Hipster folkie Ryan Bisio has a new CD – and a new attitude.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Ryan Bisio sits at one of the outdoor tables in front of Osio Cinemas sipping on his coffee and smoking a cigarette. He has the looks of a pop superstar and is dressed like he just came from a GQ fashion shoot, wearing a chocolate corduroy jacket over a flannel shirt, sea-green polyester slacks, brown cowboy boots and his signature Newsies – style grey beret.
He even has groupies: A doe-eyed girl named Natasha sits near the musician as he is being interviewed, obviously smitten and hanging on his every word.
“What a sweetheart,” Bisio says as she walks away with a love-struck look.
Most nights of the week, Bisio is glued to his acoustic guitar, playing in front of admiring fans at venues like Monterey Live, East Village and Fuse Lounge. He’s become a musical fixture around town, with a modern folky sound that is both crisp and recognizable.
The 27-year-old now seems poised to take his star higher. Accompanying the release of his new album, The Rose Side of the Thorn – which will be unveiled 9pm Thursday at Monterey Live – is a 12-track digital album, B-Side the Point, available only on iTunes.
“[The album] is about love, honesty, addiction and heartbreak, and that there are two sides to every meaning,” he says before relighting his Camel. “It doesn’t sound like it but [the album] is meant to be optimistic and a promise for more work to come.”
Bisio says Thorn, which he started working on in 2006, is very different from his first album. Sketches was a solo-acoustic project; on this CD, several standout local musicians contribute, including Keith Bruecker (aka Ehrman Hall), Andrea Blunt, Sean Stillinger and Bisio’s younger brother, Gianni. In addition to guitar and vocals, Bisio plays piano, banjo, accordion and bass guitar on several tracks.
“To be able to get all this work out was really a cleansing experience,” Bisio says. “The songs have been inside me for a long time.”
Thorn is unapologetic in its obsessiveness, which makes it an honest portrait of Bisio: He’s someone who chooses music over everything else in his life. On the somber piano tune “If,” he sings: “If I lived for you/ I would have nothing to give.’’ The lyrics on the album – usually backed by mellow instrumentals – are windows into Bisio’s philosophy.
Not too long ago, he had an epiphany while sitting in the small basement-room he rents in Carmel Valley.
“I have no attachments in my life right now except for my music,” he says. “I don’t own anything in this room except my clothes and my songs, which sets the perfect stage for me to able to go on the road. I’m single, I’m happy and I’m not paying much for my living expenses.
“I cannot commit to anything except my work,” he adds later. “There’s no way I can share music; I must be faithful and be celibate for the sake of my music.”
And Bisio’s prolific songwriting continues: He’s already begun work on another album and has plans to go on a nationwide tour.
RYAN BISIO’s CD Release happens 9pm Thursday, April 23, at Monterey Live, 414 Alvarado St., $10 (includes CD). 373-5483.