The first time I saw Ryan Hamilton he was walking onto the stage at The Union Chapel, October 2013. This was the Bowling for Soup (BFS) farewell tour, and everyone in the audience was not there to see some guy called Ryan Hamilton. Ryan had them enthralled. Between his witty persona, his entertaining music and his great personality, I was hooked! As were a lot of the audience, some of whom I saw at The Cellar this evening.
Ryan Hamilton has been on the music scene longer than a lot of people realise. To quote Ryan, he “got a late start in this business and had success early in (his) career”. His first band Smile Smile had a lot of success in the US and Canada with “Truth on Tape”, a song we were lucky enough to hear Ryan perform on this tour.
Ryan then went on to perform as one half of the super group People on Vacation with Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup. Ryan and Jaret began writing songs together when Smile Smile opened for BFS on a few of their tour dates.
About a year ago Ryan “hit the reset button” and decided he was going to release a solo album, but not only that, he was going to “start over” and get back to the reason he started in this business (“the music”) and thankfully for us he did. The album Hell of a Day is an album I can honestly say is great from start to finish. I cannot pick a favourite song, or a song I like the least. It was such a great experience to interview such a genuine, great guy and see two such contrasting shows.
Hi Ryan, so how is the tour going so far?
The tour is incredible, very sold out packed show followed by 70 people but still feels cool as we are playing smaller rooms. The shows are much smaller but I almost prefer them because the hundred or so people are all really, really excited to be there so you get this audience full of extra enthusiastic but respectful people who listen but erupt after each song but get quiet again.
How does it compare to the house parties last year?
You get the people who have been to those shows so that interaction still seems to be there which was perfect but I have put a lot of ground work into creating that relationship and being able to have that conversation during a show and its translated into these live shows which is great, to be able to do that at a big rock and roll show is pretty cool.
How to you think your ‘sound’ compares to previous connotations of Ryan Hamilton such as Smile Smile (SS) and People on Vacation (POV)?
I think it is better than any of that, I think that the songs are better and I think that the sound is more distinct, you can go ‘this album is this’. SS, even though I am very proud of it, it was kinda, okay sad indie rock which was also kind of country sometimes and also kind of folk and POV as much fun as it is, it’s kind of punk rock sometimes it’s kind of alternative. I worked harder on this solo stuff than anything I’ve ever done before. I put a lot of pressure on myself for it to be better. So I mean that in the most humble way possible, there was more hard work put into it.
How do you think this intimate sized venue is going to compare to the previous venues on this tour?
I think it’s going to be super weird, but I like it when it’s super weird so I’ll probably thrive in the weirdness. I’d never been to the venue but it didn’t feel right to bring the ‘big show’ to this tiny underground venue. We are just going to strip it down and do a storyteller thing with this small place and small crowd.
Last time I played in Oxford was the BFS acoustic tour, we went passed a place called ‘The Odeon’ and I thought that place was the venue but these guys (Michael Richards and Rob Lanethe drummer and bass guitarist with Ryan)said that was a movie theatre!
How do you think it will compare to playing at the Hammersmith Apollo?
I have done some big shows with SS and POV but for me these shows on this tour have been more enjoyable. I don’t know why, I don’t know if it is because I have very obviously gone out of my way to do thinks different, to create these relationships with people and ‘check the ego’. It’s more approachable. This tour feels like it’s more about the music and less about the party! It’s more about the meaning behind the songs and people enjoying what they are listening to instead of just going ‘woooo!’
How have your fans reacted to your solo music?
I know that they feel like this thing is building growing and we are kind of making it happen together. It’s less like they are observing and more like they are helping making it happen so they feel a part of it, which they are. It’s already creeping up on, in record sales, where POV was and maybe it eclipses that, I don’t know, but it’s already giving it a run for its money and I’m proud of POV.
POV is a little bit of the ‘elephant in the room’…
I don’t want people to ever think that it’s like ‘okay forget that, this is what is happening now’ but this is what’s happening now
The UK reception to the album has been fantastic, UK fans love it. What’s it like in the US?
It happens in pockets, so, the critical successes in the US, Mickey and Rob came over and we did in NYC ‘The Outlaw Roadshow’ Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows and Ryan Spalding (popular music blogger and radio DJ), they handpick their favourite new artists so I get shows like that and radio play but then honestly I never know in the US if 200 people are going to come to a show or ten. England is more compact! In the US I could have 12 hours driving between each show.
Is that why you chose to do your first solo tour in the UK?
Yeah and people want us to do one in the US but you have got to be to justify it, I could do well in Texas and Oklahoma then I could go to Kansas and play for three people, it has to make sense, it’s getting there but it’s getting there faster in the United Kingdon.
How do you think fans are reacting to your music versus the music you did with POV?
