I first met Ryan Dolan on a lecture/performing tour in Detroit earlier this year. He was a guest artist on the Harrelson Trumpets night hosted by the Gary Greenfelder Orchestra. When he took to the stage I was quite literally, blown away... and so were the others seated near me. I turned to one guy and said... wow he sounds amazing. He replied, so, that's Ryan Dolan... he subs for me a lot but I've never met him. Ryan isn't the most boastful of fellas and so at that meeting I didn't even know he was in the Third Coast Kings. Much to my surprise they are taking the world by storm. Here's a little interview I did with Ryan about his music, the band and what lies ahead...
How long have you been playing the trumpet? / What made you decide to go into music / How did you start out?
I started playing trumpet as a tiny 10 year old. I was very small for my age and could barely hold the thing up. I was the worst of our three trumpet players and our first band director was not very passionate about his job to say the least. (He would just put on the movie Amadeus out of the blue whenever he didn’t feel like teaching.) After 6th grade, we moved over to the High School building which had a combined Junior High & High School band made up of 7th to 12th grade with a newly hired Band Director, Brian Roelandt. This is where it all changed. They could have based the script for the film Mr Holland’s Opus on those years. When he started there was one small concert band of about 30 kids and he grew the meagre program into 2 concert bands, a 90+ person marching band, a full jazz band, and a music appreciation course, all in a school of around 400 students.
I still remember sitting down for that first rehearsal: Someone in the school entered my name into the system as ‘Nolan, Ryan’ (Nolan Ryan was a famous Detroit Tiger at the time) and I was so shy I didn't’ even correct it. The first thing we tried to play as a band was the High School Fight Song. It was in cut-time, which I had never even heard of. The music was probably pretty simple, but at the time it looked impossible. After a few days I went to talk to Mr. Roelandt after school to tell him I was quitting. Instead, he gave me my first actual one-on-one lesson and after a few minutes of talking about some basics I had never been taught, my tone opened up and I was playing a high D above the staff. It was a eureka moment for me. The next day he brought me in a mix-tape with some Maynard Ferguson & Louie Armstrong on it and I was hooked. That day changed the path of my whole life. I could have quit that day, and maybe never looked back.
Who are some of your musical influences and why?
When I was growing up it was Doc Severinsen. My parents took me to see him with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra when I was just starting out and I was blown away. He played Carnival of Venice and Flight of the Bumble Bee and all kinds of really impressive show pieces, all in one of his crazy suits. After intermission it was all pop and big band music. I remember being really impressed even at that age that someone could be so good at what seemed like two different things.
Is music your full time job?
The occasional bank heist helps pay the bills.
Were you born and raised in Detroit?
I was born in Detroit, my parents moved next door to Harper Woods when I was just starting school. I moved to Ypsilanti to study with Carter Eggers at Eastern Michigan University and grew roots and have been here ever since.
What's the music scene like in Detroit?
Detroit’s music scene is in flux. There is a healthy roster of fantastic musicians, but fewer and fewer places for them to play. The city is going through hell right now, but the arts seem to be weathering the storm better than other sectors. There are still great venues that have music on any given night. If you know where to look you can sometimes find secret parties where upwards of a thousand people are in attendance, often in a warehouse building or industrial space with live music going on and on into the morning.
Tell me about Third Coast Kings... how long have you been with the band?
We are an old school funk band and we play what we call ‘Deep Funk’. Think dusty 45s, B-sides, and gritty instrumentals. We want to be so pure to the funk style that when people who haven’t heard of us listen for the first time they assume it was recorded in the 70s. I’ve been with the band since our first show almost 8 years ago now. We just released our 2nd album on the Record Kicks label called West Grand Boulevard
So... you're going to Japan!? How did that happen?
Where are you going to be?
