April 14, 2011

We recently photographed Ryan Miller for his upcoming album release and thought it would be the perfect time to feature him on our staff spotlight section. Ryan is a talented DJ on Cage and Aquarium’s team, but he is also known as singer/songwriter, Manic Lane. With Manic Lane’s upcoming performance at our Futureshock fundraiser at O’Malley’s West on May 13, this is a great time to get to know Ryan!

What is your music background and how did you get started as a musician? I started playing piano at around age 5. My very first live performance was about that age when I got the chance to play a Christmas song for my church. I knew then that I loved playing music for people. Music wasn’t a part of my family life, but the generations before me were nothing but music. I wrote my first lyrical song when I was 8 years old. The real music didn’t start til I was around 18 and bought my first guitar. I am self taught and practiced close to eight hours a day. I wrote my first official song with music and words when I was 21 and this led me to the live circuit on the streets of Chicago, meeting many amazing musicians and challenging myself to keep getting better.

What instruments do you play, and how did you learn? I play guitar, piano, harmonica, and sing. I started playing piano when I was 5 with professional lessons. I self taught myself the guitar by spending many hours a day practicing. I just picked up singing and harmonica along the way and continually learn how to better them.

Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process.) I am first and foremost a songwriter. I have just over 200 written and recorded songs. The songwriting process can vary from song to song. Some of my songs are drawn from memories and experiences in my life. Most of the songs start out with a random pattern of melodies played out on my guitar. It usually sparks a word or thought that I use to build on with real life phrases and lines. After I have played it a few times, I sit down to record it in my home studio.

Who are your musical influences and why? I have many, many influences in my music. As a child, my parents would listen to country music almost all the time. I grew up with many old greats like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, & George Strait. Then came the folk songs and my sister’s passion for 80’s hair bands which led me to steal her tapes and I started dreaming of being a musician. When I discovered Counting Crows, my passion in song writing and music with feeling really took its hold on me. My guitar style comes from playing a lot of classic rock and blues like Eric Clapton and B.B. King which developed into more of a folk style with a twist.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing instead? When I was younger, I studied art and computer design. My other passions beside music are art and writing, so I would be doing something along those lines.

How do you describe your music to people? I get asked all the time what style of music I play. It’s always a hard question to answer. My usual response is a Pop/Folk/Rock style of singer/songwriter mix. With a name like Manic Lane, it’s easy to say that it’s a whole bunch of styles mixed together.

What are your hobbies? Most of my “hobbies” are just different things related to Music. I host weekly open mics in Chicago, which are a nice chance to play and listen to other amazing musicians live.

What inspires you the most? A great song. When a song just hits me with the total harmony of my feelings and emotions, I feel like I can move mountains.

In ten years, where do you see yourself? I could never have imagined my experiences in the past ten years. If I were to say what’s ahead in ten years, I hope it’s as adventurous. I know that I will still be writing songs and playing guitar and that’s good for me.

Do you have upcoming releases of new recordings, or special performances? I just released The 32 Project.  It is a project that took 32 days. On each day from Feb 28th – Mar 31st (my 33rd birthday) an unreleased song was released with a story behind the song. It can be listened to or downloaded on Manic Lane’s web site and Grooveshark.

Upcoming Manic Lane performances:

Futureshock – May 13, 7:00 pm, Cage and Aquarium’s 4th annual fundraiser for Chicago Public Schools through a Donorschoose.org. Purchase tickets.

Chicago’s Green Festival at the McCormick Place Chicago – May 14th, 3:00 PM.

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