An Interview with The Rye Brothers.
Interviewed by Joseph Timmons: IndiePulse Magazine
The Rye Brothers, considered a “power-pop” rock / country act, mixing contemporary country music and rock n’ roll guitar-driven songs. In my opinion are the next level of the American Standard, the image of the Western Country Artist, blended with the Modern Artist and Storyteller. The group is led by Paul Justin & Justin Foutz, who trade off on the lead vocals and guitar licks. Paul and Justin formed Rye Brothers in the summer of 2015 and quickly added a solid rhythm section consisting of Michael Gunn on bass, backing vocals and Jeff Sorenson on drums and backing vocals, to round out this Southern California-based “power-pop” quartet.
I find the idea of these “good old boys” being from California as opposed from a small town just outside Abilene Texas, fresh from a cattle run. California seems too small for them, too shallow and self-absorbed, whereas The Rye Brothers have a depth and strength to their music, humbleness and an honesty that preserves their image and amplifies their sound.
The Rye Brothers’ love for rock ‘n’ roll led them to keep it simple and pure: two guitars, bass and drums. They have been raising cane in the honky tonks, bars, casinos and concert halls of California, Arizona, and Nevada and have earned a reputation as a high-energy, kick-a$$ “power-pop” original country band. As a result, they were asked to open for Dustin Lynch, Eric Paslay and Kevin Fowler.
The band recently went into the recording studio and recorded a self-titled twelve-song demo utilizing Tim Hutton as Producer. Tim also played guitar, backing vocals and keyboards. Once all the tracks were recorded, they brought in Marc DeSito to mix & master the tracks. DeSito has engineered and mixed Grammy-nominated & winning artists including U2, Don Henley, Dwight Yoakam, Robbie Robertson, Buddy Guy & many more.
At first listen you can hear the rock n’ roll influences of early Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Cheap Trick, and Sweet, while also pulling from modern country rockers like Eric Church, Justin Moore, Randy Houser and Dwight Yoakam. “Sixteen” is a rocking pop number about the innocence & reckless abandon of being a teen with an infectious guitar hook and anthem backing vocals. “Baby I” is a power-pop ballad with country overtones that builds to a classic rock guitar solo reminiscent of “lighter’s in the air” moments of arena-rock anthems. Truly, who doesn’t love a good guitar solo! “Guitar with A Missing String” is a classic country love song with clever lyrics and catchy guitar hooks, with Justin’s guitar playing sounding like a hybrid of Elliot Easton, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban.
Rye Brothers are a complete package and ready to blow out your speakers, rock your soul and make you forget about the daily grind. Go ahead and give them a listen, you might find yourself singing the songs long after you turned off the stereo, walk out to the wagon, and ride off the to the trail.
I had a great opportunity to talk with The Rye Brothers about their lives in music, their dreams, goals and ambitions. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the boys are now not only everything that I have just envisioned to you, but more. Dedicated to their art, their music, their dreams, and their dreams are coming true. Read on and see why The Rye Brothers are the real deal.
IPM: The Rye Brothers has been said to be, by the press, as a “pop-country” band, but from what I’ve heard you are much more than that. How would you like to be described, not as a band, but as artists?
PJ: I think describing us as artists is absolutely more accurate than defining us by a genre. We are artists, singers, musicians, and songwriters. Like many others we write our own music and lyrics. We try not to define what we write as a particular genre but the way we write does tend to be more country-pop-rock.
JS: As Artists, our sound is a melting pot of many genres including the obvious, Country of course but there is a lot of Rock, Blues, and even Punk influence in our music. Today there are many sub genres that influence Country music today such as Rock, Pop, Jazz and now even Punk. We are extremely talented players, again well versed in different styles. Our music has the ’Americana’ foundation of Country but the music that backs it has evolved opening up us up to a much wider audience.
IPM: The Country / Western Music scene is one of the most demanding, since country music “represents” the man of the earth, the type of person that works hard and plays harder, what do you put in the music creation process, and as a group of artists, how would you say you have honed your sound to be not only truly original, but as “earthy” and “American” as it does?
