'For All Time': Introducing ClareBOYant, Chatting with Lee Ritenour, Plus Jukebox The Ghost, Ionie and Andrew Ripp Exclusives

Jukebox The Ghost's first ever animated video for "Black Hole" is taken from an episode of Dreamworks Animation'snow playing on Netflix, the original soundtrack album on Lakeshore Records.
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Jukebox The Ghost's first-ever animated video for "Black Hole" is taken from an episode of Dreamworks Animation's Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show now playing on Netflix, the original soundtrack album on Lakeshore Records.

According to Jukebox The Ghost's Ben Thornewill's...

"In addition to the inherent joys in writing a song about black holes for a cartoon boy and his talking dog it was also fun seeing what we look like animated. I think that they put my legs a bit farther apart than they are in real life but otherwise I the cartoon versions and the real versions of us are pretty much indistinguishable."

Band member Tommy Siegel adds...

"A friend of mine pointed out that in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, all the cartoons ever created live in Toontown--which means, by inference, that somewhere these alternate cartoon versions of ourselves are living out their lives and singing about black holes with the cartoon greats. I can think of no greater honor."



photo courtesy Read Photograpy

According to Z100's Clare Duffy...

"ClareBOYant was an idea we at Z102.9 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had this past Spring. I love boy bands and we decided we could easily put together some high school show choir boys, give them a character and they would appeal to all girls. So we auditioned 10 area boys, found our 6 favorites and got them together. We started working on a hit song of summer, with help from our friend Tim King from Crown Studios and the band Four Star Fate. He gave us the music, we started working on the lyrics and found a listener who was an aspiring song writer. She did the lyrics for us, Tim recorded everything and made it sound GOOD!

"We got Read Photography on board to take some great photos of the boys and a local choreographer to get them some cool moves so they could perform live at the downtown farmer's market. After that, we rolled out the band's official fragrance, which was part insect repellent, part ocean scents. It was sold exclusively in the service department of McGrath Powerports. But we decided we couldn't bear for them to be one hit wonders, so we asked Tim to come up with a new song for them, which we have premiered at Z102.9, 'For All Time.'

"And that brings us to today. We made a music video for this new song and it's so good, we decided we had to go big. Here's the finished clip that we premiered locally on October 14th."

ClareBOYant is...

Isaac Burris (The Heartthrob)
Jake (aka Stake) Truemper (The Sweetheart)
Cam Lande (The Goofball)
Miguel Davidson (The Shy Baby Brother)
Isaiah Zach (The Strong, Silent Guy)
Taylor Zeller (The Big Brother)

A Conversation with Crown Studios' Tim King and Z102.9's Clare Duffy

Mike Ragogna: Timothy, Cedar Rapids' Z102.9 began the ClareBOYant initiative, basically a fun examination of the concept of a boy band. How did ClareBOYant get its name, evolve from concept to reality, and what was your involvement with the project?

Tim King: I can't comment on the name, I wasn't really there from its initial inception. I have worked with Z102.9 for a few years now; our relationship has expanded from one-time guest to frequent collaborator. So, Clare--of which I'm sure the "Clare" in "ClareBOYant" got its name, but I'm just speculating there--told me about this "project" they were working on, and if I'd like to be involved in some way. Of course, I said yes, these guys have gone over the moon and back on my behalf, so I'd do the same for them in a heartbeat.

Clare Duffy: I casually mentioned that I knew I could be an awesome Simon Cowell or Lou Pearlman because I LOVE boy bands and grew up with New Kids On the Block, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, etc. so I know what it takes to put a group of disparate boys together and to appeal to lots of different girls. And we all agreed that this would be a great social experiment to pull off because we have a female based audience who had a similar experience to me. There are a lot of boy band fans out there.

