by Brittany Nader
Ryan Humbert made a name for himself as a singer-songwriter, crafting catchy pop-rock ditties with radio-friendly hooks. A prolific performing schedule and unmistakable twang in his vocals made his evolution into the frontman of a throwback country band a no-brainer.
Ryan refers to himself as the “fearless leader” of The Shootouts, a five-piece honky-tonk ensemble that performs mostly original tunes, with the occasional lesser-known cover tossed into the mix.
The band released its debut album, Quick Draw, in the spring. The 13-track release marks a fine-tuning of the band’s sound, style and even name. Ryan originally dubbed the classic country project as Shooter Sharp and the Shootouts, later meshing his own solo musical repertoire and original material with the band’s collaborative nature.
“The one thing I really enjoyed about starting The Shootouts, as opposed to when I was a solo singer-songwriter, is that I’ve always been under the impression that a good song is a good song,” Ryan says. “I certainly was not too precious in thinking that I should be the only songwriter in the band.”
Ryan’s longtime friend and the band’s guitarist Brian Poston wrote the album’s title track, which Ryan describes as an “absolutely killer barn-burning instrumental tune.”
The album contains originals along with select covers like “If I Could” by Tim Carroll and “Alimony” by revered poet Shel Silverstein.”
Quick Draw was recorded in six days with producers Luca Benedetti and Jim Campilongo at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, N.Y.. The Shootouts headed to Nashville this summer to record two tracks for a special upcoming project. Ryan says it’s easier to focus on the music and get into the mindset of an album without the distractions of everyday life.
“You don’t have to leave the studio to go home and mow your lawn,” Ryan says.
He says Benedetti and Campilongo are both accomplished musicians in their own right and are steeped in the country-western genre. As a solo artist, Ryan has spent a lengthy amount of time recording his albums, but he says he prefers to go into the studio, focus, and knock out the material in a quicker fashion.
“Those were long days,” Ryan says. “We worked very hard. We were very prepared to put a lot of pre-production into that. It just allows you to go and be creative and not focus on anything other than making that record.”
Recording Quick Draw involved working on the songs with his bandmates Brian Poston, Ryan McDermott, Dylan Gomez, Emily Bates and Al Moss and sending them to the producers in New York. The band would receive notes or ideas, then work on arrangements and send them back.
He says while each of his bandmates shares a love of classic country music and grew up listening to it, their tastes are eclectic and varied.
“The whole idea of genres has slowly but surely become a bit of a melting pot,” Ryan says. “A lot of folks are a lot more diverse than they used to be, especially musicians… We put all the music we like into ‘Shootouts blender.’”
On the decision to move from a singer-songwriter with a more mainstream sound to donning a Western-style shirt, cowboy hat and introducing a steel pedal guitar into his material, Ryan says he simply wanted to perform a genre and style he loved just for fun.
He says most country music played on the radio is pop-rock with a slight country filter on it, and audiences who may not think they like country music have been very receptive to The Shootouts.
“When you start putting your heart forward with what you’re doing, no matter what type of music, that’s going to appeal and connect with folks,” Ryan says. “Something that has been really great for us is the number of people who come up after a show and say, ‘I’ll tell you what, man—I hate country music, but I love what you guys are doing.’ I have to laugh because what we’re doing is as traditional, real country as it gets. If you like us, you really do like country.”
One of Ryan’s original tracks, in particular, captures the essence of traditional country with its deeply emotional storytelling and illustrious lyrics that document a prime slice of Americana. “California to Ohio” was co-written with Kim Richey in Nashville and was inspired by his marine grandfather’s hitchhiked voyage in 1953 from Camp Pendleton, Calif. to Hartville to see wife and daughters. Ryan called his grandfather to fill in the details, and later, performed the song at his grandfather’s 85th birthday party shortly before he passed away.
Before recording the track for the album, Ryan’s producers asked him to write one additional verse, which helped turn a unique family story into a track and music video that are receiving international airplay.
Ryan’s goal is to build out The Shootouts’ brand one step at a time, beginning with this introductory record. He says he has seen a lot of growth in the project over the last year but plans to continue staying true to the roots of traditional country as the musicians continue to evolve.
“We’re still an up-and-coming band, and we’re still working really hard,” Ryan says. “It’s been a climb, but we’re very pleased with the success of the record so far, and we’re not done yet.”
Ryan Humbert & The Shootouts will headline North Canton Main Street Festival Aug. 17 and plan to perform out of state in cities like Nashville, Indianapolis and Knoxville, Tenn. this fall.
Images: Photo by Aimee Lambes. The Shootouts’ “Quick Draw” album cover. Both used with permission from The Shootouts.