PJ: We’re really just small town kids that moved to the big city. We grew up listening to and playing a wide variety of music so we really do have a unique perspective. I am from Hawthorne, Nevada, nicknamed “America’s Patriotic Home”, surrounded by 220 square miles of ammunition storage. My graduating class was 62. Justin Foutz is from Brownsburg, Indiana, AKA the heartland. Jeff Sorenson is from Sturtevant, Wisconsin, a Midwest small town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Michael Gunn is the only guy that comes from the big city. When you put all of that together, we all have a very similar upbringing, just very different geography! It really does add something we think is pretty cool to our writing and our music. As far as honing our sound, I think that has come from the many years that we have played together and we know each other pretty well now. We almost sense what’s going to happen without thinking about it too much.
IPM: The Country music fan and enthusiast is one of the most critical, not just anyone can get up on the stage in a saloon or tavern and get the ground moving, but you have that gift, that energy to whip up the dance floor, it can’t be as easy as just hitting the right chord?
PJ: When we perform we really just have to put it all out there and give the crowd what we’ve got to give. So far that’s working and I think it will continue to; we are a really tight band and we don’t suck! Another part of the equation is having great songs that people can relate to and a feel that make them want to get up and dance. Let’s face it, if you can’t produce a sound that gets their feet moving, they’re gonna just there and drink or walk out!
JS: Communication with the audience is the key, the goal is to have fun and we want to insure that our audience is having fun as well. We are an extremely tight group that focuses heavily on the details. We want the listener to walk away with a positive happy experience, singing the melodies and hooks of our songs wanting more.
IPM: You have a diverse style; no two songs sound the same, yet have the same telltale mark of being not only a great song but being a high powered piece of music. Listening to the track “Baby” there is a smooth and heartwarming texture, where “Sixteen” just belts it out and you just want to hit the street! The diversity of your music is inspiring, how do you feel you can make such an expansive leap from ballad to Anthem without losing originality?
PJ: First of all thank your kind words, we really appreciate that! I think the only way to be is to be yourself, Write about what you know and feel how you feel. If you do that, then you are always going to be authentic. That’s really what counts because people can tell when you’re bringing emotion to your song, whether that’s a barn burner or a sappy love song.
JS: We write based on actual real life situations and observations. With our wide range, the challenge becomes delivering the song with emotion, dynamics and most importantly, authenticity.
IPM: Have you always performed in the Country Music arena, or have you tried other styles?
PJ: I’ve played some 80’s rock and was in a band that played the Sunset Strip in the mid 90’s. Justin has done a lot of the same but also adds blues and 90’s rock to that mix. Jeff Sorenson has played blues, Texas swing, rock, pop, jazz, and Michael Gunn has his roots in R&B. We’ve all dabbled in other styles but the music we write together is really where we feel at home.
IPM: What are your Influences and what part to they play in the Music creative process for the Rye Brothers?
PJ: I think we’ve been influenced by such a large number of artists that it’s really hard to list all of those influences but I’ll list a few. Outlaw country, Stevie Ray Vaughn, George Strait, Mellencamp, The Beatles, etc. I think those influences certainly come into play in how a song gets shaped. We draw from the music we’ve liked but it’s also hard to nail down exactly how that happens. I think the best way to put it into words is that our influences do just that, influence the way we write.
MG: Personally, I am bringing all of my rock influences to the table since that is where I really became excited about music. I love what Keith Urban and Eric Church do with their music, especially live. My goal is to incorporate those strong hooks with really exciting musicianship since all of these guys are wonderful players. They deserve as much attention as the songs themselves.
IPM: Have you ever played at a Venue and felt it was just a rough crowd and had to make set modifications, I ask this because your sound seems to lend itself to being able to be loved by anyone anywhere, whether it’s the avid country fan or a rock and roll lover, your music can easily be loved by all, but have you had that “one time” you wondered what the room would think?
PJ: If the dance floor isn’t hopping, you have to figure out how to make it. We’ve had our share of experiences where we’ve had to make adjustments and have felt that pressure to fix it when we know people aren’t responding well, but we’ve got that pretty well figured out now. We’ve got a pretty good formula for keeping people happy.
IPM: What was your best performance and why?
PJ: I think there are many times that we’ve felt we had fantastic performances. My personal favorite though was Shipkicker in 2015. It was an all-original show and we were all just so energized by the crowd and we really felt like we kicked serious a$$!
