Category Archives: Acoustic Spotlight

RYAN HILLER | Acoustic Spotlight

June 2017

ryan hiller 3

Charisma exceeded only by his incredible guitar skills. We have honestly never heard anyone like him – Funk, Rock, and Blues, with a New Orleans Soul.  Ryan Hiller is always entertaining and quick with the jokes. He has opened for Steve Miller Band, Chicago, The Black Eyed Peas, Chris Isaak, Brandie Carlile, Styx, Lyle Lovett, and Switchfoot. Ryan is a consummate professional who genuinely loves his craft – the guy has been playing since he was 5 and music has been his only income source ever since! RESPECT. This month, we are honored to introduce you to one of our longest standing musicians – his talent is obvious (along with his sense of humor).  He also has a brand new album that just released! Ryan Hiller everybody:

Prince or Michael Jackson?

Jeez. Starting me off with a trick question? If I absolutely had to pick, I’d say Prince was a better musician, because he mostly composed, arranged, and performed all of his songs. He also was a multi-instrumentalist and had dance moves on top of it all.  Michael Jackson could really dance and sing, and I loved all of the “Off the Wall” stuff. Prince’s album “The Rainbow Children” is one of my all time favorite albums.

Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles?

Hmmm. I wonder why you put them together?! I have incredible respect for both of them. This is another really tough one. Stevie Wonder has such an amazing voice, and is another multi-instrumentalist who composes, arranges, and performs his own material. He rips the shit out of the keys, drums, harmonica, and obviously vocals. 

Tupac or Biggie?

Well, Tupac was pretty ripped, and seemed to be a feisty kind of dude. On the other hand, Biggie lived up to his namesake, so probably had the upper hand if he landed a punch. Too bad they both cheated and used guns… 

Paul McCartney or John Lennon?

John Lennon. 

B.B. King or George Benson?

Two different schools of music here. B.B. King has way more hits on the blues charts, and Benson is more of a jazz artist. If we shifted to talk about virtuosity, then George Benson is one of the best musicians of all time. He has incredible bebop chops, a wide vocal range, and is very hard to emulate. 

Name 3 musicians/groups that you will listen to for the rest of your life:

This is like asking what your favorite color is! I can’t pick. Sorry

Who were you listening to before sitting down to answer all these questions?

I have a 15 month old girl… Goldie and Bear

What style would YOU call your music?

Hardcore Thrash Rap Polka!!

How old were you when you started playing music and who got you going?

I started when I was 5 years old and never had a job other than music. I’d say my parents inspired me. Although they never really performed professionally, they were always singing, playing guitar, and listening to great music.

First song you ever wrote; what was it about? When is the last time you played it?!

Haha. I wrote a song that went: “Put those guns away and then our days would be ok.” I was 8 or 9 and was writing chord progressions for Jack Johnson at the time. 

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What do you remember about your first public performance?

I’ll never forget. I was in front of my whole school (7th grade) at an assembly. I had a trio, and we started the song totally off. The drummer and bass player walked off the stage, so I decided to trudge forward solo. The second I started singing I stepped on my guitar chord and the amp started feeding back. I could barely finish the tune… Was totally soul crushing. I should have probably gotten into studying how to manage hedge funds at that exact moment! 

Tell us about one of the best gigs you ever played:

I opened up for John Scofield at Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City. After the show, we hung out in his tour bus and he told us all about playing with Miles Davis. It was a really cool experience. 

Tell us about one of the weirdest gigs you ever played:

I could write a book. Really. I could write like a 500 page saga about performing for people as a musician. There is more to talk about with this question than anything else you’ve asked about. I really can’t pick one, so I’m going to make a general statement about something that’s been happening more and more lately: People are starting to not understand the difference between a musician and DJ. Some folks honestly don’t know the difference between using your fingers and voice to create music versus hitting a play button on a computer. People have been requesting songs and when I say I don’t know the song, they’ll put their phone up to me as if my brain could simply “Shazaam” it. As if my ear could hear 15 seconds of crappy audio on an iPhone speaker and know all of the lyrics, form, chord changes, and arrange the song for solo guitar instantaneously. It’s happening more and more frequently, and I’m honestly thinking that our society could be artistically devolving : / 

What are a couple of your most proud achievements as a musician?

Hands down being able to buy a house in San Diego and support a wife and kid! 

Any local or up-and-coming musicians you love that more people need to know about?

Over the years I’ve been working with some incredible musicians on the San Diego circuit. I have mad respect for all of my peers here in San Diego with whom I share the stage with, rotate gigs with, and who are doing what I’m doing to make a living. It’s not easy and those of us who have stayed in this business long enough know that there is no silver spoon, glamour, or fast track to success. Those of us who are on the local circuit for a living do it because we love it and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. The camaraderie between local musicians in San Diego is fantastic. Let’s give a shout out to everyone in San Diego that makes their living playing music!! 

Any advice to your younger self or other musicians starting out?

If you think you’re getting into this business for any other reason than creating great music, then quit while you’re ahead. 

