Yes, Darling featuring Hayley Jane and Ryan Montbleau with special guests Hannah Gill (Duo) and Taraleigh Weathers, author of How To Rock Your Life
Hayley sings. Ryan plays guitar and sings. Which means Ryan does more.
Yeah, but Hayley puts way more time and effort into looking and sounding good on stage and is obviously the face of the project.
Led by the legendary Ryan Montbleau and commanded by the illustrious Hayley Jane, there is rarely a disagreement or power struggle within the project. The two get along like peas and carrots. Except for when they don’t. But they do. Yeah, sometimes. Hayley, you’re ruining this bio right now. Well Ryan, I told you to just let me do it! That never ends well. And you’re supposed to leave two spaces after the end of a sentence, I’ve had to go back and fix all of yours. What? I have never heard of that in my entire life! Don’t fix that one. Ugh, fine. Let’s get back to writing about how great we are.
Ryan Montbleau has been an acclaimed singer, songwriter, and bandleader for more than a decade. Through relentless touring (both on his own and with The Ryan Montbleau Band) and recording seven studio albums, Ryan’s earned a reputation for his gift for melody and a remarkably open armed approach to songwriting.
Hayley Jane is a singer, songwriter and dancer. She commands the stage with style, grace and a dynamic force that brings joy and inspiration to her devoted fanbase. Hayley Jane records and tours as a solo artist and with her national touring act, Hayley Jane and The Primates.
Songs for Ryan Montbleau typically need to simmer. In his 10-year career this gifted singer and his limber band have built their catalog the old-fashioned way, by introducing new songs to their live set, then bending and shaping them over dozens of performances before committing a definitive version to the hard drive.
For that and many other reasons, Montbleau's next album, For Higher, is quite literally a departure. Well-established out of his home base in the Northeast, the singer threw himself into New Orleans, where everything is slow-cooked, for a few fast-moving days — and whipped up an instant delicacy.
A few of the cuts on the new album — the playful stomp of “Deadset” or “Head Above Water,” freshly peppered with horns — were already part of the Ryan Montbleau Band's ever-growing repertoire. But the majority, including four handpicked cover tunes — stone soul nuggets from Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, the late Muscle Shoals guitarist Eddie Hinton and more — came together spontaneously, with little prep work.
It was a feel thing, with Montbleau putting heads together with fellow music head Ben Ellman of New Orleans flag-bearers Galactic. The singer and songwriter first eased his way into the city when he was invited to contribute songs to Backatown, the breakthrough album of favorite son Trombone Shorty. That went so well, Montbleau co-wrote two more songs for Shorty's recent follow-up, “For True.”
When Montbleau sent videos of himself performing the songs, Ellman, who produced “Backatown,” was impressed. Why not come down and do a record of your own? he asked.
Almost before he got an answer, Ellman had assembled a band of ringers – keyboard/B3 player Ivan Neville, French Quarter mainstay Anders Osborne on guitar, drummer Simon Lott, and the estimable George Porter, Jr. of the Meters and countless funky sessions on bass. Though Montbleau has released several solo records and three albums credited to his full band, he felt like this was an all-new hurdle he'd have to clear.
“My main issue was, what would I bring in for material?” he recalls, sitting in the kitchen of the spacious home he and several bandmates share in an industrial city north of Boston. “I'd never done a session like that.
“Our band will 'shed songs on the road for years and then record them, and there's strength in that. But there's also strength in putting together these other badasses for a few days.”
And his New Orleans band proved, in fact, to be most badass. If Montbleau was initially a bit apprehensive that the sessions might represent just another paycheck for his sidemen, he quickly learned otherwise. “Every single person, kind of to my amazement, got into it,” he says. “They listened to every playback, and they were high-fiving each other. They were great.”
Staying at Ellman's house while recording the new album, Montbleau spent his downtime cruising the streets of New Orleans on a borrowed vintage bike. “There's clearly no American city like it, at all,” he says. “It's deep, dark and beautiful.”
Unlike Montbleau's previous recordings, which showcase his own maturing songcraft, the new album draws a lot of its depth and beauty from its cover songs. Perfectly titled is the beatific “Sweet, Nice and High,” originally recorded by the forgotten soul supergroup Rhinoceros. On the other end of the moodswing, Mayfield's “Here But I'm Gone,” written and recorded for the great singer's last album, after the accident that left him paralyzed, is a shimmering testament to human frailty.
