Hamilton’s Rock and Country Magazine Interview
- It’s refreshing that you’re so passionate about human connection. Music definitely brings people together. How did you get your start? What’s the story behind Ryan McMahon?
- A) From an early age, I found the power of connection through performing, whether it was singing onstage in my first high school rock bands or holding court telling jokes and doing impressions around a table. If I’m honest, I’ve always sought out what I originally thought was attention, but now recognize it as connection. I love moving another human being toward happiness and laughter or inspiring them to dance. It is a high I’ve chased my whole life.
Once I turned about 18 or 19, I had no doubts that a career in music was to be a major part of my life. I moved from Ladysmith on Vancouver Island where I grew up, to Vancouver and started making connections there with as many folks as I could. I tried to be a sponge and just glean all the information I could from musicians, producers, and promoters. I started touring in my early twenties and quickly learned how expansive Canada is. There is a lot of travel involved when the cities and towns are so far apart. Looking back on the past two decades, I shake my head and wonder how I’m still here doing this sometimes. The connections and friendships that we’re talking about, that’s the very best thing about this job. It is what has kept me “coming back to the well” over and over again.
- As a singer/songwriter with over 20 years’ experience, what has been the most challenging song to write and why? How did you overcome the challenge?
- A) The most challenging songs for me are the ones that are forced and aren’t being written for the right reasons. In my experience, whenever I’ve sat down to write a song or a story that I think either audiences or the industry might want to hear, it just doesn’t work. I must believe in what I’m doing, and it must come from a place of authenticity. When I realized that it all had to come from the head and the heart, I believe my writing became more relatable to the listener.
- What’s the inspiration behind your new release “One More Fire”?
- A) I’ve been on the periphery of a lot of genres and circles in the Canadian music landscape. Even though I haven’t always been invited to the party, I had always known of a ‘secret entrance around back’ that has allowed me to continue. While that road hasn’t always been easy, it’s kept me going. After a few good years in my old folk rock band Lion Bear Fox, I was just re-starting a solo career with my new band and felt liberated and strong onstage. We were playing small theatres and I was recording new music when the pandemic hit and took hold and, like a lot of people, I really lost my stride. I became apathetic and on some days, felt like my time in music might be coming to an end. That is when my friend Aaron Pritchett suggested jumping into the studio to record a single with a new team and a new mindset. We were looking for an up-tempo song that could also serve as inspiration during dark times, and I ended up using that impetus to lift myself out of my own doldrums. At first listen, “One More Fire” might seem like a skippy little number and some of the poppiest writing I’ve ever done, but I’m happy to say it’s also some of the most direct and important lyrics I have in my twenty-year catalogue. It is about choosing happiness now and making every day here on Earth count. It is a refrain that I’m glad I’ll get to repeat every night onstage for the rest of my career.
- You’ve already been on tour for a few weeks now, how are you finding being back on stage again? Is there a city you look forward to visiting the most?
- A) My March tour was an absolutely joy-fest. There were great moments in every town and on every stage, but catching up with long-time friends and fans in places like Red Deer, Penticton and Calgary meant a lot to me after the layoff. I’m a bit of a foodie, so while I don’t necessarily hold certain cities above another, I always remember where the great restaurants are. MEAT in Edmonton – it’s really called that – and the Hooded Merganser in Penticton are a couple of doozies.
- If you could tour with any artist who would it be and why?
- A) Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. To be able to watch that guy, his super-tight band and crew go to work onstage every night would be a dream. I would appreciate being on tour with anyone who is a great communicator, particularly in between songs. Growing up watching and opening for people like Tom Wilson, Buffy Ste. Marie and Shaun Verreault of Wide Mouth Mason have taught me a great appreciation for the art of setting up a song for the audience. Anybody who does that well, I hold in high regard.
- Aside from music, what other passions do you have?
A). Really chill-out kinda stuff! Paddle boarding, Italian cooking, hiking, baseball, sun-worshipping and anything that brings me peace in between tours, recording, fatherhood and husbandry.
- How has the past 2 years impacted you as a musician? What are your biggest takeaways as we start to slowly get back to “normal”?
- A) The biggest takeaway for me is to never take any show or experience in this life for granted ever again. There was a time that I’d let a bad show, or an off night get to me, and that time has passed. Any day getting to sing my songs to any audience on the right side of the dirt is a good day.
- What can fans expect from you for the remainder of 2022?
- A) Once “One More Fire” is out at the end of April, we’ve got a couple more singles coming out behind it, followed by the album (also to be called “One More Fire”). There’s some festival dates and we’re in the midst of putting together and more Canadian touring for the fall and winter as well. Keep checking back to the socials and website, as the tour will be announced mid-May for the fall. It’s a busy time and that is a good thing!
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/ryan-mcmahon/278505342