There are very few music genres where artists are able to mirror their talent and personality with the music they are playing as well as Blues/Rock does. It might be due to the fact that the two genres constitute a perfect balance between the more calm and introspective side (the Blues) of an artist with a more wild and erratic one (the Rock), both symbolism of the Jekyll and Hyde sides that perhaps not just musicians have inside of them but inside of many of us common mortals too.
Said balance has always worked and still does work perfectly for the very talented guitarist and singer/songwriter from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ryan McGarvey.
Always highly respected and loved by fans and fellow musicians in the worldwide Blues/Rock circle, McGarvey has been touring the best part of the world year after year, earning unanimous consensus from both music press and his many fans. The latter, together with the enormous love that they show at every performance of the artist from Albuquerque, have been also asking repeatedly McGarvey about a new record for few years now, given the fact that his last and very successful studio album, called The Road Chosen, was released in 2014.
Despite having been through some difficult time on a personal level (McGarvey lost his father, sadly, in 2017) that forced the guitarist and singer/songwriter to stop touring for some time, McGarvey has surprised everyone by starting touring again this year and, most importantly, releasing, early last month, the first live album of his career, called Live At Swinghouse, an album recorded back in 2016 that captures perfectly all the raw beauty and intensity that takes place at each of the American artist's live shows.
Bluebird Reviews had the privilege to talk to this phenomenal artist during his European Tour, which is still ongoing and, together with congratulating McGarvey for the enormous success that his Tour in support of the Live At Swinghouse album is having, our website is also curious to know the reasons why the American artist chose the Swinghouse Studios in Hollywood as the location of his very first live recording. "It's a fairly famous spot in Hollywood that even today, some huge top acts use as a rehearsal space or for special events. For us, it was indeed the perfect spot especially in terms of location for the rhythm section of the band, because it was centrally located for them. We kind of thought of doing the live album just as a last minute idea, to be honest, we didn't know whether we were going to release it or not but we thought, anyway, "Well, it would be fun to try at least". So we gathered some audience in the recording studio, asking them to come out and join us and it worked out really good! We actually had such a a good time and the amazing people that I've got to work on it, even just for the live recording, they really did such a great job with it and the end result was way too cool to think of not having this recording released as a live album in future".
Including some of McGarvey's big hits like Memphis or Wish I Was Your Man, among others, the album sees some of the songs often performed during the artist's last tour in 2016 and the obvious question that comes for every live album, is how tricky has it been for the guitarist to pick and choose the songs to be included in the Live At Swinghouse album. "The set-list present on the live album was essentially based on the one that we have been playing that year on the 2016 Tour. We went through the whole list of songs that we have been playing on that Tour and we picked songs that I thought, especially for a live album, were a good representation of each of my previous albums. Every song we played on the live album was a different version of those I had recorded and released on my studio albums, re-orchestrated with the band in new ways and they really sound like new songs, if you compare them with the originals. Coincidentally, the line-up that played on the live album is the same one I have now, with Carmine Rojas on bass guitar and Logan Miles Nix on drums. I always like to re-vamp my songs with Carmine and Logan and "situate" the songs that we are playing on stage a little bit differently, exactly as we did at the time that we recorded the live album, which I thought came out really well".
Despite the restricted audience present at the time the album was recorded, there is a certain special vibe that emerges from the whole performance and we are keen to ask McGarvey whether there was any particular aspect or moment of the whole show that he enjoyed particularly, whilst recording. "It was an extremely special show all around. I had some personal emotional connections to that show that will never ever possibly be forgotten. For such a long time, when some personal circumstances hit me in this last year, I took some time to just kind of, shelter and I didn't work at all on anything. Strangely, that was a kind of good thing for me, because when i finally stopped to take care of personal matters and came back to listen to the songs of the album, they sounded all fresh and exciting to me, maybe because I could then finally look back and smile happily to the memories of that show and be able to piece all the songs together with a new, fresh mindset. As I said before, I am very happy of how the album sounds in its entirety and, from what I gathered from the fans, they say that the live album is an accurate example of how the band and I sound when we play live every time. They say that they felt that special vibe that takes place at a live show, like they were there themselves, thinking of themselves standing and watching me playing and loving every note they heard. I really appreciate to hear that kind of feedback from the fans, it is always a great feeling to hear such heartwarming comments like these".
The last time that Bluebird Reviews had the opportunity to talk to Ryan McGarvey, the Guitar Maestro revealed that he had a lot of unreleased songs, certainly enough material to piece together at least a couple of albums and we are curious to find out whether there is anything holding back the guitarist and singer/songwriter in releasing also a new studio album anytime soon. "I have got indeed numerous new songs that we have done that I am kind of holding and consider to release at some point or even some that I am considering re-doing. Something that I can tell you for sure is that, at the end of July, I am going to record a brand new album of all new blues songs for a totally blues record that should be ready by this Fall. On that album, there will be two or three songs that I wrote long time ago that have re-surfaced with me, songs that I remember to be the band's favorites, when I was playing them live, on occasion, some time ago. I think that the time has finally come to release those songs through this new album I am going to record. You are quite right, there is an handful amount of stuff waiting to be released, I pretty much have also a rock album ready to be released, as I also mentioned to you last time we spoke, that I am hoping to get ready to be released by next Spring".
