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Ryan Montano: Behind the Beats

Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Ryan Montano.


We featured Ryan Montano in this year's Behind the BEATS magazine alongside three others who have found success beyond music. His other passion: filmmaking & acting. Only a portion of our interview was included in our magazine, so please enjoy the entire interview below.


Allen Kepler : Which came first for you in your younger years… acting or music? 

Ryan Montano: Music came first in my younger years. Pretty much all of my family members are musicians and music is deeply ingrained into our family culture. I first started getting into filmmaking when I was in middle school. My older brother Rick let me borrow his camcorder for a family vacation to Kauai. I remember teaching myself every single function and button that specific camera had to offer. When I was in college, I majored in journalism and worked at several different radio and TV stations. It was at these stations where I started learning video and audio editing, graphic design and animation. Around this same time, I was approached by a film and television agent while I was playing a blues gig in my hometown of Albuquerque NM. From there, I started getting opportunities in front of the camera as an actor and started to incorporate acting into my video passions. 


When I graduated from college, I landed a full-time job as the Production Manager for Telemundo Nuevo Mexico where I made :30 Spanish-language commercials. I then landed a job at the University of New Mexico as a video producer creating cinematic documentary-style videos for the marketing department. It was through these full-time video jobs that I was able to pay for the recording costs, mixing, mastering and national radio campaigns for my songs that first helped me break into the Contemporary Jazz format in 2014 and create a national presence in the music industry. I worked these 9-5 video jobs until 2017, when I was able to transition to playing the trumpet full-time, as that was always my main focus. 


AK: What similarities (if any) do you find between acting and performing music? 

RM: I would say that improvisation is the biggest similarity between music and acting that I’ve experienced. When I make musical decisions that are spontaneous and rooted in the moment of what's taking place on stage or in the studio, the music reaches its highest creative potential. I’ve found that the same goes with acting. The evolution of a scene reaches its highest creative potential when the actors are able to authentically and spontaneously respond to the emotions that present themselves when acting out a scene. This is the foundation of the Meisner Technique. I’ve found that honestly reacting in the immediate moment, both in music and in film, yields the most authentic artistic results. 


AK: How about creating a smooth jazz hit and composing music for a film or tv show? 

RM:  I’ve found that creating music for the Contemporary Jazz format and creating music for video are two very different creative pursuits. With Smooth Jazz, I’ve found that most songs are created around a foundation of melody and groove. When making music for video, I’ve found that the music serves an ancillary role in support of the visuals telling the story on the screen. While there are no specific rules for creating music for video, I’ve been finding that the melodies can’t be too busy; the balance between instruments and harmonic textures have to have a little less dynamic contrast than one may find in a Smooth Jazz song. I’ve found that there are many more creative and stylistic factors to consider when making music for video. With Contemporary Jazz, the song can be more specific, more selfish so-to-speak, with the melodies and harmonic textures. There is more flexibility to create sounds that can stand alone on their own, without having to compliment a story being told through visuals. 


Photo: Ryan Montano alongside Ethan Hawke and Bruce Greenwood in Good Kill (2014)


AK: How do you balance your focus between acting and being a smooth jazz artist? 

RM: This was a balance with which I struggled for many years. There were months-long periods in my life where I would dedicate most of my creative energy towards film and video. As a result, I felt my musical instincts and chops would lose a certain creative edge. At one point, I started creating a video production company, and quickly found that the time, energy and resources I was allocating towards getting that business off the ground was severely compromising the quality of the music I was creating. I would then shift my creative focus back to music in an effort to reclaim that lost creative edge. Consequently, the quality of my video work suffered, thus perpetuating a draining back-and-forth between these two worlds. After many years of trial and error, I made the decision to focus and double down on the creative passion that I felt most closely fit my purpose, which is music. 

I now get to be choosy with my video projects and pursuits. I no longer need to search for clients or worry about production budgets. I shoot the subjects and projects that are first and foremost, creatively rewarding. As a result, I feel that the quality of my music AND the quality of my video work have improved considerably. 


AK: What’s coming for us in 2024? 

RM:  My next radio single is slated to hit airwaves on March 4th, 2024. I’m writing and producing a new album which I also hope to release in 2024. The album will feature a diverse amalgamation of exceptional and diverse musicians including Contemporary Jazz icons Phil Denny and Darren Rahn. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with shooting long-exposure timelapses and editing them to my music. Finding and capturing these locations through this photography technique has been some of the most creatively rewarding and satisfying times I’ve ever had behind a camera. I just finished recording and producing a song called “Enchanted Lands”, which is a Latin Jazz-based musical work dedicated to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. I’m currently shooting and editing a music video for this song that incorporates different shots of New Mexico that have been captured using the long-exposure timelapse photography technique. I’m also considering reconnecting with opportunities in front of the camera, should this path reveal itself to an honest endeavor meant to be pursued. Whatever the future holds, I’ve made it my purpose to give each creative enterprise my deepest, strongest and most intentional effort.


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2 Comments


Yukia Nanilas
Yukia Nanilas
a day ago

Should this road turn out to be an honest venture destined to be pursued, I'm also thinking about getting back into acting run 3

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thomasfrank1803
May 03

Impressed by Ryan Montano's seamless transition between music and acting. His ability to excel in both Buckshot Roulette arenas speaks volumes about his talent and determination.

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