Malcolm X Abram: Singer/songwriter Ryan Humbert seeks funds for album

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Singer/songwriter Ryan Humbert who recently signed with Nashville record label Century Music Group will perform holiday songs on a float as part of the 27th Annual City of Akron Santa Parade on Saturday.

Ryan Humbert wants you.

Yeah, you.

The rootsy, pop-rocking, singer/songwriter, who will crank up his fifth annual Holiday Extravaganza on Dec. 14 at the Akron Civic, wants you to help him fund his next album.

Humbert was recently signed by the Century Music Group, a Nashville-based indie record label co-founded by Jamie Tate and Art Ward. Humbert worked with Tate on Humbert’s 2008 album, Old Souls, New Shoes.

“I’m pumped to have the chance to work with him again,” Humbert said.

“Musically, we have a lot of the same influences. On top of that I’m excited to be working with folks who really care about what I’m doing and want to take the things that make my music unique and focus on that as opposed to trying to fit me into some sort of box that I don’t belong in,” he said.

Humbert hopes to begin recording the album in February and that’s where fans come into the picture.

He has chosen Pledge Music, which has been successfully used by well- known artists including Rickie Lee Jones, Slash, the Hold Steady and Akronite Joseph Arthur to raise cash to fund projects.

If you’re curious as to why an artist who just got signed to a record label still needs your help, it’s pretty simple.

“The music business has changed. There is no such thing as a ‘traditional’ record deal anymore,” Humbert said.

“The deal I entered into is very much a partnership. Yes, the label will be covering expenses, but I’m also responsible for covering expenses as well,” he explained. “By signing into a deal like this I get to maintain more creative control, as well as maintain more royalties and profit, which in the long run allows me to make sure I’m able to keep making music.

“The money raised through Pledge Music will be used for a wide variety of things, including musicians, recording, mixing, mastering, travel, touring, promotion and more.”

Humbert said he has enough songs for an album if he had to record today, and he recorded 21 demos during his most recent trip to Nashville but said he’d like as many songs as possible to choose from to ensure he makes the best record possible.

Humbert, who lived in Nashville for a while, has also reaped some benefit from having songs from his most recent album, Sometimes the Game Plays You, played on Sirius satellite radio, which he hopes will allow him to widen his touring circuit.

“I’ve heard from folks all over the U.S. I’d love to go out and see some of the folks who contacted me. In the last two years I got to play some great cities, including Chicago, Indianapolis, New York City, Nashville, Philadelphia, Columbus and Washington, D.C., but I want to expand far beyond that as much as possible.

But before he conquers America, Humbert’s got a very important gig coming up as part of the 27th annual City of Akron Welcome Santa Parade, where Humbert and his band will perform on a float.

“I've played stages big and small, but never one that moves!” he said.

“Logistically, it hasn’t been the easiest show to put together, but we’re all looking forward to doing it. Who hasn’t watched one of the big holiday parades and wished they could be a part of it all? Except we won't be lip syncing.”

Speedbumps in Kent

On Friday night at the Kent Stage, Kent indie-folk pop band the Speedbumps (singer/guitarist Erik Urycki, cellist Sam Kristoff, percussionist Patrick Hawkins and bassist Kevin Martinez) will celebrate the release of its latest CD, The Harbors We Seek.

The svelte 11-song, 45-minute record was recorded in six days in a cabin in the Pennsylvania woods and producer Jay Alton has given the mostly quiet acoustic band a nice warm, intimate sound augmented with some tasteful strings arrangements.

Despite the “indie-folk” designation, the Speedbumps aren’t into the au courant big, catchy unison-sung gang bang chorus that you’ve heard in hip commercials for the past year or so. Much of the album simmers with the rhythm section providing low-key grooves in tunes such as Chasing You Down, the island-flavored High Thread Count Suits and the cute and catchy Opposites in Love (“I’m a Cleveland Brown, baby you’re a Buffalo Bill, It’s not a deal breaker but I’m not thrilled, how’d the horny toad get the girl with the looks that can kill?”).

As always, primary songwriter and singer Urycki’s honeyed tenor is in fine form and imbued with emotion but not overwrought.

For those who enjoy the quiet folk-infused singer/songwriter vibe, The Harbors We Seek is good listening for our current chilly, stay-inside-with-a-cup-of-something-warm weather.

A few last thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate this day of family, friends and togetherness and sanctioned gluttony. Tomorrow is of course, Black Friday, the official start of the holiday shopping season.

It’s a term that has grown from 1960s industry jargon to become its own ersatz holiday as folks camp out to spend and consume mass quantities of stuff to ensure that the Baby Jesus knows they care about his birth.

Wait, no that’s not it, let me try again.

… as adults beat and trample each other to rush into a store to buy the new Xbox One ($499!) to replace the Wii they bought just a few years ago to ensure their children truly understand the meaning of Christmas and the importance of family.

No, that’s not right either.

One more try.

… as folks plunk down hundreds of dollars on sneakers with famous names, constructed by tiny, underpaid and overworked Asian hands to prove their devotion to their Lord and Savior.

Oh, nevermind.

If you’re one of those uber-aggressive shopbots who camps out in the cold to buy stuff and must be the first at one of these “door buster” sales, then more power to you, though I’ve never understood the appeal. But as you kick an old woman in the groin and shove her to the ground to get the last Ever After Rebel doll in the store (spoiler alert: They’ll make more!), please remember Jesus loves you. He may think you’re kind of a materialistic jerk trying to buy your friends/family’s love and who has forgotten the spirit of the season, but he loves you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat way too much ham smothered in mac and cheese and then online shop until my fingers cramp.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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