Ryan Montbleau doesn’t travel with a tour rider, per se. The man and his band may crisscross the country several times a year, but they aren’t exactly Led Zeppelin. They won’t start chucking TVs off hotel balconies if they don’t have, say, three bottles of each flavor of Vitamin Water, a personal masseuse who’s actually from Sweden, those mint-flavored Milano cookies from Pepperidge Farms and a bag of Tostitos Hint of Lime tortilla chips. Montbleau would be happy with some orange juice and a place to tune his guitar.
“I don’t have to have the special colored M&Ms or anything, but it’s nice to have consistency,” said Montbleau. “If you try to eat good and play good, the rest takes care of itself. The bottom line is, the playing has to be good.”
And the playing is good for the 31-year-old Montbleau, a Peabody, Mass.-native who has honed his chops and his skills while out on tour. The Ryan Montbleau Band will play this Saturday at the Hill in the ‘Ville Festival in Waterville, a free show organized by Waterville Main Street, a community events-planning group.
Montbleau makes engaging, smart and fun roots-rock, like a John Mayer who dropped the sentimental act and decided to write really, really good songs. The first thing that stands out, upon listening to his latest album “Patience on Friday,” is the arrestingly soulful tone in his voice. Montbleau traces his vocal style to some slightly embarrassing roots.
“I listened to a lot of cheesy pop R&B growing up,” he said. “I loved Bel Biv Devoe and New Edition. I really did! But that eventually led me to things like Sam Cooke and Stevie Wonder. And I always loved the blues and classic rock, like AC/DC and Stevie Ray Vaughn.”
The influence of R&B and pop on Montbleau makes his music highly accessible — though that certainly doesn’t mean it’s not got depth. His lyrical eye is sharp and full of imagery, mining politics, relationships, nature and life on the road in such a way that it puts him more in the league of Ani DiFranco, than it does some of the bands he plays with at jam festivals across the country.
And as it turns out, DiFranco is a personal hero. So is Martin Sexton, with whom he will tour this fall.
“Oh man, I’ll tell you, and this is no B.S., my hero has been Martin Sexton for a long, long time,” said Montbleau. “And now I get to go on tour with his this fall. And I get to open for Ani DiFranco a few times. It’s kind of hard for me to look beyond that. I feel like if I opened for Paul Simon, people wouldn’t even pay attention to me.”
Montbleau’s made a name for himself on the jam band circuit, which has welcomed him in wholeheartedly. But whether he’s playing a big summer festival with Moe and String Cheese Incident, or he’s playing a small theater with a folksinger or two, Montbleau’s content to just play music in lots of different places for lots of different people.
“I want to play for whoever wants to listen, and the jam scene is full of people who are really open-minded about music, so it’s really ideal,” he said. “The jam scene is in my heart, but I’m always open for anything. It’s about the songs, more than anything.”
The Ryan Montbleau Band will play at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, at the ‘Hill in the ‘Ville Festival in downtown Waterville. Also on the bill are State Radio, the Brew, the Headrights and the Calypso Soldiers. The show is completely free. For more info, visit www.myspace.com/watervillemainstreet.