Want to catch Ryan live >> Ryan’s Calendar

Check out Ryan’s NEW album on itunes!

Listen to Ryan on Spotify


JONNY TARR | Acoustic Spotlight

May 2017

jonny tarr

Paul McCartney personally handed him his music degree, he has also performed on the Jazz World Stage at Glastonbury Festival in the UK and we are not the least bit surprised! Jonny Tarr is literally the first musician we started working with on a regular basis, and it wasn’t just because he has an awesome British accent – the guy is a musical monster. Sit back for 60 seconds and he will loop sax, guitar, keyboard, flute, harmony, and beat-box tracks into a full blown song – in one live solo take. He also has a pretty awesome Quartet you can catch around town. His vibe is unlike any other and his talent is obvious as you watch him effortlessly transition from one instrument to the next. Jonny is also a committed father and husband who has managed to maintain a music career with each mounting responsibility life seems to tack on. This month, we invite you to learn more about the experiences and mentality of a musician who has continued to pursue and fulfill his passion!

Prince or Michael Jackson?

That is pretty difficult. I am actually more of a fan of Michael Jackson’s music, but only up to and including certain songs from BAD (notably, the much overlooked duet with ‘his stevieness’). The majority of MJ’s great stuff was in collaboration with others, like Quincy Jones for whom I have massive admiration. I am still not that big a fan of the majority of Prince’s music, but I was lucky enough to see him live once and it was the best thing I have ever seen. Not the best gig, show or musical performance, but the best THING I have ever seen. So I am gonna go with Prince.

Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles?

Again, both GIANTS and you always have to give credit to those who came before for paving the way for the later generations, but for me it has to be Stevie Wonder. Accept no substitutes. He has probably informed my songwriting more than anyone else.

Tupac or Biggie? 

Who? Only kidding, but I am actually not the biggest hip hop fan, to be honest. I like the production, but only like a few MCs. Some notable exceptions – Gift of Gab, Guru, Nas.

Paul McCartney or John Lennon?

Well, Paul McCartney actually handed me my music degree in person, but I would have said McCartney anyway. I always preferred the songs he wrote for The Beatles over Lennon’s before I even found out who had written what. I prefer his voice and his all round songwriting genius. (The Long and winding Road!?) Also, anyone who can play bass and sing lead at the same time is amazing in my book.

Name 3 musicians/groups that you will listen to for the rest of your life.

Stanley Turrentine, Maxwell, Paul Simon.

Who were you listening to before sitting down to answer all these questions?

Solange for the first half of the questions, a pastiche eighties horror film soundtrack for the second half. (think john carpenter type stuff)

What style would YOU call your music?

Poptronic Blue Eyed Soul Funk Euro Disco Nasty Time

How old were you when you started playing music and who got you going?

I was 7 when I started playing the piano because my mum was learning at the time and decided that I should have some lessons too. I soon stopped because my teacher was really old and her house was a bit creepy to me. I then decided that getting a saxophone was gonna get me girls at the age of eleven and never looked back.

What is one of your 1st musical memories as a kid?

I honestly think that the first time I remember music touch me was when I walked into a bar with my mum when I was maybe four years old (we were ok with that kind of thing in Wales in the 80s) and hearing ‘Walking on the Moon’. The guitar sound and the ‘underwater’ vibe sticks with me to this day


First song you ever wrote; what was it about? Still play it today?! 

The first song I remember writing was a song about raising the Titanic with my brother when we were very young. I was maybe 9. And no, I don’t play it anymore.

Where is your “creative space”, and what time of day generally brings the most inspiration?

My creative space is not really any one place. It is wherever I can find the time and space to set up my gear and make a beat to sing over. I tend to do it in bursts. Sometimes my garage, sometimes the office. Maybe just with my laptop. It is more about getting a whole day off to concentrate on writing than a certain time of day. I have a one and a half year old daughter, so finding the time is a challenge.

What are a couple of your most proud achievements / awards as a musician:

Opening the Jazz World Stage at Glastonbury Festival in the UK. This is our biggest and most anticipated festival of the year and getting to play my favorite stage there was pretty special.

Tell us about one of the best gigs you ever played:

Playing at a Jam Session in Tokyo with some of the worlds finest new jazz and electronica artists the day after The Tokyo Crossover Jazz festival in 2009. I LOVED japan.


Tell us about one of the weirdest gigs you ever played:

Far too many to single out the weirdest, but there was quite a good one early on in my music career where there was a power cut in a bar I was playing in my home town. Thing was, the stage of the bar was on one power grid but the whole rest of the bar was on a different one for some reason. So when the power went out, all our gear onstage started smoking and the guitarist’s hair was standing on end but the whole rest of the bar was unaffected. The crowd thought it was part of the act.

Any local or up-and-coming musicians you love that more people need to know about?

