Sounds Local: Ryan Hommel finds his own stage
Until recently, Ryan Hommel has always been the guy in the background, working with other musicians as a multi-instrumentalist/guitarist and record producer. He has played with many of the finest musicians in our area, including The Sweetback Sisters, The Beau Sasser Trio and most notably, Shelburne Falls native Seth Glier, with whom he shared a 10-year musical partnership.
Hommel was not only Glier’s guitarist but also co-produced his three albums, including the Grammy nominated “The Next Right Thing.”
During the past couple years, as Glier’s career accelerated, so did the duo’s touring schedule, which led to frequent treks throughout the country, playing large theaters and opening for acts like Ani DiFranco. While they were out on the road, Hommel would often do some songwriting during the rare moments of downtime.
Two years ago, he decided to start work on his own album, but it wasn’t easy with his demanding schedule.
“I’d find a week to work on the record, but then it would be a couple months before I could get back in the studio again,” said Hommel, who lives in Northampton. “It was difficult to follow through on one vision or concept with all these interruptions. But, don’t get me wrong, all the interruptions were great experiences.”
Hommel, 24, finally decided he had to make some time for his own music.
This past summer, he formed his own trio with Darby Wolf on keyboards and Ted Sullivan on drums. The group plays old funk and soul favorites alongside some original material every Monday at 10 p.m. at Snowzees, 330 Amherst Road in Sunderland.
Then after finishing work on Glier’s new album, “ Things I Should Let You Know,” he decided not to go out on tour with his old friend, choosing instead to explore some other musical experiences and finish his own album.
On April 2, Hommel released a self-titled EP, available as a download only. “Ryan Hommel” is available to purchase and/or stream at iTunes, CDBaby, Google Music Store, Spotify, Amazon and other online outlets.
Hommel will hold a release party at Signature Sounds’ Parlor Room, 32 Masonic St., Northampton, on Thursday, April 18, at 7 p.m. He will be joined by J.J. O’Connell on drums, Marc Seedorf on bass and Wolf on organ.
Two years in the making, “Ryan Hommel” reflects the various influences the musician has picked up over the years and includes traces of jazz, pop, rock and folk.
The EP produced by Hommel and Dave Eggar features five melodic pop folk songs that explore themes of love found and lost and are marked by Hommel’s soulful voice and memorable melodies. The disc opens with the retro-rock sounds of “Sarah Irene,” an upbeat love song with an infectious chorus in which Hommel repeatedly sings “I’m in love with a girl called Sarah Irene.” He later picks up an acoustic guitar for “Krista,” a smooth ballad with backing strings that would sound at home on a Martin Sexton album.
The disc closes with”Beautiful World,” a standout track that begins with Hommel singing over a strong rhythm, which leads to a sweeping chorus, during which he sings “We’re in the beautiful world/We’re in the broken world/where you can choose what you see/ And you can choose who you want to be.”
Listeners will wish that he recorded more than five songs. Hommel said he did have 14 set to go but then pared it down.
“There are many songs that didn’t make it on this EP that will be on my next record. It wasn’t really the songs themselves I wasn’t satisfied with, it was more the way I interpreted them. It’s amazing how many ways one song can really be delivered,” he said.
“Next time around, I’m really looking forward to tapping into the lessons that this EP has taught me and being more creative with sounds and arrangements.”
Growing up in Amherst, the son of a jazz fusion guitarist and composer, Hommel said that he was the kid who pretended to be Elvis instead of playing cops and robbers. He started playing guitar at 5, was playing in bands when he was 10 and teamed up with Glier when he was 15 and Glier was 14.
He credits Glier with introducing him to the art of songwriting and to the work of songwriters like Jackson Browne and James Taylor.
“It’s amazing when your best friend is an incredible songwriter and you get to show him all your songs,” said Hommel, who started writing at 17. “I also got so much experience and knowledge from the company we kept on the road, people like Livingston Taylor, Ellis Paul and Ani DiFranco.”
Hommel is not sure when he and Glier will work together again, but he will be doing some touring with other musicians.
“Being on the road is great,” said Hommel. “But what I like most about music is the collaboration and the thing that happens in the studio when you create something because when it’s done, it’s forever.”
He joked that he would like to make his next record in a week, but as he rattles off all his projects, that seems unlikely. While his own music remains his prime focus, Hommel can’t say no when given the chance to work and learn from great musicians; plus, he loves the diversity.
Hommel will start touring with The Sweetback Sisters at the end of May and recently joined Heather Maloney’s touring band. He also finished up producing local singer-songwriter Sandy Baily’s new album, which should be released in early summer.
“I’m currently comparing the schedule of the Sweetback Sisters and Heather Maloney and having a conniption,” he said with a laugh.
Hommel realizes that he is one fortunate musician
“If someone had asked me five years ago what my life would be like, I wouldn’t have been able to predict any of the things that have happened,” he said. “To keep going is a real joy.”
Ticket for the Parlor Room Show are $10 and available at
www.parlorroommusic.com. Seating is general admission.
Greenfield’s Lit’l Bear’s Den also selling StrangeCreek tickets
Last week we provided you with all the information you needed to gear up for the 2013 festival season. Well, it came to our attention that there is one other local outlet we omitted where you can purchase tickets for the StrangeCreek Campout: Lit’l Bear’s Den, 229 Main St., Greenfield. For more information: 413-775-9200.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org