To stand on stage with a voice to cut through and charm the crowd takes a strong musician. To do the same during a four hour period requires one with an extraordinary backbone. It is this fearlessness that drives guitarist Joe Ryan to play. Tiny bars, baseball stadiums, weddings and midsize opening gigs — no venue is without its potential. Though primarily based in Great Falls, Montana, Ryan has performed across the Northwest since 2008.
“I’ve played a quiet bar, then a loud lodge with kids dancing around me, then a dance club, followed by an Irish pub, all in three days,” he says. “When I’m on stage, I think it’s obvious to everyone that I love to play.”
Ryan’s shows are a bare bones setup — he uses only a guitar and good sound equipment — and they have a mix of covers and original material. Influenced by musicians like Bob Schneider, Martin Sexton and Ben Harper, he sings of love, loneliness, and the desire for an eventual happy life. “It’s music to make your beer taste better,” he adds. In the past, he’s also hosted open mic nights, performed stand-up, and produced his own online radio show.
Folk, rock, blues, even Celtic and hip-hop — if the music speaks to Joe Ryan, he will find a way to make it his own. Despite his wide-ranging interests and performing capabilities, he retains a simplicity to his songs. While listening to them, one feels they are satisfying and necessary for a good time. “It’s just me, a handful of chords, and a bit of truth,” he says.