Before we met the boys, we started brainstorming band names that would incorporate my name and we landed on "ClareBOYant." We've had a lot of fun with the boys doing silly things and getting them small performance opportunities...usually at 7 am during our morning show. But when we work with Tim, the music he helped us create is really good. I think he's been a huge part of making this boy band magic come alive. Because the songs actually are great and the listeners love them. And when we put the boys together, things started to click and they really look, sound, and act like a boy band. It's amazing how this experiment came to life. At one point, we looked at each other and said, "This really is legit."

MR: How did the talent elements come together--band and vocalists assembly, songwriting--and what was the eventual recording experience like?

photo credit: Von Presley Studios

TK: If I remember correctly, the Schulte & Swann morning show held auditions in their bathrooms at the studio. They culled the kids from area high schools via their show and Facebook promotions to get people to try out. Once they picked the final line-up, they sent me to task in writing a song. I recorded all the instrumentation myself--drums, bass, synthesizers, and programming--for the backing track, and another area musician, Abby Sevcik, wrote the lyrics. The song became known as "Call You Mine," which was a song I had released earlier in 2014 under my band Four Star Fate called "" It was a New Year's celebration song, but it didn't make much of a splash. So, I "recycled" it, in a way.

photo credit: Impact Photo

CD: We got a sense for who could sing what parts during the audition process, then had some practices. We had originally wanted them to do the national anthem, but scraped that for our own song once Tim and Abby created it.

MR: How many tracks have you recorded to date with ClareBOYant?

TK: We have recorded two songs together, "Call You Mine" and "For All Time."

MR: Since you worked with them for a while, what did you discover about each of these kids, and how well do they really sing considering pitch correction is always a mandatory member with boy bands? By this point, have they bonded personally and creatively as a legitimate vocal group? At what point did you realize this group was going to click?

TK: Just like any other facet in life, people have their strengths and weaknesses. The first few sessions were basically trying to figure out what each members' particular strength was. Since the song had already been "written" before, I had a preconceived notion about what it needed to sound like. None of the guys had any previous recording experience, so it was a ball of nerves from start to finish. The end product came out fine, but it was apparent to me that given the chance, I could write something that played up certain aspects of their talent.

The second time around was much more productive, and less nerve-wracking. I wrote "For All Time" from a track I had previously recorded with another friend of mine, Chris Goettel, but completely scrapped the lyrics. I knew what each guy could sing--their best "range"--and so I tailored the track in that manner. They were much more comfortable in their roles, and the process went a lot smoother. Less "coaching," if you will.

Each member can sing, for sure, but some are definitely more suited for the boy-band sound, and some are more suited for things like musical theater or show choir. It's an eclectic mix; a byproduct of how they were chosen, but they all bring a certain charm or charisma to the table that would be hard to replicate with anyone else. Pitch-correction is a personal preference to each producer/engineer; I don't shy away from the fact that I take great advantage of it. I can bring out the best vocal performance that I can possibly get, without having to record it a thousand times and fatigue everyone involved.

CD: Once I cast the boys, we got them together for the first time during our morning show. I could not believe how instantly they clicked. There's a few guys who go to school together, but don't necessarily know each other, so it was really cool to see them at ease with each other from the beginning. One of the boys' moms made cookies for the first rehearsal and I remember taking the first group shot of them all holding up cookies and in their first picture ever taken, they look like a group. I also have a picture of them immediately following one of our first rehearsals. We had sent them off on their own separate ways, but they were hanging out in the parking lot by their cars chatting away. They're all bros now.

MR: What are some of the events that evolved around building this story/brand professionally?

TK: Again, this isn't really something that I can comment on because I've only been a part of the songwriting and recording process. Everything else has been on Z's end.

CD: When we started having fun with having our own boy band and were approached by McGrath Powersports who were interested in sponsoring the band because they were so fun. So they hooked the boys up with some gigs to get their feet wet. They did a lot of early morning gigs during our show at first, then made their way to the main stage at the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmer's Market. One Direction released a new fragrance this summer and not to be outdone, so did ClareBOYant. They've had their first "hit," with an uptempo song, went on "tour," and then back to the studio to record a new song, more of a ballad. Now they have their first music video. They don't know it yet, but one of them is going to start a solo career, break up the band, and then they'll have a reunion tour then graduate from high school and we'll "Menudo" in some new members.

