Intangibly Good

After three years, acoustic duo Ryanhood finally releases new album The World Awaits.

It’s the statement uttered perhaps more than any other when a band
is discussing its goals: “We want to be able to make a living from
playing music.” By that measure, Ryanhood is living the dream.

The acoustic duo — lead singer and guitarist Cameron Hood and
lead guitarist and singer Ryan Green — has eschewed the normal
route to success by largely touring college campuses, playing mostly
for what they call “listening audiences” rather than chatty bar patrons
who are just there to get loaded.

Green and Hood both attended University High School in Tucson, but
they weren’t friends in those days. Instead, their respective bands
competed against each other in battles of the bands. “I was kind of the
shredding guitar player,” Green explains, “and he was the soulful
singer-songwriter.”

“The crooner,” says Hood.

Green: “We were playing Joe Satriani covers and he was doing
…”

Hood: “Goo Goo Dolls and Gin Blossoms covers.”

At the end of one school year, Hood wrote a generous entry in
Green’s yearbook about how much he admired his guitar-playing, which
warmed up Green to the idea of working together. However, Hood stayed
in Tucson to study art at the University of Arizona, while Green headed
off to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music.

During one summer, both worked at a music store in Tucson. Hood had
amassed some songs that didn’t fit his band, and he enlisted Green to
help him record them. They hit it off so well that, once Green
graduated from Berklee, he invited Hood to move to Boston, where the
two made ends meet by playing on the street.

One fateful day while busking, they were approached by a
representative of a now-defunct arm of Clear Channel Communications
that specialized in booking acts into college campuses. While the two
do their own booking these days, they’ve used the connections they made
during that period to continue touring colleges.

Green and Hood say there’s another benefit to touring colleges. “On
that circuit,” explains Green, “you’re essentially doing free shows for
students, and the activities department will hire you to do it. So you
get a [guaranteed fee] to go out there; they’ll generally put you up
for the night somewhere.” It certainly doesn’t hurt that the music that
Ryanhood plays seems tailor-made for the kind of soul-searching in
which college students regularly engage.

The group’s music is earnest and hopeful, carrying with it an
uplifting message. There’s a spiritual aspect there, too, but they are
quick to point out that they’re not a “Christian band,” per se. “I’ve
never liked mixing faith and commerce, really,” says Green. “It feels
kind of icky to me, and I also don’t discover music in that channel
myself.”

Says Hood, “I think there is a lot of spirituality in this record,
and a lot of it has to do with the relationship between people and with
yourself — which I think is very spiritual. You won’t usually
find us singing praise songs.”

The record to which Hood refers is The World Awaits, the new,
self-released album that represents a great leap forward for the duo.
Ryanhood released either a full-length album or EP every year between
2003 and 2006, but the new album ended up taking about three years to
complete. The reasons why are plentiful.

“We had self-produced our last couple of records,” says Green, “and
it had been advised to us by program directors at [radio] stations that
we should take it up a notch production-wise, and just give it a
world-class treatment.”

With the help of then-manager Gina Rossi, they began sending out
e-mails to producers. They eventually settled on Ross Hogarth, who has
produced or engineered albums for Ziggy Marley, Jewel, and Melissa
Etheridge, among many others. Hogarth was juggling a number of
projects; meanwhile, Ryanhood continued to tour — even while
finishing up the album last year, the duo still managed to play 135
live shows. “One of us would get free, and then the other one wasn’t,”
explains Green.

Additionally, Hogarth — who engineered, produced and mixed the
album — didn’t hit it off with the band as well as they would
have liked. “He had a really high standard that he held us to
musically, which we didn’t like, but ultimately led to a better
product,” Hood says. “Our bedside manners didn’t mesh very well, so it
took us a while to work through that. But, musically, the product that
we ended up with was worth the wear. He has an incredible ear and
brought in incredible musicians to complement what we do.”

The World Awaits demonstrates a lot of the band’s strengths
— their effortless way with a hook, Green’s proficiency as a
guitarist, their appealing vocal harmonies. As long as the album ends
up in the right hands, it’s difficult to imagine that it wouldn’t end
up making a dent at AAA radio stations.

While Green and Hood are proud of the album and want people to hear
it, they’re opposed to the notion of cramming it down people’s
throats.

“We’re really hoping this record catches on in a very organic way,”
explains Hood, “that people go, ‘Listen to this record; it’s good.’ …
Our hope is that there’s just something intangibly good about it
— that it leaves people maybe disarmed, or a little more hopeful
than before they pressed play.”

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