So you get some POV fans at least half but then you get a lot of new faces which is really cool because as appreciative as I am of that following it’s really rewarding to have new fans who only just heard the music and aren’t kind of going up the ladder, okay, BFS, POV, Ryan Hamilton. It’s a really cool mix, I’ve been surprised.
Have the fans been very supportive of the bad year you have been having?
It’s just been a really bipolar year, its’ been good, bad, up, down, we got it, we don’t got it, but there has been this constant level of support mixed with sprinkles of fake email addresses and idiots, cowards, people like that. I just wish if somebody is going to take the time to insult an artist or somebody who is obviously pouring everything into their craft, music or not, then you know, put a face with the email or have the balls to be like ‘hey this is me and I don’t like you’ haha, because I can speak for myself and my band, especially Mickey, if we have something to say to somebody I think it’s the respectful thing to do to say it to their face, and, you know, I know I’m a good person and I try to be nice to everyone, but I think it is important to be honest and sometimes the truth isn’t positive, if you don’t like something then you don’t like something and that’s okay, that’s what is cool about music. But with all of the support and whatever there is always going to be somebody grumpy. What those people don’t realise is that it strengthens your relationship with your fans. It brings the group of people who support you closer together. It’s giving them a cause. Longest. Answer. Ever! Good Lord!
Can ‘oversharing’ be a bad thing?
If they don’t like it, shut up, who cares, get over yourself, it wasn’t a bad thing, it hasn’t stopped me from oversharing. Arguably it has made me share more!
Is this something which is going to affect your next album?
I think so, I think that there are already 20 new demos. Here are a couple of new song titles which have just dawned on me: “Walking Away”, “Heavy Heart”, “Working Girl” about a prostitute… so yeah I would say it definitely affects that but I have always been very honest when it comes to song writing, I’m no good at making stuff up.
You’ve gone out on your own with ‘Fanny Pack Records’. Is this something you always wanted to do?
No. But whatever. I got fed up of the situation I was in, it was kind like, well, ‘F’ you, I’ll start my own label and called it the greatest record label name of all time!
So that kind of answers ‘why did you start your own record label?’. Things weren’t going how you wanted them to so you went out on your own?
So where do you want it to go?
We just signed one other band called ‘Shiva and the Hazards’, Steve Rosier, based in London, helps run the label and a handful of other people who step in when we need them to. I thinks it’s important to do as much as I can to help the music business. I think it has really gone down a dark path, a very greedy, selfish path, self-involved, ego driven. So if we can, help another band or two every once in a while. It’s still a very family run small business, if we can help some other bands along the way kind of not get lost in the shuffles I’d love to.
And what is the band like that you have signed?
Shiva and the Hazards, sounds like Brian Jonestown Massacre and Oasis had a baby. It’s like weird Oasis. I love Oasis so I was sold. They are from Australia but they are living in the UK right now
What is your planned tour / release schedule? Are you coming back at the end of the year?
Yup, yeah I’m coming back in a few months but I’m not the headliner, I’m the main support and every show will be sold out. And we are doing festivals. I’m just saying, I’m fairly sure every show will be sold out
So you can see yourself doing festivals?
Yeah, I obviously want to do Leeds and Reading, it’s always been a dream, because the first concert DVD that ever blew my mind was Travis live in Glasgow. It’s been like “I have to do that”.
Do you have a favourite song on your album? I can’t pick one,.
I think my favourite recording as far as the finished product goes is “Four Letter Verb” just because it’s so far exceeded anything I thought it was going to be. “Records and Needles” is a close second, such a great idea for the video. The production company, ‘Cosmic Joke’ they’re young, younger, they killed it!
With Jaret (Reddick) focusing on BFS and you very much focusing on this, are you doing anything else with POV in the future?
We all love POV, Jaret is obviously back all in to BFS and there was a time, two years ago when he was very obviously done with it, so as much as I love POV that conversation hasn’t even been had because things are happening here. He went on the last UK tour and it look like they are doing new music and more touring. So it’s just like when people ask about POV, in the most respectful way I want to put a calendar in front of them and say ‘please show me when’, because Jaret’s schedule is just like….it is a conversation which hasn’t been had because everyone is very busy and now my schedule keeps getting crazier and crazier so if we get back to it someday it’s a lot of fun and I’m sure it’d be fun again.
So Mickey (Michael Richards, drummer) which do you prefer? POV or Ryan Hamilton Solo?
Michael: I couldn’t say which is better but I prefer this unit because Rob (Lane, bassist) and I get more of a free rein on stage, we can rock a bit more, we can be more involved, we get to be more gritty, with POV it was more clinical.
Ryan: This feels more like a band to me and POV, even though these guys are part of the band as far as I’m concerned (Michael Richards and Rob Lane), it feels like ‘hey these are some songs Jaret and I are doing, please learn these’, it almost felt like they were session musicians some times.
Photos by Amy Harris-Abbott of CE Photography