MR: Clare, doesn't the "For All Time" video director have a Star Wars connection?

CD: Sure does! Director Paul Martin once did a movie with Mark Hamill. During some downtime, the two grabbed a beer and while at the bar, Mark Hamill Jedi Knighted Paul Martin. So the director of ClareBOYant's music video is a Jedi Knight. How cool is that?

MR: Woh. So any surprises or interesting discoveries made during the process of bringing all this together?

CD: I think the whole concept evolved. We were just looking for a little fun to be had this summer, yet here we are in October still having fun with them. I told Tim one day that I have no idea how we will bring this bit to a close and he responded with the best answer--they break up and then have a reunion tour.

MR: What was it like working with the gang at Z102.9? Who were other behind the scenes people involved and how did you interact with them?

TK: The staff at Z are some of the nicest, most hard-working, and downright genuine people you will ever meet. The fact that they would give a local guy, with no real clout to his name, a fighting chance, is something really special. I have mostly worked with Clare, co-host of the morning show, and Scott Schulte of Schulte & Swann--same morning show--on this project. But because I go live on-air sometimes, I interact and converse with the other employees there...just nothing that relates to this project in particular.

CD: I'm the Producer!

photo credit: Von Presley Studios

MR: Did working on the ClareBOYant project change the way you approach music in any way?

TK: I've always written songs with the intention that they would be "mine," as in: I will perform this, I will watch it live and grow, or I will let it die if I don't like it. With ClareBOYant, I've taken songs that I had previously written off, given them a second chance at life, and been pretty astonished at the reaction they've been getting. I don't think they would have received as much attention if I hadn't placed them in this format. So, I've definitely taken this as a sign that I can write songs, and then just let them go out into the wild. Let other people modify what I've done to make the tunes even stronger. At the end of the day, as long as I had a hand in it, I don't really care if I play or take credit up-front for the songs, necessarily. But the Z team have been very adamant about letting people know about me and my creations--my studio, Crown Studios, where the tunes were recorded, and my band Four Star Fate, of which I am chief architect/guitarist/singer.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

TK: Always pursue every avenue. You never know where it may go. Write tons of songs. Scrap tons of songs. Listen to your influences' influences. Try to make something truly your own - don't just copy whatever you hear, but do be aware of where trends are going. Start treating your music and business as one in the same. In my previous bands, I left a lot of things up to chance. This time around with my new band Four Star Fate, I decided to start treating my music like a well-oiled machine. And since then, things have started moving in a direction that might be a sustainable career choice for me.

MR: Where does ClareBOYant go from here?

TK: All the boys are living very different lives right now. Some are graduating in the spring, some still have a year left. I think you'll have to ask Clare about where the logical conclusion of this science experiment will go.

CD: They are all so busy right now as most are in their senior year. These are high achieving kids in many areas of their high schools, so we're letting them focus on school and all of the various activities they're each involved in. But it would be so great to bring the boys back together for the holidays. Or who knows we might "Menudo" them and start this crazy ride all over again.

MR: Do you feel like you collectively created something pretty cool?

TK: People have called in and requested these songs, saying things like "I had no idea that was from HERE!--meaning, Cedar Rapids. So it's a validation that if you put an idea into motion and feed it the right energy, good things might start to happen.

CD: Ditto to what Tim said. And he gets a lot of credit for how great these songs sound. The reactions people are having to the songs are so cool. Our General Manager came in the morning we first aired "For All Time" and said it was so good it actually made her cry. She couldn't believe something so amazing had been put together by some kids who didn't even know each other a few short months ago. What a summer!




photo credit: Clark Brewer

According to Andrew Ripp...

