Interview: Ryan Montbleau

After a steady 15 years on the road, acclaimed singer/songwriter Ryan Montbleau suddenly found himself alone. A lot. “My band split up, my relationship ended, my management and I parted ways, all these support structures I had drifted apart,” he recalls. “I was often alone in a room, just contemplating what the hell had happened these last 15 years on the road, and going through some pretty dark times, honestly.” These reflections comprise his forthcoming album, I Was Just Leaving, set for release on Friday, March 3rd.These songs came from that space,” he adds. “I was trying to make sense of life on the road.”

I Was Just Leaving is, appropriately enough, a solo effort—lyrically poignant, easy-going acoustic goodness in the vein of great troubadours like Jim Croce and James Taylor—and, like his last three albums, recorded in the storied and rich atmosphere of New Orleans. “The story with this album is Anders Osborne really,” Montbleau says of the record’s producer. “He’s an incredible singer/songwriter in his own right who’s written #1 hits for folks like Tim McGraw. He has done his own thing for 30 years. This whole thing was about him.”

“I’d been going to New Orleans over the years on tour; I did a record there a while back, and Anders played guitar in the session band on that album,” he continues. “Years later, I ran into him at a festival—I wasn’t sure he’d remember me, but he was psyched to see me and said he wanted to produce a record for me. He’d seen me do some really funky stuff with bands, but the idea was to make a solo record and build it all around the songs. We went to Esplanade Studios in New Orleans, an old converted church with pipes from an organ running up the walls and stained glass. They had it all set up with a grand piano, an organ, a drum kit, and all this great stuff and we used none of it,” he says with a laugh. “It was magic though. I laid the songs down right in the control room, it was a perfect setting for the kind of songs I had.”

Montbleau recently premiered the album with a live-streamed Facebook performance in partnership with Pledge Music and optimistic apparel brand Life Is Good. “They’re some amazing people, an awesome company,” he says of Life Is Good. “They’ve been really supportive of me over the years. I used to be really skeptical of the company, but once I met them, I was sold for life. They really do care, they really give a shit, they really want to help people.”

With a long and storied career behind him and definitely more to come, Montbleau’s fans keep him energized. “I get encouraging emails from people everyday who tell me the most amazing  things, that my music means something to them, and I can’t even believe how it effects people. It charges me up and keeps me going. Building this career has been like watching grass grow,” he laughs. “It doesn’t pop overnight, but it alway grows. I’ve embraced it. I hope to reach even more people with this new album; I’m very proud of it, I’m 100% sure of everything on it,” he adds. “I put my heart into it.”

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Susan Hubbard

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