Ryan Hiller's a soulful artist whose sound lies somewhere between New Orleans and Old blue jeans. A lot of fun and very comfortable. -Steve Belkin UE3 Promotions
Here's a local San Diego artist that you should keep your eyes on... What's most amazing is that he wrote, composed, and arranged all of the songs on his CD. -Rowley and Preston 91X
How it Works, Ryan's recent release and third recorded album, is the culmination of his hard work and influence over the past few years. Moving to San Diego in 2006 from the hurricane ravaged city of New Orleans, Ryan was ready for a change. Starting again from scratch he moved into a "treehouse" on the beach, and began soaking in the SoCal culture. Since that time Ryan has established himself as a regularly featured artist at many local S.D. venues.
His previous ep The P.U.R.E. Project was an amalgamation of all the things he learned in New Orleans. By day he was studying jazz in the halls of the University of New Orleans with respected faculty including Steve Masakowski (the Astral Project), Ed Petersen, and Harold Batiste just to name a few. By night he was gigging and jamming through the streets of new Orleans playing mostly funk, gospel, and R & B. As a result, "The P.U.R.E. Project reflects some of those jazzy southern influences.
Ryan’s goal after The P.U.R.E Project was to create a new cd that might satisfy the broad interests and tastes of a SoCal demographic. Some of the heavier funk tunes from The P.U.R.E. Project like "Living Undercover," and songs with time and feel changes like "Gravity," played well in Louisiana, but seemed to leave local San Diego folks wanting. "I found I needed to take a step back from focusing on the academic aspect of composition, or worrying that the music wasn't complex enough, and instead focus more on the song itself. By doing this, I really feel like I revisited my roots.”
Ryan grew up in a musical household. Both of his parents played and sang from the great American songbook, and they had Ryan playing guitar and singing by the early age of 5. "My dad used to kill me for breaking his record needles. I loved playing records from Folk to Blues to Americana, and was heavily influenced by Classic Rock growing up. I was also amazed by the way my dad could capture a room with only his guitar and voice, and have people cheering for more. I knew from an early age that was my destiny."
Working with Andrew Williams, a Hollywood based producer, was also an amazing experience for Ryan. "I never realized how simple and effective the recording process can be. For instance, I had always followed a template when in the studio; first step, lay down drums and bass with a click, then guitars, then keys, et cetera. On "Ride the Wave" for instance, Andrew asked me how I wanted “The Feel”. Instead of writing it out, I just slapped it on my knees. He said, "Let's record that". We left it in, and I feel like it was integral to the backbone of the song." “Andrew kept the sessions focused and efficient, and his experience and expertise really helped me attain the level of perfection I was seeking. He's got golden ears!" Williams has worked with internationally acclaimed artists such as T-Bone Burnett, Rhett Miller, Jessica Simpson, and Peter Case.
For the most part How it Works was completely recorded and performed by Ryan Hiller and Andrew Williams. Ryan playing the guitar and bass parts, and Andrew laying down keys and percussive parts. However when it was time to lay down horns, Ryan called in an old New Orleans friend Mike Eyia. "Mike is one of the baddest sax players I know." It was so fun working with him, because I could sing him the parts, and he would play them instantly. I couldn't believe how quickly he learned the shout section to "Always Gonna Be Something."
"Always Gonna Be Something" was inspired and written literally days before the recording session. "My car was broken into and damaged, and all of my equipment was stolen. While getting my car fixed, they found another mechanical problem, so I rented a car and was subsequently late to my first meeting with Andrew in LA. Returning from LA later that same night, I got a $500 ticket. The next morning I woke up, and started humming ‘It's always gonna be something’. The song came naturally, and the next day I played it for Andrew. He insisted that it be included on the EP."
Ryan has had so many influences, and this was very apparent in the varying styles of "How It Works." "I've always had a hard time branding myself, because I like to explore different genres. The most drastic change in my style was the reggae tune "No Lower Ground." "I had the pleasure of working in Slightly Stoopid's studio, and needed to hire some musicians that could interpret the vibe I was trying to portray. Luckily, I was able to get Ivan Garzon (bass player for The Devastators), and John Allen (drummer for The Devastators). They brought a great feel to that song by avoiding accenting the first beat of each measure, like so many other songs do."
Very great things have been happening for Ryan since his recent release, and he was able to land an endorsement deal with Sennheiser Microphones and Gator cases. He has already been a loyal artist to Taylor guitars since they began endorsing him in 2008. "I feel so blessed and fortunate to have these great companies standing behind me, and supporting me with the tools I need to to my job. They all make great products that enhance my music. It's great to be able to use their stuff and promote it too. "