Today, I am with Brian Ripps – singer, guitarist and composer.
Lady Obscure: Hey Brian! Could you tell me about how it all started?
Brian Ripps: I began my full time musical career roughly 4.5 years ago. At the time I was waiting tables and bar tending at two different restaurants. I had been filling in with a couple of bands playing guitar and singing backup vocals at their local gigs. Over time I discovered that there was a realistic outlet for my own voice to be expressed and began seeking gigs on my own. I picked up a bit of traction doing so and started taking less shifts at both restaurants. Over time the balance shifted to a point where I was playing more often than I was waiting/bartending and I made moves to continue with that trend. With the help of my older brother acting as a manager/FOH supervisor we began gigging on a full time basis while working diligently to keep the calendar full as far in advance as possible.
Lady: So, you are composing and performing acoustic rock – what does Rock mean to you?
Brian: While the genre of this record would best be described as acoustic-rock or what some would call singer/songwriter-rock, I try my best to steer clear of strict genre delineations. I am very much inspired by my ability to be one guy with a guitar on stage singing songs, telling stories and making my voice heard but at the same time have enjoyed being the front man of a larger band at points in the past. My main focus is writing great songs and connecting with people through song. I don’t know what you’d call that genre exactly!
Lady: How did the initial musical and thematic elements evolve once you started composing?
Brian: I make every attempt to write my life as it happens. As my life evolves and changes, so does my music and my songwriting. I find myself wanting to convey certain ideals, elements of my personality and truths about the world as I observe it. Of course while many things change, many things stay the same so it’s nice to have the opportunity to express some ever shifting opinions and points of view juxtaposed with the static of who I am as a person.
Lady: Are you happy with your record? I mean, what aspect of it do you
think you nailed, and what parts do you think you could improve
Brian: I am thrilled with this record. I think it displays a side of me that I have come to be very comfortable with and at home in. I think that the overall production was intended to be sparse and to paint a picture of a songwriting guitar player in a room with some microphones playing through his songs – and that’s what I did. I wanted to steer clear of too many bells and whistles and make sure that the raw reality of the music came through above all. I believe that there is always room to improve and like to think that my best work is still ahead of me – but on the whole I’d say that with this record I produced exactly what I sought out to accomplish.
Lady: How has the overall reception been?
Brian: So far so good! One of the great things about gigging so consistently (300 nights a year) is that I have an ongoing forum available to me to test my new songs, see the reactions, find out what needs to be tweaked and what can stay the same. If I so choose I can even play the same song twice in a night and sometimes to a room full of people that has changed over two or three times over the course of the hours I’ve been playing. I think that people get to see/hear a side of me that they were pretty sure was in there but hadn’t quite heard personified and I’m glad to have been able to present them with that.
Lady: Are you going to be more involved in performing live? International tours perhaps?
Brian: I would love to take my show further afield. Since the summer of 2007 I’ve been playing close to 300 gigs a year throughout the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland/DC area. I would love to see the rest of the US and ultimately the rest of the world. I suppose we will see what kind of legs this record has and what sort of prospect for taking the show on the road further away from home there is.
Lady: What do you see for your future?
Brian: I see a lot more music, a lot more writing and recording and hopefully a lot more hugs from people that found some refuge or solace in my music.
Lady: So it is looking bright!
Brian: It’s always looking bright. Staying on top of myself to make sure that there’s a gig to play *TONIGHT* and people to entertain is the main focus of my career and I hope it remains so going forward.
Lady: Could you tell me about the lyrics; themes and concepts you focus on
or plan to focus on? How did the ideas come about, and how do they
influence the writing process?
Brian: My lyrics, themes and concepts tend to be mostly introspective and autobiographical. As mentioned above I look to express my opinions and observations through some storytelling, some truth telling and some pretty heavy examination. When it comes to lyric writing, you have only so much time and so much space to say what you want to say before you’ve overdone it so it’s important to have an idea of where you want to take the listener and also to keep it fashioned in such a way that anyone can take something away from a given song and have it resonate with them. I try to stay broad in my ideas, and combine many different experiences into one song so that it feels like a journey and you can identify with whoever the character in the song is. There’s always something going on around us that can find its way into a song.
Lady: Which do you find more exciting? Being on the road or the studio?
Brian: I prefer being out on the road, on stage, performing live, having no safety net and having every night be a “record” in and of itself. While I love the studio and relish every opportunity to get in and give life to the ideas that knock around inside my head – to create an enduring record of my art as it moves forward – there is nothing as satisfying for me as being on stage with a guitar, a microphone and a room full of people. That kind of energy can never be truly replicated in a studio and it’s what I thrive on.
Lady: So, are you writing all of the tunes? Writing all the lyrics?
Brian: In the very large part I do all of the writing independently. I do some co-writing with my longtime collaborator, Patrick McDermott (@pgmcdermott) and we absolutely mesh very well together. He knows my voice about as well as anyone and helps to steer me in the direction that he believes will best express what I am trying to express. But again, most of the writing process is done independently – with one paintbrush, if you will.
Lady: Could you tell me a bit about your inspirations?
Brian: My biggest influences over the course of my life have been a steady balance between blues/rock guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour and John Mayer to rock songwriters like Chris Cornell, Josh Homme, Kurt Cobain, Ryan Adams and John Lennon. One of my main goals is to always listen to more and more music and be familiar with more and more styles and get ideas from as many different brilliant artists as I can. The broader the range of my influence, the more diverse the music I create will be and hopefully the more interesting it will be not only for me to perform but for audiences to hear and participate in.
Lady: What’s more important to you? Catering to the audience or music
for its own sake?
Brian: I personally don’t see a reason to draw a hard and fast line between the two. My ardent hope is that I can cater to audiences with the best musical product. The song is the most important thing and writing quality songs is by far the most important thing to me. The audience will gravitate if the product is strong.
Lady: When you look back your music career, what do you consider to be
your greatest accomplishment?
Brian: I’m glad to say that I find great accomplishments in every day. Anytime I successfully arrive at, perform at and complete a gig I feel like I’ve done a great thing. Having the chance to do that on a daily basis is very special and something I will never take for granted. And as I said earlier, it is my ardent hope that the best is yet to come and that I can make solid moves forward in an effort to expand my repertoire, my following and my modes of self expression.
Lady: So, you have the music internalised as the bigger part of life! Happy days!
Brian: It’s a true pleasure to have an opportunity to play for such a wide swath of the population for people from so many different places and to see that no matter what, music is a common bond. I appreciate the opportunity to be on the spot night after night and to deliver music and joy to people out to forget themselves for a little while. I also very much appreciate you taking some time and look forward to speaking with you further in the future! Thank you so much for your interest in my music and my record!
Peace Love and Vocal Harmonie
Lady: Thank you Brian!