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| 12 July 2019 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Texas and U.K.-based rockers Ryan Hamilton and The Harlequin Ghosts released their debut album, This Is The Sound, on May 31, via Steven Van Zandt’s label, Wicked Cool Records, in partnership with The Orchard. The 12-track album, also available on CD and vinyl, features the previously released songs “Far Cry,””Get Down,” “Bottoms Up (Here’s To Goodbye)” and the critically-acclaimed “Mamacita,” which was co-written with Little Steven, who also contributes to the song’s rippin’ guitar solo, and has been thriving on radio across the U.K.” We get band namesake Ryan to discuss new music, touring, and much more…

Toddstar: Ryan, thank you so much for taking time out for us. We appreciate it.

Ryan: Sure.

Toddstar: How’s it feel to be home? You had a quick run over in the UK, some tour dates. What can you tell us about that short tour run? How’d it go over there?

Ryan: Yeah, it was amazing. I’m still trying to get over a little bit of jet lag, but I just never, I don’t think ever had an experience like that where most, if not all of the shows, I could have just not sung at all. Like they sang every word so loud, and to have them sing one song would have been incredible. But every song, every night, well, at least most songs, was just crazy to us. It was like this… We were all kind of looking around at each other on stage. It was this… We had these moment where we were going, “Is this really happening? Like what is going on here?” And it was just the best.

Toddstar: What do you find the major difference is between crowds in the UK and crowds here in the U.S., when it comes to putting your live show on?

Ryan: You know, there’s this freedom in the UK, Scotland, and Wales. There’s not that like American kind of… I don’t want to say uptight because it’s not uptight. I guess Americans just kind of have our guard up a little bit more. But over there, they’ll really just let it all hang out and go for it, and they’re not worried about if someone’s watching them or what someone else is going to think. I find in America, even if people are having the best time ever… not everywhere and not everyone, but it’s a little more reserved, and it’s interesting to me to now have those experiences and, and notice that difference, and that is a really big difference between the UK and here.

Toddstar: You mentioned they were singing the songs, and how are the new songs going over? You guys released This is the Sound, on May 31st on Wicked Cool Records. How are the new tunes being received by the fans?

Ryan: Todd, that was the crazy thing is, we were ready to play three or four new songs. And This is the Sound, the single, is all over the radio over there right now, so we figured people were going to sing that one, but we were playing one, two, three, four other new ones and they sang those right back at us, so, the response is nuts. It’s like… It feels kind of like as cheesy as it sounds, dream come true type stuff over there, and I was ready to really kind of work. Like I felt like it was going to be work. Here’s the new songs, you know, you go see a band, you want to hear familiar stuff, so for those new songs to go over like that, and being sung just as loud, if not louder back at us, was a real surprise.

Toddstar: I can only imagine. Your name and your music has always been kind of on the fringe for me, because I’m typically more of a harder rock metal guy almost. I took This is the Sound for a spin, and you were the perfect blend. It sounds like the wrong relationship to me, but you were the end result, if Butch Walker and Ginger from Wild Hearts raised a kid. To me, you have that pop rock sensibility of Butch Walker, especially when you’re singing and in your writing, but you throw in that Ginger punk attitude, and it’s just an amazing outlet.

Ryan: You know, Ginger is a friend, and I don’t know Butch, but I love most of what he has done, even back to like Marvelous Three,” Freak of the Week,” that sort of stuff. You make an album and you hope it’s going to get a good response. You believe in it and you put it out there, but you never really know, so for it to get 100% is a just, I can’t honestly… like it’s nuts, that this sort of thing could be happening with this album, and I keep having these moments where I’m going wow. Just real like somebody’s messing with me, messing with us, but yeah. Thank you. It continues to be totally overwhelming, the whole thing.

Toddstar: Well you made a splash when you were doing it just under your name to The Traders to now with the Harlequin Ghosts. How was the writing and the producing on your end different now than it was when you were putting out those first couple of albums?

