Requirements to shelter at home during the coronavirus outbreak are tough on musicians like Ryan Berg. The Lake Highlands High graduate has cultivated a fanbase of loyal followers after years of playing gigs at area hotspots like The Rustic, Double Wide, Barley House and The Goat. In 2014 he began his first weekly residency at the Alligator Café, formerly in Casa Linda shopping center, and now his booking agency, 13th Floor Music, keeps him busy at local breweries, restaurants and clubs.
I spoke with Berg via email about the future of live music in Dallas and how he spends his days during the pandemic.
How are you keeping busy now that restaurants and bars are closed?
At this point, I have been focusing on recording with musicians all over the metroplex. When I tell people about the projects that we are currently working on I get a lot of shocked and disgusted responses before I can truly explain our process. in 2001, Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello formed The Postal Service. The name was a tribute to the fact that the two musicians had extremely conflicting schedules and the only way to complete the project was by emailing files to each other from separate rooms. This created a very unique take on the recording process and many of my peers and I fell in love with the band. In recent weeks, this process seemed exciting and doable, considering that my roommate, Patrick Smith, is an excellent bass player and producer. Over the past week, I have had the pleasure of working on a collaboration with Remy Reilly (North Dallas), Camden Gonzales (Rowlett), Chris Watson (Ft. Worth), Luke Callaway (East Dallas), Carlos Savetman (Allen) and Patrick Smith (East Dallas). The fact that we can work together from miles away is a blessing and we look forward to the release of a cover song and a video in the next couple of weeks.
What do you miss most about your days playing music for a live audience?
Although I have been participating in live streaming and online sessions, I truly miss the relationship between the musicians I’m normally working and growing with. We are lucky that we can continue to work together through technology, but the energy that we bring and take off the stage is sorely missed. I also miss the interaction between the audience and I. Looking into a camera lens feels fake to me, especially after having so many years to connect with individuals on a musical level.
Do you ever find time to be a consumer of live music – a member of the audience?
Of course! As an artist, at times a pessimist, and a deep thinker, music is my ultimate healant. The silver lining of our situation for music lovers is that we all have access to FREE shows from our favorite musicians – locally and internationally. For all of us small guys, this is showing to be a shuffling of the deck. One month ago, Taylor Swift would be in an arena with thousands of screaming fans, lights, and incredible sound equipment. That same night, I would be playing to a crowd of 5 at White Rock Coffee with my extremely simplistic equipment, forget about the light show. These days, we’re both sitting in our bedrooms, isolated with an acoustic guitar. I think that a lot of musicians will progress quickly when all of this is over because a lot of people seem to be tuning in… to the little guys, and T Swift! Personally, I’ve been trying to support locally in 1) What I eat and 2) What I listen to. I have really enjoyed local sets by Mitchell Ferguson and Corina Grove (Dallas), Corey Breedlove (Dallas), Jade Nikol and Droo D’Anna (North Dallas) and Trees Marie (North Dallas). Outside of Dallas, I’ve been digging David Ramirez (Austin), John Legend (Los Angeles) and Charley Crockett’s (Austin) sets.
I’m guessing you’ve become friends with restaurant and bar owners, and some of these places may never recover. How do you feel about that?
I would like to think that after this is all over that restaurants will flourish. The big signs and restaurant names that we have grown to love as a community might change but the passion of local bar owners, tenders, servers and staff will be everlasting. The best thing for people with sustainable income in these hard times is to skip the line at McDonald’s and take advantage of plenty of affordable delivery programs put in place by local restaurants. Goodfriend package and Goodfriend Beer Garden & Burger House (East Dallas) have been my go-to. Matt Tobin and Josh Yingling (Co-Owners of Goodfriend) have designed a streamline online ordering system where you can pull up for car delivery from an extremely clean and smiley staff, or choose to have the food delivered straight to the comfort of your home. These guys work so hard, and they are also one of my favorite venues to play in Dallas. Dallas is a great place for musicians that are working on their craft.
How are your musician friends holding up?
I think realistically, a lot of us are going a little loony. That being said, most of us were a little loony, to begin with. Last Friday night I participated in a collective live stream session called Southbound Sessions, hosted by Darren Eubanks of D and Chi (Oak Cliff). Other than that, a group of us have been playing an online version of Cards Against Humanity (a crude adult card game) that hysterically serves as a “crazy outlet” for a lot of us through laughter. Most of my close musician friends are playing weekly live streams on Facebook and Instagram. For the past weeks, I have been sharing times and links to these performances to my musician page on Facebook. If you are a Dallasite looking for some entertainment during wine night, don’t hesitate to reach out to me and ask who is playing!
Do you have any tips for staying positive?
I think communication is key. Although technology often serves as a distraction to many, now is the time to utilize it in the right ways. Whether it’s a phone call to your grandmother or a Facetime to your college roommate, I assure you, we are all a little stir-crazy right now. We all need to reach out and get creative on how we can show the ones we care about that we love them and are thinking of them. I look forward to the future when this is all done and over. In the meantime, take some guitar lessons on Youtube. Learn Vietnamese on Dualingo. Play a crude card game with your friends online. Stay mentally active.