A musical odyssey from Boston to Vegas to Nashville...
By Rick Coates 11/2/09
Ryan Whyte Maloney packed his bags and headed to Boston in October of 2006. The singer/songwriter from Traverse City, best known as the tattooed frontman of the progressive rock band, Indulge, knew if he wanted to make it in the music business he would have to venture elsewhere.
Traverse City remains in Maloneys heart and for that matter tattooed on his body, so after a three-year hiatus from the Northern Michigan music scene he returns for one night. He will perform an acoustic set with another Traverse City resident, Holly Bonino, at the Loading Dock, Sunday November 8. His second set will include several musical guests from his days in Traverse City.
Basically, people who know me know that I am a crazy driven person, said Maloney. I had exhausted my opportunities here in Traverse City and Northern Michigan. So I picked Boston, drove out there, and just started booking myself acoustically as my band Indulge stayed back in Traverse City.
After a few weeks of securing solo gigs Maloney was told if he wanted to make a name quickly for himself in Boston he should enter his band into the Bodog Music Battle of the Bands, the citys preeminent music competition. He had one slight problem, he didnt have a band.
I called the guys from Indulge and said you have to get a plane and fly out here, said Maloney. They agreed, but I was still without a drummer and I ended up picking up this drummer from a Christian band. Without any rehearsals to speak of we went into the competition.
Indulge sent shock waves into the Boston music scene, winning the competition and beating out several more popular and favored bands.
SOAP OPERA LIFE
Just as Maloney thought he was going to rule the Boston music scene, he found himself again living the musical soap opera life he had come to know since open mic days as a teenager in Traverse City. Just after winning the biggest completion of his life, Maloneys new drummer quit, saying this music isnt for me, and the other guys in Indulge decided to move to Las Vegas.
I was getting ready to sign a one-year lease and again I was without a band, said Maloney. I pulled my van in front of the place I was going to rent. I prayed about it, decided not to sign the lease, slept in my van and headed back to Traverse City the next day.
That was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Maloneys visit home was short-lived. He stayed for a week and eventually headed to Vegas to catch up with Indulge.
I love Traverse City and I knew if I stayed I would never leave, said Maloney. So I said goodbye to my parents. I headed to live with my aunt in Vegas and get Indulge going out there.
As his van came over the mountains Maloney had a musical vision.
I was above Vegas and looking down on the city and I said to myself I have to figure out a way to get two million people in this town to notice me. I really had no idea how, but I knew I was going to do it, said Maloney. Though it started out tough, as I didnt realize that my aunt lived in the ghetto and it was scary. I moved out after one night. I headed down to the Strip with $30 in my pocket and no insurance on my van in search of gigs.
He landed a day job at the Tropicana taking pictures. It was here that Maloney set a goal for himself and Indulge.
I looked out at the window every day and saw the marquee at the House of Blues down below. It said Now Playing Rascal Flatts. I hated country music and said to myself someday my name is going on that marquee, said Maloney.
Maloneys life to this point seemed like lyrics out of country song.
Yeah, it seemed like I was living a country song, said Maloney. Our first gig in Vegas was at this club downtown called the Dive Bar. As we were walking in I heard this voice hey Ryan. I turned and couldnt believe it but it was Holly Bonino from Traverse City. I thought it was wild to meet someone else from Traverse City, someone I knew from the music scene back home.
Indulge hit the pavement hard and soon the band became a fixture on the Las Vegas club scene. They played major clubs and received praise from regional publications. But after two years Maloneys band mates became anxious and returned to Traverse City.
Well, I was really upset, but I wasnt willing to give up the music of Induge, said Maloney. Being homesick, I just started signing country songs one night for fun to remind of Traverse City. I even wrote and sang a country song for my wife as a joke. Well I recorded it and played it for my manager.
That musical moment forever changed Maloneys path.
My manager, who doesnt even like my Indulge music, said Holy shit Ryan, this is a major hit. I thought he was just joking, said Maloney. He said he knew some big names in Nashville and asked if I would make a YouTube video of the song. I agreed. I called Holly who played violin and asked if she would record this with me. We did it and I posted it.
Maloney figured that would be the end of it and his country music days would be short-lived; he would be back concentrating on his Indulge project.
My manager called and this person flew in from Nashville and came to my Indulge rehearsal and walks in and says so I hear you have a country song. I was so embarrassed that I told the band to leave the room, said Maloney. This Nashville person loved it and asked me to come out to Nashville. I agreed and they have lined up some musicians and they want me to fly out and perform this and other songs in front of some A&R people.
OLD, COUNTRY PEOPLE
When Maloney walked into the studio in Nashville he was nervous.
I looked out and saw all these old people, country people and I was thinking they are not going to like some guy with all of these tattoos. The guy who discovered Garth Brooks was staring me down and I am thinking they are going to hate me, said Maloney. After my first song they all started clapping. I couldnt believe it. After I was finished they started asking questions. This guy responsible for Garth Brooks career asked me why I wanted to sing country. I told them I didnt; that I felt my music could be inspired by country but I didnt see myself as the typically country singer. This guy responds exactly. He told me not to change anything about me. Keep the tattoos, the look, your lyrics, your music, dont try to be country; instead let country music come to you. I have this feeling you might be responsible for a change in direction in country music. I couldnt believe what I was hearing.
That was two months ago and now Maloney finds himself front and center of the Nashville scene, still an unknown but on the verge of something big.
I was told to go into the studio, lay down tracks for an album and to come back to Nashville the weekend of December 12 to perform a private showcase in front of a whos who of industry people, said Maloney. My manager and these A&R guys, including that guy connected to Garth Brooks, have lined up some major country stars and label people to come out to watch me. They are already booking an international tour for me that will start next spring.
Life seems finally on track for Ryan Maloney, musically and personally. A runaway and high school dropout, he is happliy married (to the woman I left Traverse City with) and has a two-year-old child. He chuckles at the thought of becoming a country superstar.
I told people I was going to come back to Traverse City someday after I made it in the music business, said Maloney. I never said that it would be in country music, but I never said that it wouldnt. I am making music. it is what I was born to do and loving every minute of it. Holly is a classcially-trained musician, who plays in a string quartet out here, she never imagined her big break would be touring with me playing country music either.
Maloney is quick to add:
I looked at that House of Blues sign every day for two years and said I was going to play it, and I did. Sure, it took two-and-a-half years, but I did it. I played it twice. So now I am on the Nashville scene and people might laugh and say it isnt me, but you never know what the future will hold for you until you sacrifice everything to find out.
Ryan Whyte Maloney will return home to Traverse City making his first musical performance in the area in more than three years. He will perform an acoustic set with Holly Bonino at the Loading Dock on Sunday November 8. The set will include songs from their forthcoming CD Living With No Directions, due out next spring, (currently Sunny 101.9 is playing tracks from the CD). Ryan and Holly (a Traverse City native, Interlochen Academy graduate and former violist with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra) will be joined by several are musicians led by bassist Dave Webber for a jam session during the second set. To hear Maloneys country demo Here With Me, search YouTube. To learn more and to listen to samples of his music check him out at myspace.com/ryanmaloneymusic.