Ryan: Well, now I have the amazing advantage of working with Stevie Van Zandt, and he was part of every song, so to be able to send somebody of that caliber, who is a hero, a demo, and then have him send notes back, whether it was… sometimes it was a voice memo that he recorded on his phone. Maybe he picked up a guitar or sing something into the phone, or maybe it’s just a text or an email going this is great, but change this here and do this, that’s been the biggest difference as far as my process and our band’s process. It’s the same. But having, rock and roll Hall of Fame caliber producers, song writer, performer, like Stevie get involved really just pushed me. He really kicked my ass on all these songs and it pushed me further than I’d been pushed before, and even though it was… It was never stressful. It was, I guess there was just harder work that went into the songs after the initial demo because Stevie sees something in me, and I’m honored that he sees it, but I could feel, you know, you can tell like whether it’s a teacher in school or something, they’re pushing you to be better and in a really positive way, you can tell like, okay, they know I can be better and I can. It’s not that negative way, like this isn’t good enough. It’s more of a like, this is good, but it can be even better, and you got this, so there’s a lot of that from Stevie, but in, like a very Italian Sopranos, like sort of scary sometimes, but he means it with love, like that sort of thing. That took some getting used to, but yeah, to answer your question and the longest way possible, really, Stevie’s influence and direction and were the big difference.

Toddstar: Well, obviously he’s an influence on you, and more than just a peer of yours. What was it like for you to take a song like “Mamacita” and, and know that one of your idols is going to lay elite guitar lick on that.

Ryan: You know, I can’t really wrap my brain around him being as accessible as he is now. It’s still weird for me to be able to go, hey, would you want to like autonomous? You know, “Mamacita” ended up being a co-write because he was doing that thing where he was sending notes and he said, “This song is great, but it needs a better chorus.” And he picked up the guitar and, I mean, credit to him, he went, “It needs to go ‘Mamacita,'” and he’s saying that and that’s his chorus. After he did that and he was a little more involved in that song, I call it an accidental co-write, which I’m honored to have. It just felt really natural to be able to go, well, do you want to play the lead on here? Like you know, we’re in this together now. I was actually nervous, which I shouldn’t be at this point, but I was nervous to ask him to play guitar on it and was thrilled when he said yes.

Toddstar: Very cool. Ryan, when you were putting this album together, what song that wound up on the record was the hardest one to get out from the writing to the recording to production? Which one fought you the most?

Ryan: Either “This Is The Sound” or a song called “All Fall Down.” Those songs changed quite a bit, but they actually didn’t exist. They were redos from demos. The demos were totally different songs. All we kept were the basic chord structure, and that was it, and kind of started over, and both those songs lyrically, just from being raised in church in the south, you know, going to church twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday, and then getting older and figuring things out on, on my own, both of those songs lyrically, there’s a lot of… And I didn’t even realize it until after personal struggle with the way I was raised and getting away from that. There’s a struggle for a lot of people, I think, just the struggle between good and bad and is there a God, and not to get too heavy, but both of those songs have that theme, and when it was to kind of decided we need to scrap these, keep the chords and try again, I was very surprised that that was the theme that just kind of kept appearing. I guess I let myself go there for the first time ever in songs, and those two still make me, when I hear them I kind of go, oh, like I feel like my mom’s going to yell at me. Well, and she’s proud of it, I should say, but if my mom really looked at those lyrics, she would go, okay young man, when was this about?

Toddstar: Looking at the album, it’s 12 great tracks top to bottom, what’s the song or two that you really hoped as the album was finishing up that you really hoped the public and your fans would embrace?

Ryan: I have to say there’s a song at the end called “Won’t Stop Now,” which was super like bare my soul personal song that I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to leave on the record. Now that it’s on there, I would say it’s that one, and if not that one, the title track, “This Is the Sound.” I just think that if I’ve ever had a song that accurately described the past five years of everything I’ve been through and what’s happening now, that song, “Won’t Stop Now,” would be the one.

Toddstar: With everything going on – you’ve got the album out, you’ve done some dates in the U.S. – any shot we’re going to get a glimpse of Ryan Hamilton and the Harlequin Ghosts near Detroit anytime soon?

Ryan: You know, I would love to. My old band did a couple of U.S. Tours with a band called Metric, and we would stop at Saint Andrews in Detroit, and those were some of my favorite shows in that old building. I would love to come back. I would love to bring this band back. It’s been, oh my God, I don’t want to think about it, 10 or 15 years since I played in Detroit, and I love the history, you know, Motown and all of that there. I’m the only American in my band. Everybody else is from the UK, so I would love to take them there and have them experience it. I say all of that because there are a lot of potential things, but we won’t know, because everything has caught fire and all of a sudden panicked, but in a good way. I would love to… I’m going to get myself in trouble. I’m trying not to say it out loud. I would love to say yes to one of the options that we’ve been given early next year and that would include stopping in Detroit.