"I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about fear and he said, 'We were made to run with the horses.' That line stirred in my brain for the longest time and eventually became 'Animal.' It's a really powerful song for me on this record because fear is a real thing, it's alive and it can ruin a man's life. I've learned that if you don't address fear face to face it will devour you--it will steal your dreams, your peace, your courage, your passion and can even take your life. Every night I step onto stage and sing this song I am in a way stepping out onto a battlefield to put fear in its place."



photo credit: Toby Seifinger

According to Ionie...

"'Give Me Your Eyes' is about that one look that can say everything--or nothing at all. We all know what that's like, when you say goodbye to someone for the night--or the morning--and all you want is for them to look over their shoulder at you and smile. The song is about that limbo, that place of uncertainty, when you're getting to know someone more intimately but you have no clue where you stand with them. You're caught up in a whirlwind of emotions but you're afraid to expose yourself because you could lose everything. My life is just a constant series of moments like this, but I try to embrace it. Otherwise, it'd drive me crazy. I wrote this song in a basement on an upright piano, in one night. That's a pretty good recipe for a song like this. It's so special when a whole song just pours out of you and you never have to touch it again, and it's a total privilege to write on a piano in New York City. It was definitely emotional to write, but I can make fun of it now. My producer and engineer made up a really funny metal version--it's on the behind the scenes video. Because of the title sometimes people think it's a horror movie about having your eyes cut out and served on a platter, but I laugh it off.

"I think the video for 'Give Me Your Eyes' feels so real because of the way it's filmed. It's only two long shots, so it's not like a regular music video that cuts to a new shot every two seconds. It's meant to feel like you're watching characters in a movie--props to my director Erica Rose for that execution--and I think it feels all the more vulnerable. The making of the video was especially hard because getting those long shots right took a lot of focus and prep. People on the street kept video bombing the outside shot and then we'd have to start all over again--but we got it in the end. The second shot is special because it's choreographed to work in real time. The backdrop swivels around, the camera follows, and the lighting changes from night to day, all without editing. I also really enjoyed making this video because it gave me an opportunity to act a little more than I'd be able to in a typical music video, and to me acting is just an extension of music."



A Conversation with Lee Ritenour

Mike Ragogna: Lee, it's forty years later. Did you ever think it would last this long?

Lee Ritenour: Well, when you're that young and you get your first record contract with a major label--I started with Epic Records which was a subsidiary of Columbia, which later became Sony--I was around twenty-three. At that age, you're hoping you get to make the first record. That's your only dream. You basically just want to be on a major label, one or the other, and not too many, just a few spread out over the forty years. That in itself is as much of an accomplishment that you have to go, "Wow that's trippy." It's pretty cool.

MR: And congratulations, oh by the way.

LR: Thank you.

MR: On your new album, A Twist Of Rit, you have almost literally a cast of thousands, including the debut of Hungarian artist Tony Pusztai. Clearly you wanted to set up a project that would celebrate the past forty years of your music, but how did that lead to your choice of artists and material and who to feature, such as Tony?

LR: Let's start with Tony first. The last cut on the record is a song called "Waltz For Carmen" that I wrote years ago. Throughout all these years, even when I went to USC in my early twenties I took over somebody's class and started teaching there when I was twenty two I think. I've always had the educational thing as a part of my life, but in these latter years I've really started to try to get back and mentor and create some opportunities for young musicians, and I did that via a foundation that I created called Lee Ritenour's Six String Theory Competition. It's a biannual event and it's starting up again in 2016, this will be our fifth year. The Berklee College Of Music has been a sponsor, giving out four-year scholarships and the Yamaha Corporation gives out instruments and endorsements, last year Montreux invited the guitar, piano, bass and drum winners to open for me at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. D'Addario strings, Monster cables, there's just been so many opportunities. There's a guitar festival in Montana that I do every year called The Crown Of The Continents Guitar Festival, they've offered scholarships for the winners and actually set up a Lee Ritenour/Wes Montgomery Scholarship as well, which is in conjunction with my Six String Theory. There's all sorts of mentoring and educational opportunities. The grand prize winner of every year gets to perform on a recording with me, so last year's winner, Tony Pusztai, was a classical guitarist who also crosses over to jazz, he's a phenomenal guitarist from Hungary and he got to perform with me on this record, so that was cool. Going back to the beginning of the record, as you mentioned, it's been forty years of me recording, over fifty years I've been playing the guitar and growing up in L.A. I really appreciate the opportunity I've had to have this career and do all of this variety of music.

