Campfire Preview: Ryan Montbleau
When Boston’s Ryan Montbleau takes the Zippo Acoustic Stage at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday at the Campfire Music & Outdoor Adventure Festival, campers will surely be hoping it’s 75 and Sunny — and while the jam band veteran can’t predict the weather, he’s excited to play that song and many others for fans at his two acoustic performances scheduled for the festival.
“I am really psyched for this festival, and I’m psyched for the lineup they put together,” Montbleau said in a recent telephone interview. “I know I’m playing Saturday and Sunday so I’ll be there all weekend, which is great for me. I love when I get to hang out at a place and not just go there and be gone a million miles away the next day which usually seems to be the case.”
After 10 years of crisscrossing the country with the former Ryan Montbleau Band, Montbleau is certainly familiar with the rigors of touring and complexities of working with a band — but now he’s changed course and focusing on his solo career, which he will showcase with two sets at the Campfire Outdoor Adventure & Music Festival that is running from Aug. 29-31 in Lakewood, Pa. — an easy ride up I-81 from the Harrisburg region.
“It used to be so locked in — where I had the same band all the time and it was just ‘go, go, go, go’ but now I’m just sort of jumping all over the place a little bit and trying to put on good shows wherever I can,” Montbleau said. “I had the same band of great guys for so long, now its kind of all out into the great wide open but its making me a better musician. The solo thing is kind of like coming home.”
Even when he was with the band, Montbleau always found time for solo shows — and even released a couple live solo albums. And in 2012, Montbleau released his most recent album, For Higher, which was recorded at Fudge Studios in New Orleans in May 2011. The album, though a solo record, was recorded with an all-star band of musicians that featured George Porter Jr. on bass, Ivan Neville on keys, Anders Osborne on guitar and Simon Lott on drums.
“It was like this little dream session that I got to do right after Jazz Fest two years ago,” Montbleau said. “I’m just a guy from the suburbs of Boston — so its a trip for me that I’ve sort of made all these good friends down there and sort of made these connections into a community of amazing musicians.”
The album, which the New York Times labeled funk, but you can definitely hear a strong jazz influence on tracks like his Eddie Hinton cover “Yeah Man” and his jam band past on the 9 minute plus “Dead Set.”
Montbleau also said that prior to their split, his band recorded a new album in New Orleans that he is putting the finishing touches on now and hopes to release soon. And until then, fans of the Ryan Montbleau Band can still re-live their epic December 6th and 7th farewell shows at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club with “name-your-price” downloads available on Montbleau’s website.
“We had to put a stamp on it last year; it was just clear that the days of all of us being in a band together all the time and going for it, that was coming to an end,” Montbleau explained. “And it was important to honor that as opposed to trying to replace some guys and keeping it going — and pretending it was the same thing when it wouldn’t be. I’m proud of what we did and I love those guys.”
And while Montbleau isn’t shutting the door on a possibility of a RMB reunion down the road, right now he’s focused on his solo career and his upcoming tour dates, which he has booked through October. A number of the shows in October are with up-and-coming Boston indie folk duo Tall Heights — who Montbleau has been working with.
“We have a 45 that we are working on with two songs that we did and we are going to put it out in the beginning of October,” Montbleau said.
Beyond that, Ryan Montbleau is still working on writing and recording new music — and most importantly, looking forward to the Campfire Festival.
“I play a lot of festivals — jam festivals, folk festivals — and based on the lineup of this festival, I can already tell I’m going to love it because I really feel comfortable fitting in there as a songwriter and a performer,” Montbleau said. “I got excited for pretty much everyone I saw on that lineup.”
But if he had to pick one band on the lineup to see, it would be Lake Street Dive — the subject of another SaraBozich.com Campfire preview.
“I know the guys from Lake Street Dive a little bit, and it’s been awesome just to watch them do what they do,” Montbleau said. “Those guys laid the ground work and they’ve been working hard for a long time so it’s great to see them get the success they’ve been having, and they kill it so I’m excited to see them.”
Tickets for the Campfire Festival are still available online and come in a variety of packages, some of which include tickets and accommodations in an on-site, fully-equipped cabin. Other affordable stay and play options include RV passes and general and VIP camping options.