Memphis native Ryan Peel melds modern pop sensibilities with an old-school soul sound. His original compositions are embedded with vocal stylings worthy of Al Green’s greatest hits, and his drumming skills are evocative of the circa-1960s Stax studio technique made famous by the legendary Al Jackson, Jr. Yet at 23, Peel is no mere revivalist – his songs are punctuated by a modern, urban slant that plays on hip-hop and southern rap.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility to pay homage to my forefathers. I also want to appeal to people my age. I want to be true to those old school Memphis sounds in form, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to songwriting,” says Peel, a second-generation Memphis musician who describes the arc that swoops through the history of his hometown music scene, encompassing B.B. King, Elvis Presley, Isaac Hayes and Justin Timberlake in the process, as a natural progression.
A riveting bandleader, Ryan holds down both percussion and vocal duties, relying on guitarist Alex Kramer and bassist David Parks, both finalists on MTV’s Making His Band, keyboardist Claude Hinds, and a three-piece horn section to round out his group.
“At sixteen, I realized that music is not gonna cheat on me, or get sick of me, and I’m not gonna get sick of music. Music will always be there to comfort me,” Peel muses about his cinematic theory of love. “I’ve been accused of aiming for something that’s too idealistic. If it’s not, I get out quickly. My feeling is, if there’s no singular emotion, what’s the point? I don’t want to settle down with someone who’s fun to spend time with, but nothing more.”
His songs communicate complex emotions, personalities and situations. They recount our desires and disappointments with infectious harmonies and boundless rhythm. Not hard to believe that Peel was once lauded in the pages of GRAMMY Magazine as “a young Adam Levine with a twist of Kanye West.” The honesty of his music has helped Ryan Peel build solid audiences at live performances and an ever growing fan base.
Ryan has also lent a hand on dozens sessions, cutting music for the award-winning documentary film I Am A Man and the MTV series $5 Cover, and held down the drummer’s seat for a plethora of local artists, including rapper Al Kapone, hip-hop group Lord T & Eloise, and American Idol finalist Alexis Grace. The experience has shaped his artistic vision of himself and his sound. Peel has been relentlessly toiling with producer Scott Bomar (the Bo Keys, Hustle and Flow) on his debut album. The pair have been working in Bomar’s analog recording studio Electraphonic in downtown Memphis working for a 2010 release date.
“What makes Memphis music, past and present, so real is that it’s not produced,” Peel says. “You’re hearing what happens in the studio – a real product, not some guy layering instruments with ProTools – and I want to be the epitome of that. I want to give people something really intimate, rather than just singing over a track. Otherwise, where does real stop?”
2008 - Craig Brewer’s MTV $5 Cover webisode
2009 - Susan Marshall’s “It’s Hittin’ Me” (drums)
2009 - Deanie Parker’s “I Am A Man” recorded at Electraphonic with Scott Bomar (drums)
2010 - Good Luck Dark Star’s “Hologram” recorded at Archer Studios (tambourine)
2010 - Alicja Trout's "Hero" (Bonnie Tyler cover) for Craig Brewer's Footloose (2011) soundtrack (drums)
2011 - 7" vinyl release "Even If" on Electraphonic Records
Song by Song Review: Ryan Peel’s The New Memphis Sound
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When discussing Memphis music and the future of the Memphis sound, Ryan Peel has always been on my r...When discussing Memphis music and the future of the Memphis sound, Ryan Peel has always been on my radar. He is a multi-talented individual whose roots are as diverse as the culture of this city. Memphis has always been a melting pot of people and ideas and that is exactly what Ryan brings to the table.
When Rachel sent me The New Memphis Sound for review, my first thought was that the title is such a bold claim. Redefining Memphis is something that has always been met with resistance, primarily because so many people are afraid to change. After listening through Ryan’s collection of songs, I can confidently say that it is a major factor in redefining Memphis music.
The six song collective is a fantastic batch of tunes that has a fresh overall sound, while still retaining a uniqueness from track to track.
“I’m Not Sure” starts off The New Memphis Sound with an ear catching intro that slides into a smooth jam that instantly captures my attention. It has an upbeat feel that has a multitude of influences built into it. Storyteller song writing meets soul and jazz elements in a fresh sound that instantly captivates me.
“Don’t Test Me” is an upbeat track that has a feel good attitude about it. What is hidden underneath the lyrical content, however, is a complex story about one man’s frustration with a relationship that is going nowhere fast. With this realization, the story moves on to say that he is tired of the game and is ready to move on to something else. Lines like “Baby don’t test me, I got options” say something universal about the struggles we all have faced. in relationships.
