It has been quite a while, since August 2014, when last I chatted with singer-songwriter-guitarist Ryan Flaherty about his band Muddy Ruckus. So when I discovered the group, now a duo, was going to be performing at Port City Music Hall in Portland tomorrow night, I was curious to reconnect and find out how things have been changing for the talented musician. He called me from his home in Portland, and I mentioned our earlier conversation and observed that I remembered when his band was a four- or maybe a five-piece, right?

Erika Stahl, left, and Ryan Flaherty of the band Muddy Ruckus. Photo by Daisy Castro

Flaherty: Not really. I had started the band out as a solo project while I was playing with other musicians in other projects, and I wasn’t really sure as to where I was going with it. I had an upright bass player then, and around that same time is when I met Erika. Me and her were dating, and when we were hanging out, she would sing with me. I went, “Wow, she has such an amazing voice.” So, I kind of tricked her one time, when we were out at a show I had to play, by inviting her up on stage without telling her I was going to do so.

Q: And how did that go over?
Flaherty: She was like, “No!” But the audience cheered her on. And after doing it a few times, she really dug it. So she started singing with me. We released our first album with her singing and me writing all the songs and playing, and we had the upright bass player. Then there were a couple of my friends, a fiddle player and another guitar player, who played on that album with us.

Q: That must have been when I interviewed you to promote a Mainely Brews CD-release party?
Flaherty: You’re probably right, but we didn’t have like a concrete band going, though. Looking back on it now, I guess they were kind of backing me up. After the release of that album, the guy who was playing bass moved to Texas and the other folks I was playing with had other jobs and schedule conflicts. I got to the point of saying, “Do I want to keep going with this, trying to get people to play music with me? Do I really want to keep playing music at all?”

Q: What made you stick with it?
Flaherty: Well, Erika was like, “Dude, you gotta keep playing music, and I want to keep singing with you. Maybe we can just play as a duo.” But I didn’t really envision me playing guitar and a girl singing on my side, and she said, “I used to mess around with the drums when I was a kid. I was never good at it, but I’ll try that out if you want.” We had some drums in the basement; we started playing, and I went, “Yeah, that’s awesome.” So, that’s how it started out, and then we just developed from there as a duo.

Q: Well, your publicist sent me a link to your new single, “Chasm,” and it was really good. Hard to believe that such a full sound could be generated by just two musicians.
Flaherty: Oh, so you’ve heard it. Thanks. We recorded that at home; we’ve been recording there since January. This is our third song that we’re releasing from our own studio. It was a lot of fun making that, and we’re actually releasing a video for it tomorrow (May 10) that is just as intense and cool as the song. We did it with a filmmaker up here in Maine.

Chasm album cover J. Elon Goodman

Q: As a former art teacher, the picture that appears on the Soundcloud site is so cool, man. It’s great imagery.
Flaherty: Thank you. If you want to know, the photographer and filmmaker’s name is Jason Goodman. He lives in Rockland, and he has his own thing called Salt Stage where he goes around and records and videotapes musicians playing their own music. We’re all really good friends with him, and he’s just a brilliant photographer and a brilliant filmmaker.

Q: Now, you said that “Chasm” is your third single you’ve released. Does that mean you have an album coming out later this year?
Flaherty: We’ve released three full albums. And what we decided to do this year, seeing people in this day and age spend so much time online listening to music, was to release a song once a month and then at the end of the year collect them all and put out a CD or vinyl or even a cassette with all of them on it for people who like having that physical thing to have, you know?

Q: In addition to “Chasm” what other singles have you released so far?
Flaherty: Well, we released a song called “Brimstone,” which is doing really well, and then last month released a song called “Suffering and Light” on vinyl. And, as I said, this month we’ll be releasing “Chasm”… We have so much music on the back-burner, as well. We have tons of material, and that’s why we’re doing it this way because we just want to get it out there.

Q: Before we wrap this interview up, is there anything, Ryan, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Flaherty: Honestly, we’re just really trying to figure out how to get our music out to as many people as possible. That’s one of our biggest obstacles. There’s just so much in front of everybody that it’s so hard to break through. We’re hoping that people will check out the new video and listen to the new songs, and maybe listen to some of our other stuff. Also, we’re working really hard on making people aware of what we’re doing, and we’re really proud of what’s coming out. It’s just a matter of getting it heard and getting it seen.

Lucky Clark has spent 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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