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11 juin 2008

Songwriter looks to earn way into club of heroes

By Richard O Jones, Journal-News

It seems like every contemporary singer/songwriter is in some way simply following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan. For a time anyway, Matthew Ryan took that literally. He took his cue from Dylan himself, who famously hounded legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie until he wheedled his way into the dying man's hospital room.

Ryan, however, never got that lucky. "It's funny that even though he harassed Woody Guthrie he's pretty good at not letting anyone harass him," Ryan said. "I didn't want to steal from him, I just want to measure myself by my heroes and not by my peers, and so when I was in my 20s, I wanted his attention."

He remains vague, however, when pressed as to exactly how he set about harassing Dylan or how close he ever got, except that for his first album he rented the recording studio of Albert Grossman, Dylan's first manager.

"It's kinda like, how close did you get to Santa Claus?" he said obliquely. "There's definitely a community above and you've got to earn your way in. I love what these guys have accomplished but it's definitely otherworldly. I did meet some of my heroes, and I didn't want them to be human, thought they turned out to be."

He tells the story of having dinner once with Peter Gabriel, and all he could think about was the enchantment of the potential of that kind of event, and how Gabriel's generosity and humility came as a surprise.

"Beyond ego and all that stuff, he was human, he was in touch and there was no celebrity," he said. "He was a smart, emotional, intellectual guy."

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