“Barely Getting By” is a groove oriented song that show cases some of Ryan’s best storytelling. The subject is something that many people can relate to. The daily struggles we all face are at the forefront of this track. With lyrics like, “it ain’t nothing new, I’ll see it through” the listener can tell that he is focused on the good times and is not primarily concerned with the little things.
“What Am I Missing” is an upbeat love song that is reminiscent of many Memphis classics from the Stax era. Ryan shows off his vocal range from the start with an impressive falsetto, while Claude Hinds III gets a chance to show off his keys skills with a great solo.
“Gliding” comes in with a strong vocal that takes its inspiration from hip hop and rap. The groove is upbeat and energetic as Ryan tells a story about his love for a girl and all the elements that drive her. The chorus comes in with a flowing melodic hook that is ethereal in nature.
“Patchwork Quilts” has a very catchy acoustic that drives the intro of the song. The chorus is a desperate cry out that has an intense dynamic to it. Wrapping up the EP, lines like “I’ll come back” hint at things to come in the future. I, for one, can’t wait to hear what Ryan does next.
Jason Gillespie is an up and coming producer/engineer whose work includes critically acclaimed albums and soundtracks including Ruthie Foster’s Grammy nominated album “The Truth According to Ruthie Foster”, Puscifer’s “V is for Vagina”, Wax Fang’s “La La Land” and the Great Debaters soundtrack.
POP MUSICIAN PEEL'S MUSIC PACKS PUNCH
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Just 23 years old, Ryan Peel has been one of Memphis’ most buzzed-about artists in recent years. ...Just 23 years old, Ryan Peel has been one of Memphis’ most buzzed-about artists in recent years.
A multi-talented singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer — his funky pop sound, a missing link between Al Green and Justin Timberlake — regularly packs venues and rooftop parties. The Memphis native’s promise is so evident he has even landed two endorsement deals — one with Yamaha drums and most recently with audio electronics company Bose — all before he has ever released a note of recorded music.
And that’s something that has been a source of worry for him.
“It’s like a weight off of my chest to finally have something done,” says Peel of his years-in-the-making first music release, a two-song vinyl EP that is also available on iTunes and the major streaming services. “Now that I’m finally done with all this and I’ve finally got something to show for all the hard work, I’m really relieved. It’s taken a really long time just to get something out, but that being said, in hindsight I’m glad it happened the way that it did. If I had put out all the stuff that I had when I had it done, I don’t think I would be as proud of it as I am.”
The EP is the result of nearly three years of sporadic recording Peel did with co-producer Scott Bomar (The Bo-Keys), who has released it on his Electraphonic Recording label. The pair recorded as many as 10 songs together over that span with an eye toward developing Peel’s sound and getting him a record deal. But over time, with Peel itching to get something before his fans, they agreed to issue a single.
“We did a production deal, and I was working with him with the idea that what we were doing were demos,” says Bomar. “But the song ‘Even If,’ we all kind of felt that it was strong enough that it was definitely better than a demo so we decided to put that one out.”
Then when Bose chose “Didn’t See It Coming” to showcase on its in-store stereo demos, the flip side of the record was set.
“I think (Bose saw) in him the same thing I saw and a lot of his fans see in him: He’s a genuine pop artist,” says Bomar. “He’s not competing with niche artists. He’s competing with like Drake. He’s competing with the major-label artists.”
Even before he stepped into the studio with Bomar, Peel was on this path. His father is renowned session drummer Harry Peel, and the son still cites his father as his biggest influence.
“Most of my musical influences, if not all, were definitely introduced to me by my dad,” says Peel, adding that his musical education at this dad’s hand was as much theoretical as technical. “It wasn’t like my upbringing was all about him showing me tons of stuff on drums, He showed me stuff for sure and taught me the finer details about the drums. But more importantly, he always talked about how important it was to be more than just a drummer, to be a musician and to be able to listen to other musicians, and how important it was to be a songwriter and own your own publishing and be able to record and all that.”
Peel put those lessons to work early. At Cordova High School, he played drums in a succession of bands until finally, for want of a serviceable vocalist, he took the reins himself.
“The reason I transferred from just playing drums to singing was a lot of the bands I was playing with, the singer was just not carrying their weight,” says Peel of the unique combination of skills that makes him a standout among the city’s bandleaders and gives his performances an extra kinetic punch. “Not only were they not necessarily good singers, they weren’t good front people. There was not anything unique about them.”
