Songs for Ryan Montbleau typically need to simmer. In his 10-year career this gifted singer and his limber band have built their catalog the old-fashioned way, by introducing new songs to their live set, then bending and shaping them over dozens of performances before committing a definitive version to the hard drive.
“Sometimes I feel like there are so many songs — who the hell needs another song?” Montbleau asks. But then he’ll discover another new inspiration — sitting at the kitchen table sipping tea, there’s a vinyl copy of an old Billy Preston album propped on the windowsill behind him — and another lyric or melody will come to him like a visitation. And when the song becomes a reality, and the crowds begin to sing it back to him, well, that’s what it’s all about.
At 34, he’s a late-bloomer who’s right on time. Montbleau didn’t start singing and playing guitar in earnest until he was in college, at Villanova. Later, working at the House of Blues in Boston, he began playing solo sets there as a warmup act. His band — there’s now six of them — came together naturally, over time, planting strong roots in coffeeshops, folk venues and rock clubs before converting audiences on an outdoor festival circuit that now stretches across the country. Through word of mouth and repeat visits, the band has built a devoted following from the Northeast to Chicago, Seattle and Austin. “It’s like watching the grass grow,” says the easygoing Montbleau.