These days, you're more likely to find Ryan Green and Cameron Hood, aka Ryanhood, performing in music halls, cafés and bars—and even occasionally on a stadium stage with performers like Jay-Z and Kelly Clarkson—than busking in an open market or in the corners of a local instrument shop.
But Ryanhood's journey to the 2009 TAMMIES Band of the Year honor started in the nooks and crannies of Beaver's Band Box and on the streets of Boston's Quincy Market. The history of Tucson's own acoustic guitar-pop duo begins more than a decade ago, when both Green and Hood were students at University High. (Full disclosure: I was a student there, too.)
"We always say we were rivals in high school," explained Hood, "but only in the sense that everyone wanted to win the Battle of the Bands, so we had a healthy respect for each other."
Said Green, "He won the Battle of the Bands one year, and my band won it the second year, and then he reclaimed it the third year, and we had this funny thing (going). But then he wrote a yearbook entry—I'm guessing that was the turning point—that said, 'You're such a good guitar player.'"
From there, Green and Hood began developing a musical friendship: Green got Hood a job at Beaver's Band Box, and when it was slow, the two would pick up guitars and play; the mutual musical respect grew. Green started recording Hood's songs, and adding parts here and there. Even after Green moved to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music, Hood and Green would write songs together when Green was home for the summer and holidays.
"I began as his recorder and accompanist, and eventually we grew into writing partners, and I started singing more—and that was the journey," said Green.
After college, Green convinced Hood to move to Boston to try to making a living playing music.
Explained Green, "I had met somebody who was a street performer full-time in Boston, who made a living street performing, and I told Cameron, 'I think that we can do that.' So, literally, the day after he graduated UA, he was on a red-eye flight out there, and we started making our living street performing."
Said Hood, "That was like performance boot camp. ... I think that initially, I would be making enough of a ruckus—stomping my foot and singing loud and shouting—that I would get people to notice; Ryan would get people to stay. They'd hear him and think, 'This band is for real.'"
After hours upon hours of singing loud and shouting, Ryanhood has grown into a constantly touring, constantly working band with three albums under their belt. This year specifically has been an important one in the life of Ryanhood. They won a contest to open for Jay-Z and Kelly Clarkson at Arizona Stadium, and perhaps most importantly, they saw the release of their third full-length, The World Awaits, which was recorded and produced by a two-time Grammy Award-winner, Ross Hogarth, who's engineered and produced everyone from Motley Crue to Lyle Lovett. (See "Intangibly Good," April 2.)
"I feel like this year has been a giant year ... of things culminating for us, like the long process of making that record," said Green. "The process of making the record was sort of like musical boot camp to us. The bar was so high, and I feel like we're really well-oiled and high-functioning because of it."
Said Hood, "I feel confident putting (The World Awaits) into someone's hands. It really showcases us in a lot of ways. Musically, there's a lot of back and forth between Ryan and I—you get a strong duo-singer sense, even though there are other instruments on it. I think that this album feels really natural. I feel like it captures what we do and then augments it with pretty simple backing."
On The World Awaits, Hood and Green sound light years away from making a ruckus on the streets of Boston. Multiple melodies, gorgeous acoustic guitars, flawless harmonies and songs about more than just love and girls all make Ryanhood more than just another radio-friendly teenage-girl magnet. Many of their songs are actually more about friendships and more complex relationships, like the one between Green and Hood themselves; in a way, The World Awaits is the story of Ryanhood up until this point, their history put to songs, reminiscent for old fans and an introduction of sorts for the new.
"Lyrically, I think it's more mature than any of the past records have been," said Green.
Continued Hood, "Early on, we got pegged as a girl band, like, 'Oh, they sing love songs for teenage girls.' I'm like, 'Have you listened? There's a lot more going on.' I could see why we got pegged that way; I mean, we're up there smiling and dancing around, but lyrically, I felt like there was a lot more going on, and we finally get to showcase that."
As this year progresses, Hood and Green plan to continue to tour—but to tour smarter.
"We did 135 shows last year nationally, and we'll get close to that this year," said Green. "We are trying to cover a lot of ground, a lot of the country, a lot of places we've played before. Our focus has really shifted on returning over and over, every few months, to a lot of specific markets."
They're looking for a manager and continuing to build their fan base; right now, they're offering a free live album to anyone who signs up for their mailing list. They'll be playing their annual Christmas show at Club Congress a little early this year (Dec. 12), and they're looking forward to seeing where else their music may take them.