Not long after that, Peel began putting the wrapping on the complete package by writing and recording his own material. Through high school and college at the University of Memphis, Peel amassed a massive backlog of self-recorded material. But for all that output, he was still not sure exactly how he wanted to sound. To develop his signature mix of modern pop with and old school R&B feel, he would need the three years of soul searching under the hand of Bomar.
“I’m so glad I didn’t rush something out and then be, not necessarily ashamed of it, but wished I had done something differently,” says Peel, who plans to follow up quickly with another, a self-produced EP in the fall. “I don’t feel like that now. I’m glad its come out that way it has. People may like or may not like it, but I know I’ve done everything I could possibly do to make it the best it could be.”
Ryan Peel Record Release with special guests The Delta Collective
7 p.m. Saturday at Otherlands, 641 S. Cooper. Cover: $7. For more information, call 278-4994 or visit ryanpeelmusic.com.
Ryan Peel Set to Release Debut Single
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Ace Memphis session drummer and neo-soul singer-songwriter Ryan Peel will release his long-awaited d...Ace Memphis session drummer and neo-soul singer-songwriter Ryan Peel will release his long-awaited debut solo recording this week in the form of a 2-song single ("Even If" b/w "Didn't See It Coming") available in both digital and 7" vinyl formats.
The single is being released by local producer/musician Scott Bomar's emerging Electraphonic label, which also issued the most recent albums from home-grown modern soul acts The City Champs and The Bo-Keys. Bomar, who plays bass for The Bo-Keys, also served as the producer for all three projects, including Peel's.
"Scott is very laid back and easy to work with," says Peel. "A lot of his production style is about making sure the vibe is right and that the artist is comfortable. We spent a lot of time joking around and having fun, while still taking the music seriously and trying to get the best takes."
The highly in-demand Peel has performed with everyone from Star & Micey to Al Kapone to Alicja Trout behind the kit, and is scheduled to roll out even more new solo material later this year. But, for now, he's content to launch his new single with a release show this Saturday night at Otherlands.
"I am really excited and relieved to be officially releasing this music because I feel that we got some great sounds and captured a special moment in time," says Peel.
Ryan Peel Record Release Show
w/ The Delta Collective
Saturday, July 30, 7 p.m.
Otherlands Coffee Bar
Sully Erna of Godsmack Helps Launch Rock Tour Kit
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Sully Erna of Godsmack Helps Launch Rock Tour Drum Set at NAMM—Chart-Topping Band Leader Expresses H...Sully Erna of Godsmack Helps Launch Rock Tour Drum Set at NAMM—Chart-Topping Band Leader Expresses His Loyalty to Yamaha—
ANAHEIM, Calif.—With the help of Sully Erna from Godsmack, Yamaha Drums introduced the new Rock Tour drum set at the NAMM musical industry trade show. With its edgy look and aggressive sound, the new lineup offers affordable, high-quality drums with pro features.
The nine-ply Rock Tour kits look as good as they sound, and come in two distinctive finishes: Matte Silver hardware on Matte Metallic and Chrome hardware on Textured Ash.
The kits are designed to be microphone friendly, making it easier for drummers to get a good sound in the studio or on stage. Although they have a musical tone, they can still take the kind of punishment that hard rock drummers dish out.
Photo Credit: Valerie Nerres
Erna, who started his career as a drummer but now fronts Godsmack, exuded personality and charm as he cracked jokes and pounded out a rollicking solo. Erna spoke about his appreciation of Yamaha kits and mentioned the time that he told current Godsmack drummer Shannon Larkin that he had to play Yamaha or else he couldn't join the band. Three of Yamaha's Rock Tour Rebels, Jeff Byrd, Chris Dalley and Ryan Peel, also appeared to introduce the kits. As part of the roll-out for the Rock Tour kits, Yamaha has given sets to several promising young drummers who are actively performing. In turn, they will regularly post videos and other online communications regarding their use and impressions of the kit.
Grooving again: Deanie Parker returns to songwriting
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Grooving again: Deanie Parker returns to songwriting Andria Lisle Special to The Commercial Appea...Grooving again: Deanie Parker returns to songwriting
Special to The Commercial Appeal
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Forty-five years ago last month, a song called "Each Step I Take" was released on Volt Records, an imprint of Memphis' mighty Stax label.
Deanie Parker was the vocalist on "Each Step I Take," which she co-wrote with Steve Cropper. The song missed the Billboard charts, but Parker has never wavered on her life's path.
