Ladysmith folk-roots-rock musician Ryan McMahon is fired up these days. This month the singer-songwriter has toured for three weeks through three provinces, returned home just in time to hit the studio, and is now setting out on more tour dates. In the past, that kind of schedule might have sounded like too much.
“But now I’m just revelling in it,” he said. “I’m just so blessed to still be here and the venues are still here and people are starting to come back out again.”
This past month’s tour was a series of one-man gigs in small rooms, and that was by design, he said – a sort of “litmus” test to see how audiences are handling a re-opening at this stage of the pandemic. Generally McMahon encountered a bit more trepidation in B.C. than on the Prairies, but generally, “masks are down, smiles are out, crowds are making lots of noise and every show honestly was like a celebration.”
Now, McMahon will “rock it up” and add his backing band for upcoming shows like the one at the Queen’s Hotel on March 31. It’s a venue that brings a lot of nostalgia for the singer, who started playing there before he was even old enough to drink and it’s a place where he’s always felt supported by everyone, from audiences to management, sound techs and bartenders.
The Queen’s is also the place where he filmed the music video for his upcoming single One More Fire.
“[It] is a really important song that we have coming out for me – both lyrically and the timing of it, what it says and what it means to me and how well it’s being received by people behind the scenes as we lead up to its release,” McMahon said.
After feeling “down in the dumps” during the first year of the pandemic, McMahon resolved to make better use of his time in the second year, both artistically and business-wise. His friend Aaron Pritchett, a country music artist, “stuck his neck out” and offered his team’s expertise to co-produce a single, which turned out to be One More Fire.
“It has those breaths of country in it and whatnot, but it’s not … about country roads and red Solo cups and drinking on airplanes and girls in jean shorts,” said McMahon.
He said it was important that he stay authentic to himself, but he allowed himself to be tugged up-tempo for a track that he says celebrates what we have in common rather than looking at what divides us.
“One More Fire is another shot for me, and maybe it’s another shot for all of us – our communities getting back out and being together again,” he said.
His show in Nanaimo will be a mix of new material, older favourites and a couple of covers thrown in, and he said it will be a noisy, fun night of rock, country and folk-roots.
“Being this sort of genre fence-sitter is something that’s always held me back throughout the years because they don’t know – they being the industry – where to compartmentalize me,” he said. “But having said that, if you like a lot of different kinds of music, then maybe I’m your guy.”
WHAT’S ON … Ryan McMahon plays the Queen’s Hotel, 34 Victoria Cres., on Thursday, March 31 at 8 p.m. Tickets $25 in advance, $30 at the door, available at Lucid, Desire Tattoo, Sunrise Records, and the Queen’s. One More Fire will be released April 22; for information, visit http://ryanmcmahon.com.