Bryan Ewald – Artist Spotlight
Name: Bryan Ewald
Instrument: Guitars of all sorts, lap steel, bass, mandolin, vocals. On a lesser note, a bit of keys & drums and a few other odds and ends.
Describe what you do: I have a few of my own bands in addition to being a full time hired gun for live and session work. When my schedule allows I also teach and do some producing & mixing.
Bands you work with on a regular basis: Jarflys (w/ Jimi Haha), Starbelly, Judd & Maggie, Rachael Yamagata, Meg & Bryan, Non-Fiction (a.k.a. majesty twelve), Dan Haas, Doug Segree, Technicolor Motorhome, Shane Gamble, Eric Scott, Greg Phillips Trio…
Who are some of the other artists you have worked with: A few of the others are: Pat Dinizio (the Smithereens), Warren Zanes (the Del Fuegos), The Temptations & Supremes, Bobby Vega (Sly Stone, Tower of Power), Native Run, Dave Tieff, Anthony Setola, Mary Ann Redmond, The Walking Stick, Angie Miller, David Glaser, Kelly Bell Band, Bens Bones, No Pets For Noah…When I last compiled a list of bands I’ve been in or have been hired by (for live or studio work), the list topped 100, and I’m sure I’m missing some.
What else have you done outside of playing music: I have been very fortunate to be able to make a living in such a strange and volatile business. In 2006, I did slow down on gigging to open and a take a job as Music Director for the School of Rock in Baltimore. I did that until 2009. I only stopped once my own kids started school and it had become too much of a conflict with my family time. It was a fantastic experience where I met some amazingly talented kids and families. It was a hard job to quit and I still keep up with them when I can. I’m now involved with the Annapolis School of Rock, but mainly as a parent. I help out when possible and both of my boys are enrolled. I can’t say enough how much I love the School of Rock program.
Best gig ever: Can’t pick one, but a few of my favorites: Esplanade in Singapore with Rachael Yamagata. One of the most amazing sounding, visually stunning venues I’ve ever seen. Playing in front of a few thousand people at a festival is great, but in a venue where you can hear a whisper during the quiet parts of the show is pretty surreal. Rachael’s fans are pretty hard core and she is an amazing performer. It makes you feel lucky to be on the ride. I was also able to take my wife to my gig in Paris with the Temptations over our 7th anniversary. It’s been hard to top that one. Although my favorites are the handful of times one of my boys have joined me on stage to sing. That can make a gig at the Annapolis Mall the biggest deal in the world.
Worst gig ever: Last Spring I played a Cherry Blossom planting ceremony in DC with Rachael. I got home at 2am from our show the night before and had to leave at 4:30am to arrive for a security check, since the first Lady was going to be there. Although not ideal, so far it’s not too terrible. Unfortunately, when I got to the metro I realized I had forgotten my jacket and was only wearing a thin dress shirt. It was an exceptionally cold day for March, 34 degrees to be exact. I arrived in DC, already miserable, I then had to walk 40 minutes to the gig. When I got to security, I was told we had to wait outside while they did a sweep of the area, which took over 2 hours. Not only was it blistering cold, it was right on the bank of the Potomac so there was a constant icy wind gusting. There were moments I thought I might pass out and I was having trouble speaking. Once the area was secure, we walked to the gig site which turned out to be outside in an open air tent. Someone finally found me a suit jacket after about 4 hours, but in total I was out there for from about 5:30 AM until after noon, when the temp peaked in the mid 50′s at best. I am pretty sure I was experiencing the onset of hypothermia. Good times.
What do you think about the current state of the music industry? There are certainly downsides (file sharing, piracy…) but the home / project studio world has never been more amazing. The quality of the affordable recording gear is superb and the ability to record and instantly distribute worldwide from your bedroom is unreal. Former School of Rock Baltimore kids are making EPs and albums that are outstanding. (Check out: drewsif stalin, dane filipczak, Perks, Flag Day, the Euphorics, Blackpool Holiday, Evan Cooper & the Alckemists). My 11 year old is making amazing music with Garageband on his iTouch. I have recorded guitar on records for people I have never met all over the country. It’s a crazy time for music, but even with all the unpredictability, it’s equally exciting. However, I do look forward to the “benchmark” listening environment being elevated from MP3 and earbuds.