During Stax's heyday, Parker was a staff songwriter and director of publicity, artists and community relations. She served as a sister hen for many of the male musicians who worked in the family-run organization, started by brother-and-sister team Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton in 1957.
Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal
Deanie Parker has contributed the title song for a documentary about the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike, "I Am A Man," of which she is also executive producer. Drummer Ryan Peel plays on the track, which Scott Bomar (right) produced.
During Stax's glory days, Parker helped write songs and did a wide variety of other jobs there, as well as being a singer on Stax's Volt label.
In the decades between Stax's closing in 1975 and the opening of the 17,000-square-foot Stax Museum of American Soul Music in 2002, Parker worked for a local TV station and Memphis in May, among other jobs.
From Stax Museum's inception until her retirement in late 2007, Parker was the CEO of Soulsville, the parent company behind the facility and a force behind the South Memphis neighborhood's revitalization.
Now, she's moving into the film business, as executive producer of "I Am A Man," a documentary about the 1968 sanitation strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis. The film, for which she also co-wrote a song, airs at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday on WKNO-TV Channel 10.
Comparing the sanitation workers' plight to the four decades Moses spent wandering in the wilderness, Parker says, "They went unnoticed for 40 years, until (Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau vice president) Calvin Taylor decided to recognize them with a ceremony at City Hall last year. Being on the board of the Memphis Tourism Education Foundation, I twisted the MCVB's arm to sit down and do interviews with the surviving sanitation strikers. Afterward, they said, 'What do we do with this?' and so I began working on a proposal for a documentary centered around the story."
She co-wrote the title song.
"Why do something if you can't put your foot into it?" Parker says, her no-nonsense demeanor dissolving with a chuckle.
"Here's the deal: I promised myself that when I retired, I would start writing songs again, so I established some benchmarks, timelines to force myself to begin. I was in the process of putting together a production team and crystallizing the documentary project when I made the bold announcement to the team that I was going to write the title song."
Thanks to her longstanding connections in the industry, Parker had talented friends to call.
She visited Cameron Mann at the Memphis Music Resource Center and producer Ralph Sutton at Studio D to learn how to operate her newfangled digital recorder.
She enlisted Electraphonic Recording producer/engineer Scott Bomar for help recording the song once she had perfected her demo.
And she shared her lyrics with Fred Jones, founder of the Southern Heritage Classic, a friend Parker describes as "a real man, and someone who has the battle scars to prove it."
Earlier this month, Parker cut the song at Bomar's Downtown studio, using a group of musicians that included 21-year-old drummer Ryan Peel and 28-year-old vocalist Devin Crutcher, who were born well after the 1968 sanitation strike.
"When Scott asked who I wanted to do the piece, I said, 'Let's identify some youngsters who are serious about their music and who want to take advantage of an opportunity. Some musicians who want to have fun, and who want to make $5.' These kids just blew my deodorant off!"
Crutcher, co-owner of the Complex nightclub and a contestant on MTV's "Making the Band 4," is a self-described "Stax baby" -- he is the grandson of former staff songwriter Bettye Crutcher, who, with Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson, penned Johnnie Taylor's gargantuan hit "Who's Making Love."
"I've always known Deanie as a friend of my grandmother," he says, admitting that he never expected to share the studio floor with Parker, who plays piano on the song.
For Bomar, the session fulfilled a long-term goal.
"Deanie would never tell anyone she was an artist on Stax/Volt, but her stuff was killer," he says. "I've been threatening her ever since she retired: 'You know you're going to have to get into the music biz again.'"
Jonathan Epstein, director/co-producer of "I Am A Man" and a managing partner at Running Pony Productions, says Parker continually seeks challenges.
"I've known Deanie Parker the administrator, Deanie Parker the marketing woman, and Deanie Parker the fundraiser," he says, "but other than digging through the Stax archives to give her grief on her singing career, I never really knew Deanie Parker the songwriter."
"I Am A Man" co-producer John Hubbell sees the song as an affirmation for the people who survived the sanitation strike.
Hubbell, a recent transplant to Memphis, describes Parker as "a silver bullet, unswerving in course."
Fred Jones confirms that sentiment.
"That's part of why Deanie Parker is Deanie Parker," he says. "She's not going with the prevailing wind. She's going with her heart. She hasn't forgotten about Memphis history, and she's creative enough to put a story like this together, and do it in a first-class way."
