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Ryan Davidson Leaves Behind Punk Roots, Keeps the Passion

When I heard an old friend from high school was going to be playing at The Press Club on Monday, I was excited to coordinate an interview and go to the show. I remembered his music as loud, aggressive and admittedly angry. After 10-plus years Ryan Davidson looks the same, but his music has made an astounding transformation. The passion is still there, but it has transformed into a story that you can’t put down.

SE: How long have you been a musician and what instruments do you play?

RD: I’ve been playing music now for about 20 years, but I’d say maybe 10 of those years I might be able to call myself a musician, (he laughs a little). I guess I actually can “play” electric and upright bass (I’m actually more a bass player than anything), guitar, mandolin, and Irish bouzouki. I’ve been working on the fiddle a lot lately though.

SE: What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

RD: Growing up, I actually listened to a lot of classical music, I still do a bit today. The first album I ever owned was actually the Moscow Symphony with Russian men choral singers. I still love that record; very powerful stuff.

SE: Your music has changed quite a bit since I heard it last, how would you say you have you evolved?

RD: Well, when I was playing punk rock it was just that, punk rock; loud, fast, and a bit angry at times. I’ve gotten older and I’m too tired to be angry all the time, but I feel the passion is still there. Instead of pounding on my bass like I used to, I pound on an acoustic guitar and sing my heart out. But, I’ve also come to love and appreciate the subtleties of great, emotional songwriting and storytelling. My love and exposure to traditional Irish music has really instilled that in me.

SE: Yes, loud is the word that comes to mind when I think back on your music 10 plus years ago. To be honest your music seems to be more powerful now, maybe it’s because I can actually hear what you’re saying. Speaking of lyrics, how do you come up with your lyrics?

RD: For me, lyrics are a huge thing. Especially being that I’m a solo artist, I feel the songs need to be lyrically driven. It’s hard for me to make stuff up, so most of my songs are all based on stories about me, or the lives of people I know or have met. I personally enjoy it that way, I get to imagine the people and the places that the songs are about while I sing them.

SE: Who has been your biggest musical influence?

RD: There have been so many influences, but I think the biggest ones have been Joe Strummer, Tom Waits, Andy Irvine, and Billy Joel.

SE: I love when I discover artists who are similar to ones I already love. What artists would Pandora suggest who would be similar to you?

RD: Ummm…maybe Chuck Ragan, Tom Gabel, and maybe Frank Turner.

SE: What is your day job?

RD: I work at a mom & pop hardware store part-time, and the rest of the time I build custom acoustic guitars in my shop. I just started working a bit as an assistant curator at a museum as well.

SE: I love food, so I have to ask, if you were on death row what would be your last meal?

RD: Last meal…hmmmm…something fresh, delicious, and made in my parents kitchen.

SE: So, I know you spend a lot of time traveling for shows, who is currently on your play list?

RD: I’ve always got Joe Strummer and Tom [Waits] in rotation. Been getting into Honey Honey lately. Some Irish/Scottish musicians like Aaron Jones, Hanneke Cassel, Liz Carrol and John Doyle, and Andy Irvine always make me feel completely inferior as a musician, so I love that stuff. And, NWA and Del are always good to get pumped up on the way to work.

SE: If I were to see you on the dance floor what would you say your best dance moves are?

RD: The Peacock. I think I do a pretty good Lawnmower too.

SE: Vodka or whiskey?

RD: Whiskey, Irish on the rocks.

SE: I know you have toured all over the west coast; do you have a favorite venue?

RD: I love intimate venues where you can really engage with the audience. The Kraken in Seattle is always great fun but I did get to play the Great American Music Hall with Chuck Ragan and Dave Haus last April. It was a sold out show, with amazing sound and an amazing crowd. I’d love to play there again.

SE: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?

RD: Miles Peck. He and I have been able to dabble in collaboration over the last 5 years or so but never really gotten to dig into it. He’s in the Swingin’ Utters out of SF, and is on the road a lot, so we don’t have much of an opportunity to do so. I’ve never clicked so strongly with anyone on a musical level than I have with him. I’m really curious as to what we could come up with if given the time.

SE: Everyone has something that they have had to overcome. What has been your biggest obstacle?

RD: My biggest obstacle has definitely been overcoming my leg injuries from the accident I was in at 13. As you know, I was run over and dragged by a semi truck when I was a kid. It’s been a long and hard road, but I’m still here 20 years and 15 surgeries later. I give all the credit for me still being here to my supportive family and friends. But what’s really kept my head clear has been the ability to make music my life.

SE: Hence your high school band “Hit by a Semi.” When you feel like you want to quit, what has kept you going?

RD: There have definitely been times where I wonder why I’m starting all over again at 33, but it all comes down to the fact that I really love doing it. Writing, singing, and performing is a huge release for me, a release I need. I get really grumpy if I don’t sing every day. What gets me most is the reaction and comments I get from fans. Singing a song that means a lot to me, that they enjoy, is one thing…but when people tell me that it touched them in some way and share their similar stories, it’s an amazing and humbling experience; every time It makes me feel like I need to keep going.

SE: It seems you have found your calling but If you couldn’t be a musician, what would you be?

RD: I really don’t know what I’d do otherwise. But I always wanted to work with Bengal tigers and Marine World Africa USA.

SE: I could see you rolling with a tiger. Like I said, I am super excited to see your show on Monday. Why should everyone else come check you out?”

RD: The show is going to be great!! I’ve played with Kevin Seconds (of 7Seconds) a few times before, and he’s always awesome! Alex Dorame is great, and a very passionate singer. And I haven’t heard Ben Dewey yet, but I’ve heard good things. It’s gonna be a great night of passionate songs from a group of passionate performers! Can’t really ask for more than that, I always enjoy playing at the Press, the bartenders are great and have been known to have heavy hands when it comes to a pour, it’s going to be a great night.

For more info on Ryan Davidson, visit his site at ryandavidson.bandcamp.com.

The show details:

WHEN: Monday, October 14th
TIME: 8pm
WHERE: The Press Club
COVER: $5

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