“Sometimes I feel like there are so many songs — who the hell needs another song?” Montbleau asks. But then he'll discover another new inspiration — sitting at the kitchen table sipping tea, there's a vinyl copy of an old Billy Preston album propped on the windowsill behind him — and another lyric or melody will come to him like a visitation. And when the song becomes a reality, and the crowds begin to sing it back to him, well, that's what it's all about.
At 34, he's a late-bloomer who's right on time. Montbleau didn't start singing and playing guitar in earnest until he was in college, at Villanova. Later, working at the House of Blues in Boston, he began playing solo sets there as a warmup act. His band — there's now six of them — came together naturally, over time, planting strong roots in coffeeshops, folk venues and rock clubs before converting audiences on an outdoor festival circuit that now stretches across the country. Through word of mouth and repeat visits, the band has built a devoted following from the Northeast to Chicago, Seattle and Austin. “It's like watching the grass grow,” says the easygoing Montbleau.
Far from feeling left out of the New Orleans sessions, his band is already feeding hungrily on the arrangements from the new album in their live sets.
“We've done a good job staying in one direction, just moving forward,” says the singer. “We all just really want to get better. I try to instill it in the guys — if we just keep it together, good stuff is gonna continue to happen.”
When the crowds are dancing, the band digs deeper in the pocket. But Montbleau, who still performs solo, is constantly looking to strike a balance between the contagious energy of moving bodies and making a closer connection.
“You can still dance and have a good time,” he says of his fast-spreading fan base, “but I love when you listen.”
Hannah Gill & The Hours combines 70s lo-fi pop and rock with contemporary soul and blues and transforms them into sweet and sultry songs that overflow with feeling. Steered by soulful 19-year old vocal powerhouse and songwriter Hannah Gill combined with skilled guitarist, songwriter and arranger Brad Hammonds, the group offers up music with contagious melodies and wise lyrics. Each song presents a thrilling story about how humans connect through their experiences that reveals the intrepid singer’s intimate perspectives on love, loss, longing, hope and transformation. Gill’s lush voice, Hammonds’ sparkling fretwork and both members’ background in improvisational jazz give the duo’s hypnotic recordings and dynamic live performances otherworldly gravity. Hannah Gill & The Hours’ debut EP, The Water, is now available via iTunes, Amazon or Spotify.
How to Rock Your Life is the book the author wished existed when she was suffering from a chronic case of post-show blues. Beating them with a rainstick, a hack-sack, and a big boatload of intentional life changes, she knew she had to share what she learned.
If you’re a live music fanatic, you’ll go anywhere the music is playing for just one more taste of the good stuff. Is it possible to bring that live music magic home with you? It is, and Taraleigh Weathers will show you the way.
Filled with entertaining, laugh-out-loud, inspiring, and vulnerable stories, been-there-done that advice, playful exercises, and many references to Phish and the Grateful Dead, How to Rock Your Life will guide you to maintain the live music magic in your everyday experience.
Just like you do when your favorite band is performing, Taraleigh will show you how you can channel the wildest expression of your authentic self on a daily basis, feel those unique music festival feels at home, and find the magic in even the most mundane and uncomfortable of situations. She’ll prove to you that is is indeed possible to surrender to the flow of the present moment before, during, and after the show.
“The creative power of intention, visualization, prayer, hoping, loving, listening, letting go, being honest with yourself, curiosity, openness, patience, action, quietude, and forgiveness is boundless. Taraleigh sees this so clearly and teaches it in this book.”
~OTEIL BURBRIDGE Dead & Company/Bassist
“The stories and advice from Taraleigh and her collaborators in ‘How to Rock Your Life’ will fill you with laughter, emotion, and encouragement. Her book truly embodies what she stands for as a person and will inspire anyone who reads it.”
~RYAN DEMPSEY Twiddle/Keyboardist
“Tarleigh radiates positive energy, and a sense of wonder while embracing the endless possibilities each new day brings!”
~JAY BLAKESBERG Long time photographer of the Grateful Dead and Author of Hippie Chick