Mama Stone
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Mama Stone

Valdosta, Georgia, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2018

Valdosta, Georgia, United States
Established on Jan, 2018
Band Alternative Neo Soul




"Mama Stone: Local musicians looking to quit their day-jobs"

VALDOSTA — Flipping switches, turning knobs and connecting cords to activate the eight-armed monster that is a T-shirt printing machine, Sam Ward works beside a large industrial oven that toasts his back as it bakes ink into shirts.

“I like to keep a mentality that all of this is temporary,” said Ward as he programs the industrial-sized T-shirt printing machine. “A lot of people have dreams but not a lot of people put in the work that it takes and that’s something we continue to do.”

Ward is the bassist for Mama Stone, a local alternative rock band which formed earlier this year with dreams to quit their day-jobs and make their band their living some time in 2020.  

“My friend once told me, if you’re going to have a plan B you might as well go with plan B,” he said snapping a plate into the arms of the machine before turning to look at me. “Because if you have a plan B, you’re just going to fall back into it, so you might as well go (all out) with one thing.”

That one thing — Plan A — is their passion — Mama Stone.

All three musicians are working temp-jobs without college degrees. Ryland Shipman (drums/vocals) and Bryton Johnson (guitar/vocals) both work at the coffee company Red Owl. The band rehearses three times a week, playing multiple shows a month, and released its first recorded project “Aya” Oct. 5.

Mama Stone formed in January but members came to know one another after a jam session in March 2018. Devon Lynch, a friend of the band and local musician, introduced Johnson and Ward to Shipman. At the time, Shipman was working on a reggae record called “Fix Your Eyes” that he was self-recording in his living room. Lynch asked Johnson and Ward if they’d come and play.

It was Johnson’s first experience with recording and he was nervous. Shipman recalls them spit-balling ideas for two hours about the record — an experience that would lay much of the groundwork for their relationship as bandmates and for the music Mama Stone would create.

Mama Stone has been described as a variety of sounds such as funk, soul, punk, jazz, reggae, rockabilly and who knows what else.


Varied as the sound is, each member brings a variety of influence and personality to the group.

Shipman is the oldest in the group and has the most technical training. He comes from a family of talented vocalists and grew up singing gospel music in his church. According to Shipman, he didn’t inherit that talent from his parents the same as his older brother, so he learned the drums in addition to being a singer.

He started at 8 years old and would perform at church and school in a small town outside Augusta.

In high school, Shipman transitioned from playing at church to gigging with punk bands namely a Ramones cover band called Moral Corruption. Shipman studied music performance with an emphasis in jazz at VSU for a year and a half before dropping out of the program to pave his path to becoming a professional musician.

Much of what he learned there has shaped him as a musician, nearly a decade later.

Music school taught Shipman not just how much practice is necessary to be a good musician but how to practice. He’s the guy making sure rehearsals are happening, full setlists get played, and provides the band with the technical foundation through his coaching.

Johnson, the middle child of Mama, has been playing guitar since he was about 12 years old. He was inspired by a variety of musicians at the time such as Kendrick Lamar and Jack White. He said he started making music because he felt like he wasn’t getting much better at skateboarding.

However, he’s only been performing publicly for a little more than two years. Early on, he was deeply involved in the church, and after high school, he worked for an elections office and then on the Stacey Abrams campaign.

Around the same time he began performing as a musician, his daughter was born. She’s now 2 years old and Johnson is 24. He feels like he’s running out of time. Despite this, Johnson doesn’t take anything too seriously, often cracking self-deprecating jokes.

Ward has a voice as deep as his bass guitar but it hasn’t always been that way. He played bass way back when his voice was higher and his face was less hairy.

He grew up in a conservative home and found himself through alternative culture.

“There used to be a place called Williams Street House and I remember going there at like 13, 14 just going to see these bands,” he recalls.

He remembers moshing and feeling like he was a part of a community that accepted him.

“That time, that community is something that has meant a lot to me," Johnson said. "And the reason why I support it so much now is because I want to see other kids have the experience. What we’re doing is kind of worthless if we’re only trying to do it for ourselves.”

Ward has worked at Arrow Screenprinting Company since he was 16-years-old. He's now 22 and is ready to enter a new stage in his life through hard work and dedication. Some days Ward works 12-hour shifts and then comes in to rehearse with Mama Stone so he can get out one day.


They have only known each other for two years now but their synergy as a band has pushed their music and their productivity. They put this motivation to good work within the local music community as well as supporting local artists.

The Valdosta DIY House, a music venue, has served as a hub for many of these bands.

Mama Stone has performed many times there, once as an opener for an all-local show which is a rarity for the venue. At that time, Mama Stone just had a pedal-board stolen at a show days prior and Ward had to replace a blown-out tire earlier on the day of the show.

None of those troubles matter here. The band members are smiling as they tune their instruments and do a soundcheck. Johnson chats up the venue owner about the song he’s playing over the system. It’s called “High in a Bath” by Surrounder, a Pensacola band slated to play the following show. Johnson encourages the owner, saying, “This time next year, you need to have a licensed venue.”

The band greets people as they walk in the door.

“All right, I need all y’all to come over here,” Ward says waving the audience to the stage.

“There’s no mosh pit happening,” Shipman says smiling from behind his kit.

Johnson lights up and says, “There might be. This is intimate.”

The crowd circles the band and Johnson high fives somebody for moving closer to the stage.

After sorting out a technical issue, Shipman taps his drumsticks together and sets the tempo to launch “Uncle Sam,” a bass-driven song that Ward lays down effortlessly. Ward experiments with the bass line around halfway through the track playing with a slight pause between chords. After nailing the pause twice Shipman and Ward exchange knowing looks with a shooting tongue and cheeky grins. Laughing, Ward almost loses his new rhythmic space in the song.