I've had over two hundred compositions of my own plus all the other tunes that are recorded on this record--I think this record is actually number forty three. I never, ever wanted to do a "Best Of" collection recording, that's definitely not my thing. What I was looking to do was write some new material, which I did, several new songs, and then go back over the decades, especially to the very early period, even the first album which was several tunes from that album recreated on this one. It seems like a lot of groups like Snarky Puppy and Dirty Loops and other jazz and hip hop and R&B groups are crossing over and using those influences from the seventies, which we were some of the masters and creators of, doing our own thing back then. So I looked at tunes that I thought we could have a fresh look at in 2015-- It wasn't to recreate the hits, it was really to look at tunes that would be fun to recreate. I did that with the older tunes by using a twelve-piece band live in the studio, it's a total studio recording, but I used the twelve-piece band to play everything live and have that energy.

MR: There are certain mile markers in one's career where it feels like you've reached a certain point and achieved something you can be really proud of. Are there certain mile markers that you remember and thoroughly appreciate?

LR: There are a number of situations. I grew up in L.A. and back in those days it was very desirable to be a studio musicians and, if you wanted to, a rock or jazz guitarist on the side, doing your thing and also recording with all of these great people and great musicians, because everyone was playing together in those days. So getting in the door as a professional musicians is one of the landmark events for anyone, when you realize, "God, I might be able to do this for a living." It happened for me pretty young. I was about sixteen when I got a chance to record with The Mamas & The Papas, but one of the more serious landmarks was when I was eighteen and guitarist Gábor Szabó recommended me to play with Lena Horne and Tony Bennett at the music center, the Dorothy Chandler downtown, with an orchestra and front and center with Lena and Tony and going, "Well okay, this is the real deal." So that was great. Then when my studio career took off that was a dream come true, and then finally getting my first contract with Epic. I think the second record, Captain Fingers was kind of a benchmark, it started things really rolling. Other big events were the Rit album in 1981, the Wes Bound album in '93, the Six String Theory album in 2010, the first Fourplay album when I helped create the group and that went platinum, there have been so many great events. Working with some of my heroes like Quincy Jones...it's just been quite a ride.

MR: You also had sessions with Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, Simon & Garfunkel, Herbie Hancock, even Frank Sinatra. You are the studio musician's musician. You've got forty-three albums as Lee Ritenour, sure, but your musical archive is so much wider. Do you hear your influence in other artists?

LR: Definitely, and that's a great compliment. Sometimes you go, "Wow, that sounds eerily familiar." It's funny, the music keeps getting handed down, so the songs from the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties, the songs from pop and R&B and hip hop and jazz and all the genres keep getting redone and examined. At the same time, the productions, the way the drums are played, the way the bass is played, the way the guitar parts are played, all that gets regurgitated and put upside down and twisted and done in a new way. There are artists who are popular right now who are just taking chapters out of the seventies spirit. They talk about the great music from the sixties and we all know about that, but then the seventies also had a very cool period that really had a bigger, longer impact in some senses. I was so happy to be a part of that period. A lot of those records that I worked on with people you mentioned, Steely Dan and Quincy and Pink Floyd happened during that time. It was a great period because I was going up to San Francisco to Fantasy Records, working with Orrin Keepnews and getting to play with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins and these kinds of people and then Motown had moved to L.A. and I was a strong rhythm player so I kept getting called down to the Motown sessions, doing Barry White and then every once in a while something completely off the wall like Pink Floyd.

