Even though he has been making music in one form or another since the time he was three or four years old, Moncton musician Ryan Hillier is all too happy to be taking his career one step at a time.
Ryan, performing at Parkindale Hall tomorrow evening, released his debut EP, Midnight Revelation, this past October. The five-song folk-oriented EP starts off on an upbeat note with “Man About Town” while the remainder of the release is far more reflective in nature. What becomes abundantly clear in listening to the EP is Ryan’s uncanny ability to evoke such stirring moments.
Of course, part of the intimate feel of the bulk of the EP could also be attributed to the fact that he recorded the songs in his bedroom.
“All of the material on Midnight Revelation was recorded over the course of one week in early October in my bedroom,” Ryan says. “I had been performing the EP’s bookend songs for some time but the meat of the record was written, arranged and recorded in the span of one week.”
Asked how he pulled together such a collection of songs in such a relatively short period of time, Ryan says that he revisited some lyrics and writing that he simply had yet to put music to.
“A lot of the lyrics and stream-of-consciousness writings were based around the theme of loss and perception. I went back to my notebooks and starting working the words into melodies – some old and some completely new. The EP is a very honest reflection of my feelings; it is something I am sure comes through in the songs.”
Like many musicians before him, Ryan’s first musical memories revolve around banging on pots and pans. Although he ended up taking piano lessons for approximately one year around the time he turned 10, he says that he wasn’t necessarily grasping the theory behind the instrument.
“I have always been a learn-by-doing type and theory simply seemed too constrictive, even at that age although I didn’t have the presence of mind to understand that. It was in 2007 that I really began to dig in to playing and writing. I bought a 40-year-old electric guitar off Kijiji and started learning all about the instrument. I have yet to a formal guitar lesson, I just watched these guys in town play, watching how they fretted chords and how they played certain songs. Those were my learning experiences,” he says.
Playing for friends might be one thing but playing to a potentially indifferent audience can be another thing altogether. To help hone his writing skills as well as his live show, Ryan spent almost two years as a musical fixture at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge.
“Spending that time at Plan b allowed me to find my feet when it came to performing on stage. It gave me a wonderful support base. The most important thing that I took away from my time there was how to be an effective entertainer. When you are given the opportunity to see a couple of hundred acts in the course of a year, you quickly learn what works on stage and what doesn’t.”
With the East Coast Music Awards taking place in Charlottetown in another couple of months time, Ryan acknowledges that having his EP released is one of many steps in what he hopes will be a fruitful career in music.
He feels buoyed by the support that his music has been shown thus far from all across the Atlantic region, all while maintaining a humble, realistic attitude.
“I had the opportunity to support Midnight Revelations with some great shows through Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick this past fall. I have always found the Maritimes to be very supportive, whether it is music or any other creative endeavours. As Maritimers, I believe that there is a certain kinship that we share that is very old.”
What: Ryan Hillier with David R. Elliot
When: Saturday Feb. 8, 8:00 p.m.
Where: Parkindale Hall, Route 3434, Parkindale
Tickets are $10