This coming weekend, December 3 and 4, 2021 will be the Orange Blossom Revue in Florida. The Orange Blossom Revue will take place at the picturesque Lake Wailes Park in Lake Wales, Florida. The music and heritage festival located centrally between Tampa and Orlando will welcome Blackberry Smoke, celebrated folk ensemble The Wood Brothers, GRAMMY-winning bluegrass pickers The Steeldrivers, renowned singer/songwriter Hayes Carll, chart-climbing soul explosion Devon Gilfillian and more to the sunshine state this winter, and New England song stylist Ryan Montbleau.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Ryan Montbleau to discuss touring to Florida, writing, and everything Blossoming…
Tell us about your latest work, what’s up with “Water”? I see this whole series of EPs are being released with a prior release of “Fire”, can we anticipate Air and Earth?
I released one called Wood earlier in the year, then Fire, and then Water most recently. Air is coming next and will complete the series of 4 EPs. I didn’t conceive the songs as having to do with the elements or with alchemy when I wrote them. But as the project took shape over the last two years, the organization of the tunes into EPs and into the elements made sense to me. We laid down basic tracks for 15 songs at the end of 2019 and I’ve been working away at the tracks with a great engineer ever since to get them where they need to be. I’m proud of the result. Sometimes you go bang out a record in four days and you get something great. Sometimes you slave away for a couple years to polish and perfect and to learn what you like and what you’re capable of. That’s where I am at the moment.
So, Florida and Orange Blossom Revue- have you had good experiences performing in Florida? What’s your favorite memory of visiting the Sunshine State? Any unusual discoveries while you have toured down there?
I sang with Oteil Burbridge and John Popper at the Funky Biscuit once. Had a really intense psychedelic experience at Spirit of the Suwannee at Bear Creek one year. Overall though, I’ve generally had the best experiences around the St. Pete/Tampa area as far as touring. It’s a long state! It can definitely be challenging for a little band from the northeast to figure out where to find home away from home at first. But there are a lot of spots that have been so good to me in that St. Pete area for sure– Craftsman House, SHAMc in Safety Harbor, the Hideaway, The Attic in Ybor City, Skipper’s, we did a NYE show one year in a public park in St. Petersburg. I’ve just found it to be a really supportive area. A lot of the venues I’ve played there seem to support each other too, which is rare. And WMNF supporting venues and artists with radio play, I find that is also rare nowadays.
I saw you perform some twenty years ago on a week night at House of Blues in Boston, opening for the band ulu from NYC. Here we are two decades later, did you know back then you would still be doing this? How do you keep impatience from infiltrating your psyche and remain focused on your writing and craft?
I loved that room, used to work there for 3-4 years. To be honest, yes, I did know that I would still be doing this. That’s why I called my first album “Begin.” in 2002. I knew it was the beginning of what I hoped would be a long road in music. I didn’t start singing until I was 21, but once the bug bit me and singing came together with the writing and playing, that was it. I knew this was what I wanted to do. That’s a good question about impatience. There are always higher hills to climb and always a whole lot of other acts who are bigger, more successful out of the gate, etc. But I can only be who I am and be the best artist I can be. And you can always get better at your craft. Beyond that, it’s mostly not up to me.
As I write this I’m thinking of an artist who I put on as an opener at my folk club gigs in January 2020 who just made her late night television debut on Jimmy Kimmel last night. And in the comments on the YouTube video of it there’s a fair amount of “Finally, she’s getting the attention she deserves.” (And she does deserve it! Lizzy McAlpine, look her up, she’s great.) But my 44-year-old tired body is sitting here going “Finally? I don’t know, that seemed pretty quick to me.” 🙂 It’s a funny business. You are where you are. I’m happy to be here and the sky is still the limit.
On another night in Boston, I ran into you outside of the Paul Simon concert- I think it was the tour with Sting. We were both high from the experience. Do you still draw inspiration from the elder masters that came from a time before you were writing and performing?
I don’t think enough people saw that tour! Both bands on stage at the same time, what a bunch of multi-instrumentalist freaks. And built around two of the greatest songwriters. Yes, of course I draw inspiration from the elder masters. I cannot fathom trying to do otherwise. I hope to follow the path into mastery.
Do you write for other artists ever? What kind of challenge might that present to you as a writer?
I have written for a few other artists and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do more of. It’s challenging but also liberating in a way. It’s like “Well, I’M not going to sing this. What would this artist want to say?” Suddenly my own delivery quirks, the nuances of the way I would perform a song– it all goes out the window and the song itself must be taken on its own merits. Basically, anyway. I’ll never forget being at Jazz Fest in New Orleans and Trombone Shorty closed the main stage in front of thousands of people and this 9-year-old girl was next to me singing the lyrics I had written for him. Yes, give me more of that!
Any plans for new work with Yes Darling?
We pulled off a full-on theatrical production of the Yes Darling show in Vermont before the pandemic hit. Since then we’ve basically been on hiatus, Hayley moved to the west coast, I’ve been settling into home life in Vermont. But we will most definitely get something together. We’ve been sitting on the best music video I’ve ever been a part of making, just waiting for the right moment to put it out. And we have more songs to write, more records to make. All in due time.
Are there other artists out there that you have not yet worked with that you would like to work with in the future?
I always wanted to write a song for Tedeschi Trucks Band, and I will one of these days.
Orange Blossom Revue 2021 Lake Wales, FL
Solo Set & Artist at Large
Higher Ground South Burlington, VT
Ryan Montbleau Band • Will Evans Supports
The Cabot Beverly, MA
Ryan Montbleau Band
The Met Pawtucket, RI
Ryan Montbleau Band
Keep track of all things Ryan Monbleau at his official website.
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