Ryan Monroe

Music Features Ryan Monroe
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“They always say it takes your whole life to make your first record and three months to write your second. I’m glad I got this one out of the way.”

Ryan Monroe’s certainly been able to paint a new picture of his life with a record that has taken him nearly a decade to put together. The Band of Horses multi-instrumentalist is readying his first solo record, A Painting of a Painting on Fire. With a release date of June 12, Monroe’s time to shine has come. His music is something in the middle of pop, rock and a lot of jamming; with looped tracks and hints of something reminiscent of Queen and The Beatles, it’s obvious that classic rock and experimental music have highly influenced the songwriting on this record. Monroe is no stranger to songwriting, as the Mississippi-born musician always knew that’s what he wanted to do. Struggling to make it as a musician throughout his 20s didn’t make him change his mind.

In between touring and playing shows, Monroe has been able to push out a lot of material over the years. He credits most of his influences to the members of Band of Horses and all of the musicians he’s jammed with over the years. On his record, you can hear Tyler Ramsey, Bill Reynolds and Ben Bridwell. It’s no surprise, since the guys have played together for five years. With the experimental nature of his upcoming work, it’s obvious how their influences have fit into this work. Monroe brings more of his personality to his solo work and uses a breakfast analogy when comparing that to being a part of Band of Horses.

“Let’s just say Band of Horses was an omelet,” he says. “There are the peppers, the meat and the egg, and there are spices. I’m like the mushrooms. There are just a bunch of mushrooms. Does that make any sense? Basically, what I bring to Band of Horses is just magnified and with a lot of experimental stuff going on.”

Over the course of a decade, Monroe has created about 120-140 songs. Band of Horses’ tour manager, Rick Marino, introduced Monroe to producer Chris Testa (Dixie Chicks, Jimmy Eat World) and his own musical baby came into existence. The two bonded over their love for Los Lobos and hit it off. After going through the laborious duty of cutting the songs down, Testa happened to choose the most meaningful songs that Monroe had written for the album. It seemed to work out perfectly for Monroe, who had even sent some rap songs to Testa.

“Chris [Testa] was like, ‘we’ll make a crazy record next time. The next record might be a little more out there,’” he says.

It’s a bit shocking that Monroe hasn’t put together a record before now, but his own music has always been a hobby for him. Rather, he’s always seen Band of Horses as his main priority. The band just finished recording its fourth studio album, which will be released in September. He took it as a challenge to play every instrument on the album until he had to call his friends to help him. Monroe was all about trying everything out at least once.

“A Painting of a Painting on Fire” was one of the first songs he had ever written. The clarity of the line made it easy for him to write a song around it. The track, about a friend of Monroe’s with a substance abuse problem, was a turning point in his life.

“[My friend] is such an interesting, joyful person to be around without the booze and everything,” Monroe explains. “He was great when he was drunk too, but I guess that makes sense because he’s multi-layered. It’s really hard to explain.”

Each song on Monroe’s record is a separate story. For him, this journey has been the “never-ending search for the perfect song.” Although some songs would have made more sense together on the album, it was only because they were written around the same time and had relatively the same style. This record had no lyrical themes, but rather, a bunch of Monroe’s favorite sentences put together. It didn’t matter to him, because the lyrics were just plain honest.

“It seems like I should have made a record come out a long time ago, but I wouldn’t have had so many songs sneak up on me,” he says. “So, I think I’ll be playing catch-up once this first one comes out: just firing out a bunch of records.”