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Lessons from a showman’s showman – meet Ryan Chrys…

January 17, 2014

Being a musician doesn’t have to be about playing out. You could be a recording artist, dedicated song writer or seek a career in music any number of ways. But since most musicians are adrenaline junkies pursuing live performance, stage presence and what you bring to that performance will be pretty important. One way or another, you need to connect with your audience – and like a good speech, you might as well start with an attention-getter…

By way of presenting a model for stage presence, Ryan Chrys (of Demon Funkies fame, solo artist, Ryan Chrys & Friends and most recent incarnation as Ryan Chrys & the Rough Cuts) immediately jumps to mind. He averages about 80 live shows per year and has been playing out pretty intensely for the past 10 years. At any given show, you may find him perched on one of the subs (or mains!), dressed to kill, with facial hair in supporting role. One of his better stunts last year was to hook up wireless and walk Colfax during his act on the Musicians In Action outdoor stage during the Root 40 MusicFest.


I recently asked Ryan a few questions about his showmanship…

Q: Would you please describe how your stage presence has evolved? Was there a moment when you realized what you needed to do, or did you always have that sensibility?

RyanChrysRyan: I’ve always just went for it on stage. Angus Young was always one of my biggest influences as a performer ’cause I just love his energy and I love musicians that throw it all out there. In the early years it sure didn’t help my playing – in fact I was pretty bad. As I evolved and am still evolving, I’m learning to balance having energy while still hitting the notes and playing the chords right. It’s not easy!

Q: What is some of the best live performance advice you ever received?

Ryan: Don’t get drunk or high before you go on and try to get some sleep the night before. When you play, don’t just listen to how you’re playing; listen to yourself from within the mix of the band as a whole.

Q: That last one is excellent advice for any musician in an ensemble. Do you or did you ever have a mentor?

Ryan: My buddy Paul, aka the Prom King, who is a bass player and whom I still play with, made me buy my first electric guitar and demanded I start a rock band with him. That’s as close as a mentor as I’ve had.

Q: What do you think is the craziest thing you’ve done on stage to date? Any major mishaps?

Ryan: Hmmm…lots of ridiculous stuff. But one that sticks out is at the Bluebird Theater once, playing with SPIV (a band led by Jonny Barber). As you’re looking at the stage, there are stairs and doorways with curtains over them leading to the backstage areas on either side. I climbed up on top of the doorway on the left side and had someone hand my guitar up to me, then I jumped off on to the stage.

Ryan performing at the Higher Ground Festival.

Ryan performing at the Higher Ground Festival.

I tried to land and fell right into my amp. That was a high jump! I’ve had plenty of mishaps: fallen on my ass/head a bunch, had my guitar come out of my strap locks and crack the neck twice. Once I jumped at the old Soiled Dove [when it was on Blake Street] and hit my head on a speaker and damn near knocked myself out. Another time I jumped off a chair and accidentally hit and shattered a glass chandelier at the Paramount Cafe…that rained glass on everyone. It was bad – oops!!

Q: Yikes! Serious liability issues there…lol. But just to push the envelope, is there anything special you’d like to pull off on stage?

Ryan: I always wanted to do a flip on a trampoline while playing solo and also to have fire shoot out of the end of my guitar. Those two things are still on the list!

That seems do-able, Ryan. A quick visit to the pryo-techniques purveyer (and Sport Authority) and you’re on your way. Thanks for taking time to share and we look forward to seeing you out there!

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