If you have not yet, you have to check out the band of Monette Marino. The music is infectiously groovy and Monette is a fabulous percussion player. A real treat. Also, there is the band of Tonga Ross Mau, The Bomb Squad. An organ trio in the vein of the Blue Note Soul Jazz that came out in the sixties. They are Badass.

Any advice to your younger self or other musicians starting out?

Make sure you love music for music’s sake and you are not in it for fame or a certain lifestyle. Music is tough to make a living from. You have to be in love with it.

Want to catch him live >> Jonny’s Calendar


ANGIE KEILHAUER | Acoustic Spotlight

January 2017


Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, and Pharrell all turned for her on “The Voice” – If you haven’t heard about Angie Keilhauer until right now – pick up your phone, open Spotify and thank us later. This hard working Americana Country singer just moved into Encinitas and has rapidly begun to make a name for herself in San Diego (Winner of the 2016 Del Mar Fair Songwriter Contest). We invite you to learn more about how she started out, what kind of music she listens to, and some of her biggest successes to date. Angie also gives some great advice to aspiring musicians – full interview below!

Video of her Blind Audition on “The Voice” :

Who were you listening to before sitting down to answer all these questions?

The Doors! My girlfriend just bought their vinyl; felt like going through a time machine in my living room.

Prince or Michael Jackson?

Michael Jackson

Stevie Wonder or Ray Charles?

Ray Charles! I’m from GA after all.

Tupac or Biggie? 


Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera?

Christina Aguilera.

Who would you ask us to choose between?

Eric Clapton or Led Zeppelin?   – We would have to go with Clapton : )

First musical memory as a kid?

When I was a kid I begged my mom for vocal lessons, but they were pretty expensive and we have a big family. My mom had bought my older sister violin lessons with the rule that she had to get up three times a week before school and practice. Finally my mom gave in, of course with the same rule. So she would wake up before me at 5am, make me go downstairs, and run my scales. I hated it so much, but slowly I saw how much better I was getting. At the time, I wasn’t so grateful haha, but now looking back- that was a big lesson. 

How old were you when you started playing music & who got you started?

I have always been a singer since I can remember. I would shut off the TV in the living room and make the whole family listen to a new song I wrote (that was always very popular lol). In the end I was obsessed with great vocalists and storytelling. My mom always loved Dolly Parton and I begged my Dad to buy me Christina Aguilera’s first album. I would listen to those songs over and over, repeating the runs until I could finally come close. As long as I can remember I just absolutely loved singing. 

First song you ever wrote – What was it about? Still play it today?! 

Hmm I think the first song I ever wrote, that I can remember, was about mayonnaise believe it or not. I don’t actually play that one regularly haha. For some reason my middle school friends still to this day remember that song and consider it my first break. 

Most proud achievements / awards as a musician?

My latest EP ‘Wild’ just won the Independent Music Award in the Country/ Roots genre! This was a really big moment for me because after coming off of The Voice last season, I decided to go all in and fund the record. The 7-track EP is all written by me, telling real stories of being on the road since the last album. It was the first time I recorded with a full band at a really high end studio in Nashville. Every dime I made touring for two years was in the hopes that I could one day make this happen. The day it was released on June 24th it hit #5 in its genre on iTunes. When I heard I won the IMA award it was really like coming full circle, like this humongous risk I took with all my savings and credit cards actually didn’t seem so crazy. It was an incredible moment. 

Where is your “creative space”?

The car! I have to drive so much and feeling the world’s constant movement around me is the best way for me to focus. I love writing songs in the car. I also love journaling- usually once a day when I can. Going back into my journal entries is where I find a lot of the most important lines to my songs.

Name 3 musicians / groups that you will listen to for the rest of your life:

Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Kip Moore

Any local / up-and-coming musicians that more people need to know about?

I’m just getting into the local scene in Encinitas since moving here in September. I discovered a guy named Michael LeClerc that has a killer singer-songwriter vibe. Also, a band called Grim Slippers is probably one of the coolest fusions of rock and funk I’ve heard in a long time, really fun to listen and jam to. I’m a huge fan!!

Best gig you ever played?

The Voice was pretty epic, but there were only about 200 people in the live audience, and none of them really knew who I was or what my original music was like. A few months later, when I released my EP in my hometown, I played for about 300 people, all who knew every word to my new songs and sang along. Even now when I think about it I get a little teary eyed – hands down one of the coolest moments in my career. 


Any advice to your younger self or other musicians starting out?

This is a tough industry. If you look at my bio, you’ll see a couple of huge breakout moments. You’ll see my first cruise ship contract as a musician, a viral YouTube video, an audition on a major singing show. What you won’t see is the two years of emailing it took to get that first contract, the hundreds of videos made before the one that went viral, the number of failed auditions before the one I got through. This is a TOUGH industry. Take every single opportunity and don’t let failure be a reason to stop trying. Let it be a reason to get better, to be humble, and to be proud of the art you make. This industry is 100% created by everyday people that obsess about music as much as you do, true fans. Find those people, connect with them, and hold them close to your heart. Never stop making music.

Want to catch her live >> Angie’s Calendar