MR: Ha, nice pun. There were so many different genres that could be played on one station back then. Variety was king. There was this jazz influence--you could hear it in the Phil Ramone productions--that really crept into pop music at that time, especially with singer-songwriters like Phoebe Snow, Paul Simon. And there were Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian and James Taylor recordings, Maria Muldaur's "Midnight At The Oasis"...

LR: You're a hundred percent right. Joni and James Taylor and Paul Simon, certainly Phil Ramone's productions and Quincy and Dave Grusin, all of these people that were making a lot of the records back then had very strong jazz roots and yet they were making commercial, pop-oriented records. They were definitely using those influences. Of course jazz and blues are at the roots of American popular music, so it's not surprising that even though the most complicated, complex jazz does not touch a lot of people, the elements of jazz are steeped deeply into American culture and American music. I grew up loving the guitar, period. When I was eight years old and started playing in the sixties there was a legend on every side of the guitar. On the jazz side you had Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell and Jim Hall and Joe Pass and a number of others and then on the rock side Hendrix was coming and Clapton was there and Jeff Beck and the who was around the corner and Led Zeppelin eventually. And then on the country side, there was Chet Atkins and the blues had B.B. King and John Lee Hooker and Albert King, and the greatest classical guitarist of all time, Segovia, and Sabicas the flamenco guitarist, and then there was the whole folk movement. Everywhere you looked there was just really amazing guitar playing going on. I took all those elements and that's what became Lee Ritenour, along with learning how to produce records from those people you just mentioned. That's kind of what's become the hallmark of my career over these forty years.

MR: As I mentioned earlier you have a cast of thousands on this album. What was it like, choosing the artists, receiving the performances, et cetera?

LR: It was really fun. Last January, around my birthday I went to Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles and worked with a great drummer, Dave Weckl and an incredible pianist from Japan Makoto Ozone and my long-time bassist Tom Kennedy. I had already written some of the new material, so we dialed those songs in over the weekend and recorded them together on Monday, so they had a freshness and yet the material was pretty dialed in. On the other hand, some of the older material that I wanted to rearrange I worked closely with John Beasley who's been a musical partner for twenty five years, which is young compared to my other musical partners like Dave Grusin and Patrice Rushen and Ernie Watts and Paulinho Da Costa, who are all on the record and all go way back with me. Patrice I met when I was sixteen and she was fourteen, Dave Grusin I met when I was nineteen, Ernie I met when I was twenty, Paulinho about the same. A love of these people we've been in each other's musical and personal lives forever. I knew I was going to have my music mafia as my friends call it surrounding me on an album like this, but at the same time I needed some young blood and some young fire to actually put the twist on the music. So John Beasley and I thought about a young drummer named Ron Bruner Jr. and another young drummer named Chris Coleman who have a different way of looking at playing the drums today. The drums are always at the center of the groove in popular music, whether it's jazz or funk or rock or whatever the style of popular music, that's where everything stands from the rhythm section up. We put Ron Bruner on some of these tracks and he certainly added a fresh twist. Here was a young man that was steeped in the vocabulary of the seventies but was looking at it through the eyes of a twenty-something.

MR: I think another part of this "twist" is the new interpretations of the old pieces.

LR: Very astute of you, yeah. I think that was one of the reasons I wanted all my old friends to perform these parts together, so I hired Michael Thompson on rhythm guitar, he's a fantastic studio musician but he's also a Berklee guy so he understands all of the elements of jazz and funk and pop and he's a bit of a historian so he knew all the parts I had played as a rhythm guitar player in my early days. He could take me and twist it. Patrice Rushen and Dave Grusin complemented John Beasley just perfectly. I told Dave, "I want you to be the utility guy, I want you to play Minimoog and B-3 Organ and Fender Rhodes and piano and clavinet and color the tracks the way you used to," when he had GRP records and when he was working with Quincy and doing all of his movies, because he was the greatest at orchestrating these parts. A song like "Ooh Yeah" Dave is playing Minimoog and it sounds like it's straight out of something Quincy would've done and yet you've got Ron Bruner playing a dig at a Chris Dave-type beat, sort of a Glasper-type groove on that song. The old and the young coming together is perfect.