Was there a specific gig that changed your trajectory as a musician? I would say my first real paying “hired gun” gig when I was 18. When I was young I was obsessed with fast and technically challenging guitar. I’m embarrassed to say that songs were basically a vehicle for guitar solos to me. I started teaching guitar at a local music store while still in High School. I thought I had it all figured out. Someone at the store passed my name along to a band (a very successful regional reggae band called Mama Jama) looking for a last minute guitar sub. So I showed up with my Ibanez 7 string planning on showing everybody all my tricks and two hand tapping my way into stardom. I must have been so nervous that I just played the songs, which I barely knew, as simply as possible. In turn, I found out how satisfying it was to lock into a groove with a solid band. I then started getting calls for pickup work, likely because I didn’t shred all over the place. Although there is a time and a place for that, I learned early on that playing amazing solos will get you very few gigs if you can’t play even better rhythm guitar. The real magic is in locking with the other musicians.
Craziest gig ever: I was flown to LA for a 3 day trip just to play one 3 minute and 20 second song at the HMMA awards.
Favorite local place to play: Depends on the type of gig. In Annapolis, Meg and I have been playing every Wednesday (unless out of town) at Heroes Pub for 16 years. It’s like a second home. The Metropolitan Lounge is a great room for original music. Nice vibe and a great sounding room. In Baltimore, the it’s the 8×10 with out a doubt.
Best local concert you have been to in the recent past: The Jimmie’s Chicken Shack 20 year reunion show last weekend was fantastic. But nothing tops seeing my 10 year old crush it on drums at a School Of Rock tribute to Dave Grohl a few weeks ago.
Biggest Musical Influences: I won’t list my favorite songwriters / performers as the list would be out of control. For guitarists: A very generalized and incomplete list of a couple of my favorites: rhythm players are Jimmy Page and Hendrix. Jeff Beck and Eric Johnson are 2 of my all time heroes. And I’d love to play slide like a perfect mix of Derek Trucks, David Lindley and George Harrison.
Latest song/artist you heard that blew you away? Blake Mills album “Break Mirrors” has had more than it’s fair share of plays.
Favorite local CD: There are a bunch. Absolutely anything from Judd and Maggie. Dan Haas’ “Goodbye Moon” is way up there. The new Higher Hands is a must have. I’m also looking forward to the new Carousel Rouges stuff.
What gear do you use: I have a pretty massive collection of instruments and amps. Lately I have fallen in love with a PRS Starla. I’ve had a terrific working relationship with PRS for quite some time, even when I still gravitated to my comfort zone of Strats and Teles as my “guitar for all occasions”. The Starla works on so many levels for me, I can bring it to any gig, which can vary greatly for me. It really has it’s own personality. I haven’t been this smitten with a guitar in a long time. They are finishing up a new amp for me which I am really looking forward to. Another favorite is a low watt recording amp I have from Jeff Bober’s East amplification. I have used that on so many recording projects. And the Barber Electronics pedals have been my primary overdrives for nearly 20 years. We are very fortunate to have some of the best designers and builders around right here in our backyard.
Hobbies that are not music related? Hanging out with my kids. I really love photography and video editing but I’m already past my limit on expensive hobbies.
Any big upcoming gigs? In March I’m heading to Connecticut for a filming of a Comcast on Demand concert. I’ll be playing guitar with some amazing artists like Roberta Flack, Stephen Bishop, Yvonne Elliman, David Cassidy, Jim Brickman among others.
Plans for 2013? Much of the same, tons of local gigs with quick trips to NY, Nashville and LA here and there. Perhaps a short tour or two. I have a lot of studio work, both playing & producing, in the queue. I hope to have more time for recording projects this year. I do want to record an EP of my own stuff at some point in addition to putting together a series of online lesson videos to go with a book I started writing years ago. We shall see.