Ryan McAllister is one of the Fraser Valley’s few bona fide rock stars. The former Dakona frontman has recorded at some of the world’s most impressive studios and played stages across North America after landing a fairytale record deal with Madonna’s now-dissolved label, Maverick Records.
Today, however, he runs a recording studio a few steps from his house in a sleepy corner of the Valley — and there is nowhere he would rather be.
On April 30 he’ll release his first full-length solo album — the aptly titled Music for a Rainy Town — with a special event at West Abbotsford’s Jubilee Hall, followed up by a show at the Roxy in Vancouver on May 4.
In the 10 years since Dakona’s heyday, McAllister has seen every side of the music industry.
“It’s been quite the ride,” he says. “We went from having a bidding war for our album to slowly watching our record label fall apart in the middle of our tour.
“The one smart thing we did with our big record label advance was build a recording studio in Abbotsford. That turned into my accidental occupation.”
As the owner and operator of Room and Board Studios, McAllister has taught himself the art of producing and recording, and has written plenty of music along the way. But it wasn’t until he received a push from former Dakona guitarist, Brook Winstanley, that he set out to record his own solo tracks.
The result is a rich, diverse record that covers the genre gamut between pop, old time gospel and straight up rock and roll. The 12 tracks reflect a seasoned maturity that offers insight to McAllister’s personal evolution in the decade since Dakona.
“When you’re a 20-something musician who sees what’s working in the industry, you try to emulate that. It’s how you develop your craft,” he says. “Now it doesn’t feel like I’m trying to fit my music into a mold. I’m at a stage in my life when I’ve realized all the people I’m not. I’m a happy guy — I’m married with little kids. Now I’m writing about my securities instead of my insecurities.”
Music for a Rainy Town is a deliberate move away from the big distorted rock chords and dramatic themes that defined McAllister’s youth. But he hasn’t thrown off all the trademarks Dakona fans loved, like lyrics steeped in imagery and that made-for-rock voice that can transition between a honeyed croon and anthemic wail from one track to the next.
The tunes are familiar and warm, and they are 100 per cent McAllister.
“This album is the closest I’ve been to having no regrets,” he says. “It has my stamp all over it.”
Written in Africa, Texas, Hawaii, California and Toronto, the songs are a musical travel journal, but they are deeply rooted on the West Coast—as the title track suggests.
“It’s one of my favourite moments, when I’m in the studio and it’s dumping rain outside,” he says. “I have to pinch myself to realize that this is my job right now.”
McAllister credits that West Coast rain for keeping so many Vancouver artists inside making music. He drew from that vast pool of local talent throughout recording: “They fill the canvas of music with all these colours I would never have thought of.”
Even fresh off performing at the venerated South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, McAllister says he wouldn’t want to make music anywhere else.
“I’ve recorded in huge studios and worked with artists from all over the U.S., but I would never take for granted the talent and camaraderie we have right here in the Valley. Where I’m at now is exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
McAllister will play a series of shows in B.C. and Alberta following the April 30 release of Music for a Rainy Town, including a performance at Canada Place on Canada Day. Visit www.ryanmcallister.com for details.
Catch Ryan McAllister with special guest Daniel Huscroft on April 30 at Jubilee Hall, 7999 Bradner Rd., Abbotsford. Doors at 7 p.m. Advance tickets, $12 at www.ryanmcallister.com
Ryan performs with his band, Cowboys & Indians, on May 4, 8 p.m. at the Roxy, 932 Granville Street, Vancouver.