Toddstar: Cool. There we go. You haven’t named any names or listed any tours. You throw names, you talk about how Ginger is a friend, you’re working with Stevie now. Who is the one collaborator that’s out there that you’re just dying to get together with, whether it be to write a track or co-record something? Who’s the one on your bucket list that you really want?

Ryan: Oh my lord. I don’t know if any of them are alive. Still with us, I would have to say… that’s a really difficult one. I mean I’ll skip past that typical answers of like Paul McCartney and stuff like that, because that’d be amazing to work with a Beatle. But, you know what? I would say Butch Walker, I think it’s… I keep just skipping past it because you already referenced him, but I would say Butch Walker. That dude is just full of magic. Whatever he has going on, I love it. He’s just got this really cool like vintage but current at the same time thing going on that I love and I feel like our music embraces that. So yeah, Butch Walker.

Toddstar: There you go. Again, you’re throwing out names where you get somebody like me in it, it’d be, you know, I’d be freaked out just to meet Ginger, and you’re calling him a friend, but when’s the last time Ryan Hamilton was starstruck?

Ryan: Oh my God, there have been a few really embarrassing moments because if you don’t know my whole story, which I wouldn’t expect you to, I was in a band that was going to be a really big deal and came up with some other artists that went on to be very famous. So a lot of my friends are famous, and I’ve always been like the little brother that like you can get there, come on. That’s what it feels like. Even though it’s happening later in my life and later in my career, I wouldn’t change it. I have had the opportunity to meet some heroes and some very famous people, and I’ve been really cool except for a few and one, if there’s an artist, I’m a big art nerd. There’s an artist named Molly Crabapple, who I love, and we looked at this thing in London and we got to talk to her for a little bit afterwards, and my manager Steve Actually had to come up to me and do that thing like a father where they pat you on the back. Like okay, that’s enough, right? I was just like, I couldn’t control it you, it was just like, eh, out of my mouth, everything. Oh my God, I love you so much and your art, and this meeting and it was so embarrassing, Todd. I walked away like did I really just do that. It’s random ones like that. Molly, as talented and famous as she is in the art community, she’s not necessarily a household name and it’s always the ones like that that get me, and I’m never ready for it, you know? I don’t know why that is, that it’s people like that kind of out of left field, underground famous that get me, but I was totally starstruck with Molly. We’ve spoken since then, and every time I find myself apologizing for that night in London. Good Lord.

Toddstar: Well, knowing how you were in that moment, how do you try and defuse a situation when you’ve got fan who’s tongue tied or whatnot because they’re getting to meet you?

Ryan: Situations like that, I give them a hug. Seriously, it seems to like break up that moment. I’m a big Amanda Palmer fan, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with her, and her relationship with her fans is that kind of thing. Like, I want people to feel comfortable no matter what. Come say hi and if it gets a little like you’re saying, I just take a beat and go give me a hug. I’m glad you’re here, or whatever. And that typically defuses anything like that.

Toddstar: You mentioned Amanda Palmer – do we see a Patreon account in your future?

Ryan: You know what, I just started really doing one and it’s been awesome. It’s only a couple of hundred, I think, subscribers so far, but I’m loving it. They are loving it. There’s like acoustic, I do acoustic covers or acoustic versions of our songs every month that are only available there. I think I did an entire album commentary for this new album that’s only available there, so I’m trying to take a page out of Amanda’s playbook and give it a shot, and I’m really enjoying that. But, it’s new.

Toddstar: I’m a huge Amanda fan myself. Well, listen man, I appreciate you taking the time out. It is truly an honor for me, because I love the album. I’m so glad I finally took the plunge and discovered Ryan Hamilton, the musician, and I can’t wait to get some more music in the way of B sides or unreleased stuff or we can get you up here hopefully in early 2020 on that tour.

Ryan: There’s so much kind of in the pipeline, I don’t want to get myself into any trouble, but yeah, there’s a lot that’s going to happen. It’s going to be a really crazy two and even three years, so I’m trying to make a point to enjoy it while it’s happening, and people like yourself. I’m trying to, even stuff like this, I’m trying to enjoy it and not ever have it feel like a burden or a stressful thing. I just love it. I’m so thankful for everything that’s happening, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Toddstar: That’s awesome, Ryan. Again, I look forward to checking you guys out live, digging more tunes, and helping to get the name and music out there.

Ryan: Awesome. Thanks, Todd. I really appreciate that.

Toddstar: All right, man.

Ryan: Take care.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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