MR: To me, "Countdown" is one of the biggest re-imaginings on the record, because you use that sample throughout it.

LR: Exactly. John Beasley insisted that we put it into his computer and he was just triggering it freely, so it was fun.

MR: When you revisited the old tracks, were there any moments where you said, "Oh wait a second, I could've done this back then," or "I meant to do that and I never did."

LR: Absolutely. That was one of the funnest parts of making the record. First I picked about forty songs and put them on a playlist, they were tunes from various albums spread out across the decades, and then we whittled them down to the tunes that we actually recorded. on my first record in 1975 when I was recording it I was still coming out of my early studio days. Back in those days I was still a chameleon, so I wasn't so confident that the Lee Ritenour guitar style was there yet. I remember being disappointed with my fist album, I thought it could've been stronger and better. When I was playing some of these tunes, like "A Little Bit Of This" and "Sweet Syncopation" and "Wild Rice" I was coming with a much stronger attitude on the guitar now than I thought I had back then on the first album. The funny thing is that years later when I relisten to the first album I realize my style was there and it was there all along. But again, that's what confidence and experience does. It was really fun to see that these tunes actually stood up and stood the test of time.

MR: You've brought up Wes Montgomery a couple of times in this interview, and I've heard many other artists look to him as a formative influence of jazz. What exactly was it that he brought to the music?

LR: When I was twelve my dad said, "Let's go to the music store." We bought three records; A Joe Pass record, a Howard Roberts record, and a Wes Montgomery record. I think the Wes Montgomery record was Bumpin'. My sister had a tiny little turntable with a couple of built in tiny speakers. I put on the three records and loved them all. All three of those guitarists ended up being a major impact on me, but when I put Wes' record on the guitar just jumped out of the grooves. His sound was that much stronger than anybody else's and his feeling and the way he built a solo and of course the famous octaves--And also the way he way he played rhythmically. He was a much more rhythmical guitar player. The other ones of that genre, Charlie Christian and Grant Green and Kenny Burrell, Kenny and Wes were the more soulful and rhythmical players and that resonated with me. For some reason rhythm was part of my thing, maybe because Motown was blasting on my sister's turntable the whole period, too. But Wes had every combination, he had this uncanny ability to build solos with a single string and then octaves and then improvisational solos and sounding like a small big band. He was writing great tunes. A lot of people criticized those productions, they said they were too commercial, but there was something that I loved about Don Sebesky's earlier arrangements, through the whole production the sound of the guitar is set against the rhythm section. And they were putting amazing players around Wes; a young Herbie Hancock was there, Ron Carter, all these great players. The CTI recordings and the Verve recordings were all amazing. He definitely had a major influence on me. This last year I finally got to meet one of his sons, Robert Montgomery, because he came to the Crown Of The Continents guitar festival out in Montana and they presented a ten thousand dollar Wes Montgomery and Lee Ritenour scholarship to a student, that's going to be an annual award now.

MR: Now we know more about your roots, but was there anybody along the way who changed the way you look at music?

LR: When I first got into Segovia and the classical guitar I realized that was another world I could learn as much as I could about, but unless I gave up the electric guitar and everything I had done up to that point I was never going to be a classical guitarist like that guy. But nonetheless it was a major head-turner. I remember the first time I heard Hendrix, I was sixteen and I had my dad's car driving home from school, I pulled into the driveway and heard this guitar sound that was just so over my head at the time I was like, "What is that, how did he do it and who is that?" I think it was "Purple Haze," it was just that much of a mind-blower. John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, it was just a total twist. At the time Larry Coryell and John McLaughlin were taking jazz guitar and rock guitar and fusing them together. That was probably a place where I was living strongly, I wanted to do that.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

