Matthew Ryan

Location: Nashville, TN

Matthew Ryan Vs. The Silver State

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Acclaimed Irish poet Seamus Heaney once said that, "great music, is the music of what happens." It's fitting to start there while discussing Matthew Ryan's new record and band, Matthew Ryan Vs The Silver State (MRVSS). Seamus Heaney is one of Ryan's favorite poets. But more than that, it perfectly describes what is increasingly clear in Ryan's work, he has no desire to con or posture, but to communicate with honest poetry the story of iconic dreamers that may be embattled by all the classic themes of living and literature, but continue to fight to define their own futures.

After the events that informed Ryan's 2006 release, From A Late Night High Rise (his brother was sentenced to 30 years in prison and he lost a very close friend to cancer), his music has turned an important corner. "Living a year like that, you kinda get winded, because you're confronted with how things can change. But once you come to terms and you gather yourself back in, well, I found myself invigorated by a sense of time. I guess I just want to make it mean something. I always did, but even more so now. You know? Work, living, happiness," Ryan said, while sitting at his kitchen table. Listening to MRVSS, it's hard not to notice the visceral, fully engaged spirit of the songs and performances. Gone is the almost "just the facts, ma'am" delivery of some of his previous releases. MRVSS is the sound of a brilliant writer and a careening band fusing the passion, indignation, hopes and struggles of its characters with intimacy and an explosive, anthemic cinema. Utterly human and wide-awake, it's music that feels like a Scorsese film for the ears.

MRVSS was recorded with Ryan's longtime friends and compatriots Brian Bequette (guitars, bass and piano), Steve Latanation (drums and backing vocals) and Doug Lancio (production, engineering, mixing, guitars, bass and piano). This is a group of friends that have known and worked with each other for the last ten years, and it's those bonds, with the trust and understanding that's developed, that have bloomed these songs in all their cohesive and distilled beauty. Every track was recorded live with few embellishments and even fewer edits. Eoman McLouglin, of The Greencards, and Molly Thomas came in to add some viola and violin on a handful of songs ("Dulce Et Decorum Est," "It Could've Been Worse," "Jane, I Still Feel The Same," "They Were Wrong" and "Closing In"). While Kate York and Thad Cockrell added their beautiful voices to "Dulce Et Decorum Est," "It Could've Been Worse" and "Closing In." Finally, Kris Donegan added the amazing guitars that could be mistaken for bagpipes in "They Were Wrong."

Born Ryan Webb on November 7, 1971 in Chester, Pennsylvania, he changed his name to Matthew Ryan in his early 20's to honor his older brother whose life was spiraling out of control. "I wanted him to know that I'd always be thinking about him," Ryan says while discussing his years before music. "My family. We are Irish and working class. Chester is a city on the banks of the Delaware River, just south of Philadelphia. It's a city of row homes, corner bars, refineries, government housing and beautiful, almost gothic, stone churches."

Growing up, Ryan walked those streets with friends. They weren't criminals, just a gang of kids imagining what was beyond the bridges and smokestacks they saw in the distance. One of their favorite pastimes was imagining they were a rock n' roll band. Ryan's love of U2, The Clash, The Replacements and Leonard Cohen were his first windows to the world outside of Chester and remembers being blown away that people from these exotic places like Minneapolis, Dublin and London felt and expressed so much of what he was feeling.

When he was 15, his folks moved the family to the considerably safer and quieter peace of Newark, Delaware. It was in Delaware that Ryan joined his first bands, dyed his hair black, wore Doc Martens and began his journey to the artist he is today. In 1997 he released his coveted debut, May Day, on A&M Records. His artistic road has been as rough as the streets where he was born to walk on, but Ryan is persistent and driven. He's been on 5 different labels while releasing 10 records over the course of the last 10 years. From DIY releases, to indie and major and back again, he's proven to be adaptable and vigilant to his vision.

Matthew Ryan Vs The Silver State is Ryan's 11th release. And for only the second time in his career, he'll be working with the same label (the scrappy Brooklyn indie, 00:02:59) that released his previous collection. Maybe, finally, things are coming into focus, maybe the stars are aligning for Matthew Ryan. MRVSS certainly deserves it. Matthew Ryan Vs The Silver State has all the spirit, heart, conscience and muscle that makes rock n roll timeless. This is an arrival that's been 25 years in the making. "Everyone I know and love is in this record... including myself, there's a lot of myself in there. "It Could've Been Worse," "They Were Wrong," "Drunk And Disappointed"... they all speak to where I've been, where my friends have been, but not where we're going. I just want us all to figure it out. I want everyone to win."

As forthcoming as Ryan can be in song and conversation, there's always another layer, another opportunity for context. He'll never sell it to you, because he assumes music is for those that need it. And if you need it, then you'll understand. So from the artwork, to the songs, to the performances there is always mystery. What appears simple becomes epic. On the cover of MRVSS you'll notice an army helmet, along with the green and orange scheme, the almost militant simplicity. This may lead you to think you're in for a collection of political rants or anti-war laments. But look again and you'll notice it's a woman's beautiful neck, with wisps of hair falling on her shoulders and a dark pearl necklace. Suddenly there's an intimacy and depth beyond what one might initially assume. MRVSS is a collection of songs dealing with the wars each of us confront every day: the battle between who we are, what we're becoming and who we thought we'd be in all parts of our lives. In the last song on MRVSS, "Closing In," Ryan concludes, "Maybe it's just that we're the only ones that can save us from ourselves." Soon after, a guitar explodes in fireworks of anger, determination and transcendence. It's a beautiful moment.

Matthew Ryan isn't the type to elbow others out of the way. He has quietly gone about his work for ten years now. His successes have been quietly stored in his own history, as have his failures. He's been patient and persistent, intelligent and soulful, troubled and brave - and all the while writing and pushing himself to say it better, say it clearer. MRVSS is a 50-minute dissertation on what it sounds like when an artist finds that elusive next level gear. It's time to give Matthew Ryan your full attention. He may just be one of the most relevant, credible and gifted artists we've had in quite some time.





Matthew Ryan VS. The Silver State

MRVSS promo

Jane, I Still Feel The Same

Closing In