weekend, as well as Life is good in Canton this September.

We caught up with Montbleau to ask him about his new album, what’s next and much more.

Boston Music Spotlight (BMS): For Higher is your first solo release in a several years. How do you choose whether you want to record on your own or with the band?

Ryan Montbleau (RM): Well this was actually my first studio solo release basically ever, or at least since the very beginning of my career. Normally the studio records are all with my own band and I’ll do a live solo acoustic thing every few years. So this was definitely something different.

BMS: You recorded the album in New Orleans last year and one can hear the NOLA influence in the new album. Did you intend on having a strong New Orleans influence on the record, or did the city seep into the music?

RM: I definitely didn’t intend to make a “New Orleans record”, although I have referred to it as that simply because we recorded it there. I still don’t consider this album New Orleans music, it’s just a funky, more soulful record start to finish than I’ve made in the past. That being said, any time your session band includes a Meter and a Neville, you’re probably going to hear some New Orleans in there! So it is what it is. It is certainly a very inspiring city and there is no other American city like it.

BMS: There are a lot of special guests appearances here. How was it collaborating with some real heavyweights in the New Orleans music scene?

RM: Those guys were all amazing! That’s the session band that Ben Ellman put together for this: Ivan, George, Anders and Simon. So 95% of what you hear is the five of us in a studio playing together. We did ten songs in two days. They would learn the tune and we’d record it immediately in no more than a few takes. Pretty outstanding to get to work with those guys. They’re just so soulful and pro at every turn.

BMS: You play a motivational speaker in the video for “Yeah Man”. The video is hysterical – tell us how it came about?

RM: Spookie Daly of Spookie Daly Pride. I’ve know Spookie for years and opened for his band once or twice back in the day. What an amazing front man! Well, now he makes videos full time and he’s great at it. We’ve been wanting to work together for quite a while, so this was the perfect opportunity. The whole concept was his and he shot and edited the entire thing. I had a blast making it, getting my inner Tony Robbins on.

BMS: So, what do you yourself use for motivation?

RM: Tony Robbins. No, just kidding. Ummm? Honestly I’m starting to get opportunities to write for some other artists who I greatly respect and admire, so not wasting those chances really motivates the hell out of me. Other opportunities that we get for big shows, stuff with the band. We’ve put so much work in over the years to get to where we are. So now’s the time to make our best music ever, we’d better get to work! That and the response from fans really motivates me sometimes. Knowing that people are out there listening goes a long way.

BMS: Are there any other places you hope to record or performers your hope to record with?

RM: Right now writing for other performers is up at the top of my list. I won’t say for whom, but I’m working on some and have ideas for others, it’s exciting. We’re also planning on making a record this fall in our house with our own band. That process has already begun.

BMS: This year you started streaming the audio of your shows live over the Internet. Are you exploring other ways to share your music or still tinkering with the possibilities of that venture?

RM: Yeah, our guys (sound engineer Luke Milanese and keyboardist Jason Cohen) really killed it on the RMBLive thing. The quality of the audio is really outstanding I think. And we still have a long way to go with all of that. There’s been talk of streaming video as well, but we want to take our time and do it right. I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we can do with the live streaming. Hopefully we can continue to build a nice community around that. In the meantime, you can stream our show, take home a recording on USB, download it at a later date, buy a CD, buy tracks on iTunes, stream on Spotify, take home a vinyl record, watch us live, watch videos on YouTube, etc., etc. Certainly no shortage of ways to spread the music these days.

BMS: You have a warm, upbeat sound that’s quite appropriate for summer. Do you notice a difference in how your audience reacts to the music with the changing of seasons?

RM: Shows are always different and the seasons can certainly play into that, sure. Summer festivals and outdoor shows have their own vibe to them. I think we’ve lucked out with playing when it’s sunny out over the years. I had to stop using the word “sunshine” in songs because I used it too much! We have to write some “rainy” songs one of these days just in case.

BMS: You’ll be headlining the Naukabout Music Festival on Saturday. This is a festival you have played every year since it started five years ago. What makes it so special for you?

RM: Just what you said, we’ve done it every year. We’ve been support when there has been a national headliner an we’ve headlined it ourselves. And it’s our friends running it, our friends performing at it, many friends and family attending it. It just feels like family there, like our home festival. And every year it gets better, it’s an all around fantastic vibe.

BMS: What can fans expect from your set at the festival?

RM: Explosions! No… Musical explosions maybe. I’m hoping for some collaboration with other artists, but we’ll see. I’m really looking forward to John Brown’s Body’s set. Those guys just crush it. For our own set, I just feel like our band is in a really good place right now. The music feels better than ever.

BMS: You’re keeping busy, per usual, with a healthy amount of shows booked throughout the summer. What are your plans for the rest of the year?

RM: We’re taking a little time off in October to begin recording and get a little rest, but in general we’re out playing weekends all over the northeast. In November we’ll do a tour out to the Midwest and back. Early next year we’ll tour down through the southeast and then fly to Costa Rica again for Jungle Jam! That is a good time right there. But as for the rest of this year, I’m also planning on doing a ton of writing. I have a lot of homework to do.

Ryan Montbleau Band will headline the Naukabout Music Festival at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds in Falmouth on Saturday, August 11. The daylong festival will feature John Brown’s Body, Adam Ezra Group, Dub Apocalypse, Dune Billy All-Stars and more. Tickets can be purchased in advance through the festival’s website for $29 or at the gate on the day of the show for $33. Children under 12 will be admitted free with an adult. A portion of the proceeds from activities and concessions at The Naukabout will support the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Cod.

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