LR: Well first of all, there are more talented musicians and artists and songwriters and players of every instrument around the world than ever, and now the world is smaller because of the internet. There are talented guitarists throughout the world and there's also schools and universities full of musicians trying to get the education and when they graduate and leave school get started in their career either as an artist or as a side player. My best advice is to try to get your own style. We don't need another copy of Stevie Ray Vaughan or Ritenour or Metheny or Hendrix or Montgomery or whoever you're talking about, we need original voices. I always like to say everybody does have an original voice because when you call somebody up on the phone and say, "Hey, how are you doing?" your friend recognizes your voice. Everybody has their own individual sound, it's just a matter of getting it out on the instrument, whether as a singer or a player or an artist or a side man. Whatever originality you can bring to the table is important. There's a couple ways to help get there: writing songs, even if you're not a songwriter and don't want to be a songwriter, writing songs is one way to help you identify your particular brand of originality. A song is something you can look at and evaluate honestly from a distance and say, "Oh yeah, I like that, that's me." Also listen to a variety of music and a variety of instruments. If you're an instrumentalist listen to singers, if you're a singer listen to instrumentalists. Listen to different styles of music from around the world. It's like cooking in the kitchen; you bring different spices and you create something fresh.

MR: Nicely said. It's forty years later, but do you still feel in some respects like you're a new artist?

LR: [laughs] Yes. That's a great question, not very many people ask me that. I still feel like I'm trying to make it, you know? That's a good feeling to have. I don't have the same fire in the belly that my son does, he's twenty two and a drummer and he's just starting out on his career. Obviously, I can turn around and look back at what I've done and people give me respect for doing it, but when I make a new album I'm always going, "Oh my God." I feel exactly the way I felt when I made the first record, I'm looking at the top of this mountain that I have to climb and thinking, "How am I going to get there? How am I going to do it better? How am I going to improve?" Being creative is so elusive, it's always a chase. That's what keeps you fresh, too. I always feel like I'm just walking in the door for the first time.

MR: Do you think your son feels the gravitas of having Lee Ritenour as his dad? That's a lot to live up to.

LR: There's lots of professional musicians out there who have sons or daughters following in their footsteps. I'm sure every one of them feels a bit of that, but it's a double-edged sword. Some doors are automatically open for someone like my son Wes--named after Wes Montgomery--but on the other hand he has to come with it that much stronger and he has to prove it. I've invited him on a number of occasions to do things and he does travel with me, I invited him to play on this record because he recorded some on the Rhythm Sessions album in 2012. Sometimes he just flatly turns me down, "No dad, I don't need to be on this project, you need to get Ron Bruner Jr. or Chris Coleman or Dave Weckl, this is a different kind of project." He never takes advantage of the situation, I'm really proud of him for that.

MR: So what's the plan for the next forty years?

LR: [laughs] Wouldn't that be nice, to be around that long? I just hope I keep healthy and sharp enough to keep making music. I work my ass off. I'm twenty four-seven year-round. Somebody close to me said, "Why do you work so hard? Why don't you think about retiring?" I said, "Retiring? I am retired! I do what I love!"

MR: With over two hundred songs recorded you have to have a favorite. People say it's like picking children but there's got to be one recording you just love.

LR: That's a really interesting question, I don't know if anybody's ever asked me that straight-up. It's funny, two songs come to mind, one is older and one is new. Once in a while when you write a song it's so painful to come out sometimes it can take days or even weeks and you just keep fooling with it and tinkering with it. Once in a while, a song can come out in one breath, and within minutes the complete composition is there. Those are the times were you go, "Gee, where the f**k did that come from?" A new tune on the new record, "Pearl" is one of those. It's dedicated to my mom. I think the tune holds up and I think it'll be in my repertoire for a long time to come. Another tune that was written in 1990 for my wife Carmen, "Waltz For Carmen," also appears on this record. I wouldn't be so bold to say it's a standard, and don't take that out of context, but a lot of people have mentioned that it has that kind of quality. When tunes are easily adapted to each situation, whatever kind of band is playing it in whatever tune in whatever decade and the tune keeps floating to the top and still sounds fresh that's the earmark of a pretty solid song.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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