They both seem to continuously smile on stage. The only reason Johnson doesn’t have the same bright smile as the rest of the band is because he can’t physically form a smile while he’s singing his heart out — mouth wide as it can be.

Before the final song of the 30-minute set, Ward yells out to the crowd, “Aye, y’all get rowdy on this one.”

“I want to see someone get punched,” Johnson shouts without missing a beat.

“Gutshot somebody! Punch ‘em right in the face,” Shipman says. “All right, but for real, don’t kick anybody in the face. That just seems like it would hurt but like a solid fist — it’s totally acceptable. Street rules out here, yo!”

Shipman spins his drumsticks then sets the tempo for Ward and Johnson who usher in their song “Revolt” with the sound of staggering staccato chords.

It is an overall smooth song that starts slow but aims to deceive as it descends into a ravenous chorus that pushes the crowd into a frenzy — fans riot as they shove one another yelling “Yea, Yea!” back at the band. Fans of Mama Stone come anticipating “Revolt” for this experience. Mama gladly delivers the same tightly packaged energy at every show.

That night Mama Stone played a short set without a set list, something the band doesn’t normally do. Even at a show as laid back as this one, the band sounds well-rehearsed and carries itself with little effort.

As Matthew Zagorski, a Valdosta musician and show-goer since the early 2000s put it, “They get better every time I see them. You can tell they actually practice.”

Yeah, they do, at least three times a week.

Zagorski recently returned from a West Coast tour with the band Machinist! and has seen thousands of shows in his lifetime. He notes “People that like them ... love them. Everyone at those shows, songs they haven’t released like they’re singing along. Like, this is crazy.”

Many new artists have entered the Valdosta music ecosystem this year thanks in part to places like the Valdosta DIY House and the efforts of bands who want to foster a collective of supportive artists here.

“I don’t want to say it because everyone does,” Zagorski said. “But they’re actually doing really good things with the Valdosta music scene. Like, I hate it when bands are like, ‘We’re bringing back the scene,” and (Mama Stone) don’t say that, they just actually are.”


The following week at Shipman’s home, I sat in on one of the band’s rehearsals. I had made it there before Johnson had so I took time to observe the space while Ward smoked a Pall Mall 100 and Shipman had an American Spirit. Johnson arrived a few moments later.

“I brought you a gift,” Shipman said before grabbing a guitar case.

Johnson lets out what can only be described as a squeal or perhaps a yelp. A joyous sound nonetheless. It’s a guitar that used to belong to Jordan Ganas, their general manager at Red Owl. Shipman picked it up in the morning for Johnson to demo in case Johnson wanted to buy it. It’s an Airline Bobcat with a golden foil pickup.

Johnson started toying with feedback while Ward and Shipman arranged their set up.

“I heard this song yesterday that if you guys like, I’d like to cover it,” Shipman said as he looked up the Leon Bridges song on his phone. Shipman grabbed a used candle from the table behind his drum set and set it on his snare. Using the candle as an ashtray, he sat down, phone in one hand and cigarette in the other. Shipman played the song over the system as they finish getting ready.

“I guess we’re gonna go through the set, Dalton,” Johnson said.

Shipman grabbed the candle off his snare, put his cigarette out in it, flipped his drumsticks in his hands, then smacked them together and they're off.  

The smoky room shook as the band performs. A lock of Shipman’s dreads lay on his mic as he sang. Ward casually slid on the scuffed wooden floor with no shoes and only socks like it’s "Risky Business."

They live for the funk. Each of them making the same faces and smiles in rehearsal as they do on stage. Johnson likes to lean up on his toes and teeter back and forth. Their rehearsals are just as tight (if not more) than their live shows.

Even after working all day the band will often have rehearsal until about 10 or 11 p.m., only to have to get up the next day and do it all over again. For Shipman and Johnson, that means getting up at 5 a.m. to open Red Owl for business.


Red Owl works to help its employees live their lives beyond the clock.

Jordan Ganas, the general manager of Red Owl, said, “We don’t hire anybody at Red Owl as the only thing they have in their life. And each individual person has their own thing going and we want to give them the freedom to do that.”

Red Owl doesn’t go out of its way to hire musicians or any artists in particular, according to Ganas. However, the company offers flexible schedules and has worked with musicians in the past to give them time off for band tours, shows and other music-related responsibilities.  

“You have your typical coffee shop where you have eccentric employees,” he said. “We want our employees to be happy and comfortable. People can be the most comfortable when they can be themselves so we try to impose as little restrictions as possible while still remaining a professional staple.”

Ganas is a musician himself, playing in a few bands here in Valdosta. He’s also a father entering his mid-30s. He doesn’t have the interest or time to take off to do out-of-town shows nor has the desire of becoming a career musician.

To Johnson, who is only 24 years old, it’s now or never in his eyes.

“I don’t have many marketable skills," he said. "This is near the only thing I’m good at and this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I love music. That’s what's the same between the three of us which I feel like if we were with any other group of people we would’ve died off by now. But all of us want this to happen but we all feel like the clock is ticking.”

MORE INFORMATION: Follow Mama Stone on social media and listen to their latest EP "Aya" on Spotify, Soundcloud and Youtube. The band will perform Oct. 25 at the Valdosta DIY House with The Forum, an indie band from Gainesville. For address, direct message the Valdosta DIY House at or at - Valdosta Daily Times


Still working on that hot first release.



Mama Stone is a progressive funk/ soul band from Valdosta, Ga with rock and alternative inspired guitar riffs, hip-hop beats and catchy vocal melodies. Mama Stone pulls from influences like Jack White, Chance The Rapper, and Daniel Caesar. The result is an energetic experience with driving bass lines and syncopated drum patterns.

Band Members