IPM: What was your worst venue memory and why?
PJ: We’ve been fired from one venue and it was for something really minor. No one likes to get fired and I think that’s probably our worst memory.
IPM: What other Artists have you shared the stage with, have you very opened or performed with one of your inspirations or a living country legend?
PJ: We’ve opened for Eric Paslay, Dustin Lynch, Kevin Fowler, and several others. We are also opening for Colt Ford in October this year. Justin Foutz played with Mellencamp when he was 12. We haven’t shared the stage with any one that we would say was legendary…….yet!
IPM: What would you like the Rye Brothers to be remembered for, what would you want your legacy to say about your music and about the group?
PJ: Besides a thirst for good whiskey? We’d like to be known for great songs, great lyrics, great shows, and our great attitudes and personalities! We really love what we do and we would hope that our fans would love us for the same things.
JS: Authentic original sound that’s stands up by itself.
IPM: I really just can’t refer to The Rye Brothers as “A Band” you are just so much more, not to gush, but your group is composed of great talent, it must have been an incredible journey to form your collective to get the award winning sound, yet make it seem like just another Saturday night, what was it like to get together and what would you say is the secret to your musical and the obvious bond you share?
PJ: I think the best way to describe it is that there is just something intangible about the way that we write and perform together. There is an element of surprise even for us. When we finished tracking vocals on three of our songs and listened to them on the way home, there was a sense of elation and pride, like we knew that we were making something special. Then again it might just be the whiskey!
JS: Love our original tunes and the musical chemistry with everyone. Everyone adds something very unique and special. It’s not always easy with such diverse talent, players hear things differently sometimes but for us what’s keeps us grounded moving forward is our communication.
IPM: What are some of the upcoming events and possible album releases we could look forward to from The Rye Brothers?
PJ: We just finished a show at the Viper Room in LA and we shot video of the entire set. We’ll be posting songs from that shoot in the coming weeks. We’re also working on some really cool shows with headliners and we’re opening for Colt Ford at M15 in Corona in October.
IPM: Who would you want to do a duet with? Name a female country artist you would like to do a romantic love song or ballad with and a Male artist you would like to perform a classic drinking song with?
PJ: There are so many talented female singers out there. It’s really tough, so I’ll have to say Miranda Lambert or Kacey Musgraves. Drinking songs are a lot of fun! I would have to say Merle Haggard, though unfortunately we won’t get that chance.
IPM: Many artists endure the “Play Free-bird” guy, has that ever happened, and to that question, have you ever covered “Rawhide” or “Ghost Riders in The Sky” as a “just in case you do” move?
PJ: Those are what we call $1000 songs! We don’t do them, we usually have something else to satisfy them or on occasion, I’ll just sing the first line of the song and say “there’s Freebird!” We try to satisfy people requests, but you just can’t play everything.
JS: Ha-ha, Yeah happens WAY too often! I’m going to suggest to the band that we create a medley called, ‘Stairway to Free-Bird.’
IPM: If you had to “Hang your Hat” tomorrow, give up the guitar, the stage and do the 9 to 5,what would you say about your careers as a musical group, as individual artists and as country artists? How would you describe your accomplishments?
PJ: If I had to hang it up now, I’d be disappointed because there’s a lot left to do as a band and an artist. There are so much more success to be had and songs to write and people to meet. As far as accomplishments, we’ve done some cool shows, we wrote some great songs, and we’ve had a lot of fun. We’ve tasted success that some don’t get to, and we’ve felt the sting of rejection as well.
JS: Would be disappointed with so much in front of us, as individuals and as a group. But, if that were the case, I always focus on giving my absolute best putting my heart into each and every performance not matter how big or small. Authenticity.
Ending the conversation with “Authenticity” was a brilliant way to finalize the thought, because as an artist, as a musician, as the embodiment of legend and Lore, you walk tall with big strides and an impressive gate, you look strong and move quickly, you get the first draw…. But, you speak with eloquence and honesty and a manner befitting a true gentleman.
Chivalry is not dead readers, its out on the plains, bringing the cattle home, singing a song as the sun sets behind em’.
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