It is really exciting to go back on tour. We were invited to play at the Fuji Rock Festival in 2012 and it was really a dream come true for all of us. It is huge music festival in the mountains and the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. It was like a dream, you could walk out of a crowd of 50,000 people watching Radiohead and cross a stream where every rock has a smiley face painted on it into woods where there are giant eyeball balloons in the trees to make them look like cartoon characters and then stumble into a carnival where there are giant robot monsters made out of Volkswagen Beetles. This time we are excited to play in the city, which is just as magical as the festival. We will be at Club Quatro in the Shibuya district of Tokyo September 25th, and the Shangri-la in Osaka on the 27th.
Do you guys have a lot of recordings? Where can we find them?
We just released our 2nd album on the Record Kicks Label called West Grand Boulevard. Both our albums are available on Vinyl, CD, and digital and we also have a couple of 45s and a few other exclusive tracks on some Record Kicks compilations, as well as several music videos, which can be found on youtube.
Do you write music?
I have written a couple songs for TCK, now we compose all of our material as a group.
When you're not playing with TCK what kind of other playing do you do?
I play in some swing dance groups, occasionally play musicals, do freelance recording, and I sub in with many of the bands in the area. I also just enjoy practicing on my own and working on etudes and other trumpety stuff.
What else is in the works for you in the coming year?
Lots of plans! We are working on a European tour for this fall, we have another music video in the planning phase and have a ton of shows booked for this year, from Ann Arbor to London to Tokyo.
What's your current gig schedule like?
We are on the move, and busy.. We have shows all over the place this summer. We are booked more than 30 shows out right now and are already getting some bookings for 2015.
Musical highlight of your year?
Getting my new Harrelson Summit One! Releasing an album that we worked so hard on is what I’m most proud of, but really I am just excited to travel the world playing music with my best friends.
What do you listen to when you're not recording/performing?
What's in your cd player?
Some bands I’ve been into lately are Slavic Soul Party, Orange then Blue, Kashmere Stage Band, Onda Vaga, Snarky Puppy & NO BS.
If your trumpet were an animal which animal would it be?
Probably something like my dog, Watson, They are both high energy, loud, really excitable, and friendly…. but I’m still not sure I trust either of them....
I had the thought yesterday that my world is expanding and shrinking at the same time. I am spending the month of June in Spain... it started out as a sort of sabbatical... to spend time with my own thoughts... my camera... my paints... and to feel truly out of my element. All of that has already happened and I have only been here for a few short days. After I started to plot my time here we started realizing there are a few clients here in Spain that it would be fun to reach out to. So, I am splitting my time here up with some Harrelson Trumpets client meetings... the first of which are happening this weekend in Madrid.
We have two clients in Madrid with gigs this weekend... Jorge Vistral & Josep Siankope. I am going to both shows and bringing my new beautiful Harrelson Trumpet along for the ride. So, if you're reading this and you happen to be Harrelson curious, like great music and can get to Madrid you should come out!!!
Saturday, June 06 @ 10:30pm - at Bogui, Madrid w/ Jorge Vistral
Sunday, June 07 @ 7:30pm - at Espacio Ronda, Madrid w/ Joseph Siankope
I am really looking forward to meeting both of these guys and taking in some great music. I am also really excited for the train ride to Madrid. I love riding on the train... I have taken the Empire Builder from Minneapolis more times than I can count... the last time I did it alone and really loved watching the sun come up with my coffee in hand across the fields of North Dakota. I sat there in silence for hours... eventually a gentleman next to me said... see anything good. Yes, I did. About 50 deer, pheasants, old barns, tons of cattle and one adorable calf... I like watching the world wake up... it's even more fun to speed past it on a train. Plus! this is the AVE High Speed Train... which reaches top speeds of almost 200mph. All I can say is WHOA. I am in for a new experience. Speaking of new experiences... pretty much everything I have done since I've been here has been new. Last night I went to hear Pedro Javier Gonzalez play flamenco guitar at the Basilica Santa Maria del Pi... ya... never thought I would say that. It was beautiful. And, speaking of beautiful... check out Barcelona!
I am the PR, Advertising, Marketing, Web and Social mind at Harrelson Trumpets. When I am not at work- I paint: