While the grunge music greats like Nirvana and Pearl Jam were gaining popularity in Seattle, one young singer/songwriter in Ladysmith was soaking up the music that was flowing over the border.
“It was pretty hard to ignore what was going on in the mid to late ‘90s with the whole Seattle thing,” said Ryan McMahon, who is one of three musicians headed to The Royal on Sunday night. “I was into Nirvana but really liked Pearl Jam better. It was a little bit more classic rock oriented than punk. That was a little bit more my thing.”
McMahon, who won three Vancouver Island Music Awards in April for his album All Good Things, has gone from rock to folk and is now finding new creativity in his solo acoustic work.
“I’m 32 and I don’t know how many years I can spend my life screaming,” said McMahon about the transition his music has gone through. “Not that that’s what I was solely doing back in the day. But number one, if Ron Sexsmith doesn’t have enough money to pay a band then probably Ryan McMahon who you’ve never heard of probably doesn’t have enough money to pay a band.”
McMahon’s latest album was the result of a risk he took by emailing all of his friends in production.
“But this year I kind of had this ambitious idea that I was still hanging on to the rock and roll notion and wanted to do that stuff as well and essentially be a Western Canadian Sam Roberts the best I could,” he said.
From a blanket email he sent, McMahon received a reply from his long time friend and producer Richard Leighton.
“What I wanted to do is make one mellow record, kind of in the spirit of City and Colour type of thing using mics live off the floor and letting the mistakes kind of stay on the record,” he said.
Over seven days in Leighton’s Lantzville home McMahon recorded All Good Stories.
“All Good Stories is the most honest album I’ve done,” he said. “That’s the first thing I can say for sure. It was the first time that I’d ever let the songs stand by themselves. The whole mantra of that record was what is the least amount of stuff I can do to this record to make it great and just let it stand on its own.”
On Sunday night, McMahon will be sharing the stage with Cory Woodward and Christopher Arruda.
“They are both way bigger than me and they are so funny and talented,” said McMahon. “You don’t always travel with people you admire 100 per cent but these guys I’ve known for a long time particularly Cory Woodward. For my money, he’s the best male singer in Vancouver.”
McMahon compares Woodward to a male Jann Arden where he plays these really heartfelt and sincere songs, but in between he’s as funny as Will Ferrell.
“Christopher Arruda, he was a Peak Performance artist in 2010 and completely entertaining,” he said. “If there are a bunch of influences that I could say are going on this tour I would say it’s like Joe Cocker, Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen are all going on tour together.”
McMahon, Woodward and Arruda play the Royal on Sunday night. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 at Urban Legend and liveattheroyal.com and the door.