On our most recent artist interview, we catch up with Ryan Burnett, a talented singer/guitarist whose unusual career path took him from Manchester to Bristol and even Nashville, USA... only to become the face of the Guitar Hero Live video game, and now gain more popularity with his own band, The Vanguards.
Ryan Burnett is a very interesting case that shows that today, when - despite Adele - the recording industry struggles to sell albums, artists can find other ways to make a living. And one positive thing has come from all this: live music is more important than ever, and as Ryan himself is proof, touring regularly is essential for artists who seek to grow their fanbase. Performance highlights included opening two sell-out Hammersmith Apollo shows, Rock Am Ring and three tours of the US, besides featuring in the new Guitar Hero Live game.
As result of his hard work, he's a Fender and Gibson endorsed artist, and is backed by Metropolis Music in London. His band, The Vanguards, have recently released their debut single, Killers, which was produced and mixed by Guy Chambers’ right hand man Paul Stanborough (Katie Melua, Kylie, INXS), and mastered by Mazen Murad (The Rolling Stones, Muse, Björk):
We catch up with Ryan, to find out how he got where he's now, and what the future holds for him...
Who are your biggest musical influences?
I was lucky enough to grow up in a family really into their music. My dad had a huge record collection and instead of dissolving my brain in TV I'd sit with these massive 80's headphones on and just play records. I became a big fan of bands like Free, Dire Straits, Queen, The Beatles. He had this album by the travelling Wilburys, which then got me into Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in a big way. He's probably been the biggest influence on me as a writer.
You come from Brighton, but your music has a distinct American flavour. What is it about Americana that attracts you so much? Any plans to perform in the US?
Probably that influence of the likes of Petty, Springsteen. It's been a huge part of me growing up so it was natural for my writing to go in that direction. I like to think it still has an English theme but there's definitely an American twang in the style. We'd love to play over in the states. I was lucky enough to play over there a lot with my old band. This project actually started in Nashville two years ago when I'd finished with an old project. I took some time out and did some writing with some friends over there, which kick started The Vanguards.
You are endorsed by both Fender and Gibson, that’s pretty big! What are your favourite guitars? How do you compare both brands?
Yeah I don't quite know how that happened! I'm a good blagger I guess! I recently got a Gretsch White Falcon double cutaway which is super badass. I use that and a Fender Telecaster for the main Vanguard sounds. I have a Gibson Firebird and a 1978 SG which I got when I was 12 years old for £300, I think it was stolen....I didn't ask.
How did you become involved with Guitar Hero Live?
It was totally random. I saw an advert for an "interactive music video". I went along thinking it might be a day's work. I turned up and they wanted me to mime along to the Foo Fighters 'Monkey Wrench', there was a bunch of gear in the room so I just asked if I could play it rather than miming. I did, then I was asked back for a second audition, still not knowing what it was actually for. I was offered the job and it wasn't until the first rehearsal that I was told it was the new Guitar Hero game and that I was the main role. Six months filming ensued.
You seem pretty busy gigging. It seems that playing live a lot, and getting grass roots fans, is one of the most crucial things for artists these days, perhaps more than ever before, rather than worrying about chart positions. How important has it been to you? Do You have any tips or advice for new bands who want to start touring?
Playing live is the best part about being a musician. Touring and playing music with your mates and occasionally being paid for it is the best thing in the world, there is no better job. Getting to that point though can take years and years of persistence, self-belief and a hell of a lot of hard work. We always make sure we introduce ourselves to everyone in the venue from the sound engineers, the promoters, anyone who is there to help make your show a good one. Someone once gave me a great bit of advice which has always stuck with me, "Everyone you meet on the way up, you will meet on the way back down, so don't be an asshole". We always make sure we head to the merch stand after every show to chat with fans too. You have to make people feel involved, that's when they'll come back to the next show and bring more friends.
You recently released your debut single, Killers. Are you working on an album, too?
We're concentrating on writing right now and I think the plan will be to drop an EP before going into an album. Looking at a Feb/March release.
What’s next for you? Any big ambition you hope to fulfill?
Just keep playing music until I have to get a real job or I drop dead.
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