On the Web
"I Am A Man" movie web site, iamamanthemovie.com
Memphis Tourism Education Foundation, memphistourismfoundation.org
Old Bridge Media, oldbridgemedia.saguaromedia.net
Scott Bomar/Electraphonic Recording, scottbomar.com
Running Pony Productions, runningpony.com
Stax Museum of American Soul Music, soulsvilleusa.com
Connection-Plug In Memphis
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As the Memphis Music Foundation enters its third year of operations, the not-for-profit organization...As the Memphis Music Foundation enters its third year of operations, the not-for-profit organization has slated perhaps its most ambitious programming schedule to date for 2010. That program kicks off Tuesday, January 26th, at Minglewood Hall with the second installment of the foundation's annual Plug In Memphis: Indie Music Expo.
Plug In Memphis is a free event designed to help connect local musicians to the many music-industry service providers available in the area. It's an extension of the foundation's public workspace, the Memphis Music Resource Center. Plug In Memphis is built around three key components: an exhibit hall with 30 to 40 booths representing all types of industry-related businesses, an "Expert's Lounge" that gives musicians a one-on-one opportunity for networking and career guidance with established industry professionals, and a showcase for emerging independent artists.
According to the foundation's director of development and communications, Pat Mitchell Worley, last year's Plug In Memphis event at the Botanic Garden was such a success that the staff knew immediately that they had struck gold with the idea.
"It was like a big light bulb went off for all us," Mitchell Worley says. "We had over 400 attendees last year, but we only expected about half as many. Attendees discovered all kinds of new businesses, services, and fellow artists they didn't know even existed before."
The showcase component (to be held in Minglewood's new 1884 Club) could prove to be the main attraction this year. Among the scheduled performers are former Hypnotize Minds rapper Lil' Noid, soul/R&B singer Kris Thomas, who is rumored to be in negotiations for a major-label recording deal, and headliner 9th Wonder, a North Carolina-based hip-hop producer and artist who has worked with the likes of Nas, Jay-Z, and Destiny's Child. (9th Wonder also will participate in the "Expert's Lounge," along with local rapper 8Ball and Reen Nalli, manager for India Arie.)
If one detects an urban/hip-hop slant to the event, it's for a reason. According to Mitchell Worley, the membership of the Music Resource Center, which is the "signature program" of the Memphis Music Foundation, is 64 percent African-American, indicating a higher level of member interest in urban genres.
"It's a reflection of the city we live in, but we've also made specific efforts toward engaging an urban demographic," says resource center director Cameron Mann.
Another contributing factor is the lingering perception of a disconnect between the Music Foundation (and, in truth, the local music industry as a whole) and Memphis' fiercely independent underground rock scene.
"It's a continuing process of rebuilding trust," Mitchell Worley says. "They've heard it all before from folks like us, so we just have to keep working and building relationships."
Still, the Music Foundation has had more than its share of positive, attention-grabbing stories of late, including last year's Memphis music presence at the South By Southwest music festival and the recent appointment of former Stax Records president Al Bell as the foundation's chairman of the board. That said, it's the personal attention and specialized consultation with the resource center staff that often is the most impactful for members.
"One of our primary goals is developing constructive personal relationships," Mann says. "There is sort of a 'library' aspect to the center, which has its place and value, but I've seen that the most positive results are born out of a hands-on, proactive, individual approach."
For example, the resource center staff recently helped to engineer a sponsorship deal for solo artist and noted session drummer Ryan Peel with Yamaha to promote their new "Rock Tour Custom" line of drums.
"Absolutely, the Music Foundation contributed directly to the Yamaha deal happening," says Peel, who was recently flown to L.A. by Yamaha to demo the new drums at the unveiling press conference. "But more importantly, when I first came to them, I was basically handling the entire business side of my career by myself. They've helped me make connections and have been there for me to bounce ideas off of."
Local rapper Teflon Don, one of the resource center's most active members, agrees that the eagerness of the staff to step in and help makes the biggest difference.
"It's a family-type atmosphere," Don says. "Whenever I need something or have questions, they are there for me."
After the Plug In Memphis event, the foundation will set its sights on the rest of the year's programming, which includes developing a relationship with the Nashville Songwriter's Association and the famed Nashville venue the Bluebird Cafe to provide a regular showcase opportunity for Memphis songwriters. Programing also includes a partnership with local video-game developer Resolute Games to help local artists create their own applications for the iPhone and Droid smart-phones and continuation of the Memphis Music Foundation's presence at South by Southwest.
"We hope to further engage and connect the local music community," Mitchell Worley says. "Hopefully, the things we do will reflect the things we teach."
There are no upcoming dates at this time.