When it comes to music, Marc Ribler has lived quite the life. He’s played and worked with some of the biggest names in music, and even found time here and there to use his downtime to formulate his own music. We talked about how he separates working with others and doing his own thing, his latest single that shines a light on greed, and more like his July 2021 release, ‘The Whole World Awaits.’
Kendra: You’ve spent a great deal of your career playing guitar for others and being the musical director for the likes of Stevie Van Zandt. So when it comes time to focus on your own thing, how do you mentally and artistically step away from everyone else and hone in on your own thing?
Marc Ribler: The funny thing is I’ve been working on my own music as long as I’ve been writing, musical directing, and producing for others. Usually, when I am not on the road or in the studio, I tend to find time to write my original songs. It is a sort of therapy for processing the trials and tribulations, all the things that we go through in this crazy world we live in.
Fortunately, during the pandemic, I was able to put my energy into finishing up this record which I started recording a few years back before going on tour with Stevie Van Zandt and the disciples of soul. It also allowed much time for reflection and writing new songs for my future projects. Including my next album.
Kendra: So let’s talk about ‘The Whole World Awaits You.’ The downside of 2020 was there was no live music, which to a concert-loving person – it was hell. The upside of that is that I feel like it gave artists like yourself so much time to reflect and perhaps tap into new aspects of their songwriting. At what point of last year did you start to feel moved to start working on this record?
Marc Ribler: As I mentioned earlier, I started recording this record when I had a few weeks off in February 2017. We had just finished recording the ‘Soulfire’ album with Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul. I had been accumulating songs for several years and felt it was a good time to go in to record basic tracks.
Stevie was planning a tour but in the meantime, he had two months committed with the E Street B and to go to Australia. It felt like the most opportune time to seize the moment. I did some overdubs and preliminary mixes at my home studio and then just put it on the back burner figuring I would finish it when the tour was over. Little did I know that would be three or four years later.
About three or four weeks into the band pandemic I was feeling like if I didn’t start doing something productive I would jump out my first story window. Needless to say, it felt like Armageddon or the zombie apocalypse so I needed to do something soul-nourishing. I re-investigated all of the songs and started doing some mixes. I was on the phone with Steven one day catching up and he asked me what I had been doing lately. I mentioned my record and he asked me to send it to him. I was ecstatic to hear from him the next day. He said he loved the music and wanted to work further on the production and arrangements with me. This was just the medicine I needed to get through the early months of the pandemic.
Kendra: Music as a whole has always been reflective of the time and “Who Could Ask For Anything More” certainly is. It reminded me of a modern take on Joni Mitchells’ “Big Yellow Taxi.” You know, you’ve got this song that on the surface sounds sweet but lyrically it hits hard. Where were you mentally when this one came to mind and was it therapeutic to get it out in song?
Marc Ribler: Thank you for that acknowledgment. It was extremely therapeutic, the funny thing is when superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast. I had written a couple of songs and recorded them with some of my local Jersey musician friends to raise money for those directly affected by the storm.
We raised several thousand dollars for then-Governor Chris Christie’s wife’s charity for Superstorm Sandy victims. I attended a function that Christie spoke at. I walked up to him and told him I had a check for the charity. He smiled, said thank you and at that moment I felt that we had done something good. A couple of months later we come to find that the funds from the charity were, let’s just say, not exactly doing the good that was promised a couple of years later he shuts down the George Washington Bridge for self-gain.
I needed to vent my frustration over this incredibly selfish behavior. If you look around there’s much to be frustrated, discontent, infuriated, and angry about. The state of the environment, the state of health and well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants. I try to infuse lightness and a bit of comedy to somehow counteract the venomous poisons that exist in our everyday lives. “Who Could Ask For Anything More” was extremely therapeutic!
Kendra: As someone who has worked in the music industry, do you feel like the events of 2020 will move those in the industry to be a little less about the money and more about the art given we did have a moment there where the idea of live music returning was slim?
Marc Ribler: It seems that everything is in such a state of flux at the moment. Everyone is anxious to get back out on tour to make up for lost time, which is compounded by the enormous abundance of music that so many artists are releasing at the moment. In the last year, it had to be about the art, and it seems now it is about getting the art and music out there to create commerce to compensate for time lost. It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out in the next year or two. I am hopeful that when we look back it will have been a positive change. That being said, the road ahead does not appear to be simple. To put it mildly…
Kendra: Lastly, it’s getting a little easier with the vaccine rollouts, but it’s still kind of hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself?
Marc Ribler: At the moment I am treading lightly, I must say, still feeling a bit shell-shocked from the 15 months that we all just experienced. I am planning a few album release shows in the tri-state area. The first one being on the July 16 release date at McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park New Jersey.
And shortly after that possibly at the Cutting Room in New York City and a couple of other venues that we are checking out. We are also seeking placements of songs from the record in film and television. From my past experience that has always been a great catalyst for bringing awareness to artists and their music. At some point hopefully later this year, we will figure out some sort of touring plan, either as an opening act and or headlining depending on the situation.