WESTERLY – Ryan Montbleau, the celebrated singer-songwriter who spent much of his life “searching for meaning, purpose and understanding around the world” and who has been the other half of “Yes Darling” for years. Be the next Guest on Knick Live, the Friday night series presented online by the Knickerbocker Café and United Theater.
“My entire adult life has been this journey to find out where home is,” says Montbleau on his website. “I think I finally found it.”
Recently, Montbleau has released four different solo EPs – “Wood,” “Fire,” “Water” and “Air” – which marked his first studio releases since its inception in Burlington, Vt., Where he recently moved house another bought more than two decades to live on the street. While much of the material here has been written in fits and starts in recent years, it is clear that Montbleau’s desire for stability was very great even before he settled on the shores of Lake Champlain, and the songs reflect a maturity and self-awareness that can only result from the difficult work of rigorous self-examination.
Montbleau is quick to credit therapy for his growth lately, but he’s singing about more than himself here, mixing sly humor and deep revelations as he meditates on the bonds that hold us all perfectly imperfect people together. Overall, it’s a broad, insightful collection that balances exuberant rock and roll energy with intimate folk introspection, a sprawling, magnetic record of listening, letting go and living.
“I’ve been through a lot in the past few years,” says Montbleau, “and I’ve seen some monumental changes in my perspective. The only way for me to write about it was to get as honest and vulnerable as possible. “
Honesty and vulnerability have been hallmarks of Montbleau’s career since the early 2000s, when he first performed in his native Massachusetts. In the coming years he would work with artists as diverse as Martin Sexton, Trombone Shorty, Tall Heights and Galactic and collect more than 100 million streams on Spotify alone. Along the way, Montbleau shared bills with stars like the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Ani DiFranco, the Wood Brothers, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Mavis Staples, but it was his ecstatic headline shows – often more than 200 of them a year – that cemented his bills reputation as a roots rock powerhouse and relentless street fighter. NPR’s Mountain Stage compared his “eloquent, soulful songwriting” to Bill Withers and James Taylor, while Relix celebrated his “poetic Americana” and the Boston Herald raved that “he’s made a career of confident, danceable positivity.”
“To be honest, I didn’t know for a long time what this project was going to be,” he explains. “I just knew I had a number of songs that I was really looking forward to and that I wanted to re-record.” Approach to inclusion. “
“It took me a long time to get to a place where I could trust myself enough to expand like this,” says Montbleau, who experimented with synthesizers and drum computers and added piano and mandolin to his repertoire for the project. “I’ve always relied on other people’s expertise in the studio, but learning to trust my ears and get my hands dirty with the music has been an absolutely encouraging experience.”
“The songs on ‘Fire’ were a chance for me to just let go and have fun,” says Montbleau. “They were an opportunity not to overthink things for a change, trust my gut and follow what felt good.”
“Although COVID has turned everything upside down in my career, the past year has been a rare opportunity for me to rest for a while and focus on the essentials,” says Montbleau, who recently moved his girlfriend and daughter into the house invited him to Burlington. “I have the feeling that I finally have a real family life and that I am living on stable ground for the first time.”
– Nancy Burns-Fusaro