Photo by Foto Golab
The concept of family, for the Albuquerque-based artist, has always been an important point either on a personal level and artistically speaking. On the current Tour promoting the Live At The Swinghouse album, McGarvey is again with his surrogate “Family On The Road”, which is the same group of musicians playing with him on the live album plus McGarvey's long-time friend Manni Kuesters as Tour Manager. It certainly feels like a "must", for McGarvey, to have in his head that comfort blanket, while touring, to be surrounded on stage by people that the guitarist has known for some time and trust implicitly. "It feels great, I am very lucky to have the Team I have. We have, actually and unusually, been without Manni for the first time ever that we have been over here in Europe for the last couple of weeks. He is dealing with some other business back home but we will re-join any day now. To have someone like Manni while you are touring is a great feeling, Manni is the kind of “I’ve seen it all” and highly experienced kind of person one may possible ask for and even now that Manni is not temporarily with us, we have an assistant that is absolutely great too, dealing with the operational plans on stage, organizing the Merchandise, even working as a guitar tech and I have been knowing him for quite some time too. When it comes to the boys in the band, with people like Logan, for example, I don’t even remember when we started playing together, I mean, we pretty much grew up with each other and just didn’t know each other at all! (laughs). With Logan, we work extremely close and I sincerely think that he is one of the most talented individuals I have ever met in my life. Logan has been doing some really amazingly huge and big things, professionally, in the last couple of years. I don’t know, it must be brotherly love but I am so proud of him (smiles). Then you get to someone like Carmine, such a classy musician. We have been friends for as long as I can remember. If you take into fact how much important music he has played on over the years, to have a living legend like Carmine on stage every night is truly wonderful. To have all those amazing people, in answer to your initial question, it is a blessing for sure".
McGarvey's first ever live album has been released via the independent Forward In Reverse Music label. We ask the American artist whether being with an independent label is a conscious choice that would give him more artistic freedom within the music business or else. "Well, there’s back and forth with everything, I guess. In the music industry, especially for someone that makes music in a Do It Yourself fashion like me, every decision and also any possible, horrible guilt that every artist has in putting too much pressure on themselves for everything, every turn you take, you always contemplate these aspects, in our world. I have been very lucky that, every time that there has been something I put a lot of hopes up for, every time there has been something I ended up passing on, worrying that perhaps, that would have been my only one time, things, in the end, worked out in the right way. We always play things safe, I guess and I feel that I have been smart enough, in my artistic decisions, so far, at least I hope I have been. I feel very fortunate in playing music for a living with no other job and I don’t have to give music lessons on the weekends to sustain myself or things like that. With this live album, in particular, I had no interest in putting this album out on a label, just yet. If a label and I talk at some point and they wanna re-release the live album, that’s awesome. But this album was, really, a hundred-per-cent gift to the fans. We just wanted for the fans to be able to have something that they have been asking for an endless amount of time. If you are a fan of us, that is the kind of album you want to go for. When we recorded it at the time, we recorded twice as much music than the one that ended up being on the album. We played a full, long night of live music, that night. Some of the stuff that I felt were not right enough for the show were left out, included some new material that we decided to leave out of the album because we wanted to work a little bit more on it and maybe to release it in future on studio albums. We felt immediately the magic of that show when it was happening and, truth to be told, we wanted to release the record long time ago but that was my fault, with everything happening in this last year putting my life on hold. I feel the album is a good picture of my whole discography. It takes some snippets from each of my albums and fans have been really excited about it, because there are songs on this record that were their favorites from whatever album and I feel that such songs are pretty much the ones we picked for Live At Swinghouse. To tell it in a little old fashioned way, it's a live Greatest Hits (smiles)".
The amount of fans that McGarvey has in Europe is remarkable and almost every show has been sold out during his European Tour. Bluebird Reviews is wondering if McGarvey has prepared a special set-list for this leg of his tour for his European fans or is he sticking instead to the one that he has been taking the whole of the United States recently. "Normally, the criteria that we follow on stage, when we perform, is to play, say, a song from my third album, then there would be a brand new song, then a song from my second album followed by one from the first album, a bit like mixing old and new material at the same time. On this leg of the Tour, I think that we are playing, on average, three or four songs never before released, then some of the songs also present on the live album, still following the same set-list criteria I mentioned before. We are having a great time on this leg of the tour and I would like to thank all the fans that show their love and support for us night after night".
Before partying company with the Guitar Maestro from New Mexico, a quote comes to Bluebird Review's mind from the great Stevie Wonder, stating that "Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories. And the longer a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it". Speaking of songs, we ask Ryan McGarvey whether there is a special song, among all the splendid ones that he has recorded in his career, that it is closer to the artist's heart and connect all the most important dots in his life. "Every time I write a song, I always like to leave it open to interpretations and not being too extremely detailed. In essence, something that feel like just a story I wrote that fans can listen to and picture their own lives in. There is one song, in particular, that comes to mind. When I look back and remember writing it and re-writing it over and over, about breaking up with a girl, I remember that I didn't like the song and the story kept changing and stuff like that. Through time, the story changed again when I broke up with another girl and then the song became totally about that new break-up. Finally, after few years, I managed to sum all up and released it and to me, now, personally, it has got nothing to do with any girls at all, it just makes me think of family and really emotional stuff for me. It hits me every single night that we play it, half way through the show and go straight to my head the moment we play it. I picture few things in my mind when we hit the first notes and it is really hard to hold back the tears. But to me, that's a good thing, because when I get done with that song, I can see the rewarding reaction of the fans and the way they feel that song too, perhaps with different emotions, in comparison to mine, but still with great intensity. It's for me, the song that makes me think about the special people in my life and it is called My Heart To You".