The Wonderfront festival is bringing plenty of international talent to the area, but a spotlight will also be shining on rising national acts, including several from San Diego. Such is the case with guitarist and songwriter Ryan Hiller who performs aboard the Marietta Boat Stage on November 24 at 3 p.m. Hiller, music can be tough to define, he has a diverse sound. His latest album, Big Medicine, was issued via Pacific Records, while he has recently self released a new single, “Happiness.” It’s a hook filled, radio friendly, high energy funk workout that sounds like a lost classic.
While he does play select gigs around town with a full band, for Wonderfront, Hiller will be going solo. “I utilize live looping in my set and build songs that grow in arrangement from live recording,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for years and love being able to improvise over a rhythm section that I have complete control over. However, nothing is better than playing with a full band. The solo set has evolved more as a necessity than a full choice, so when I get to perform with my bandmates, it’s definitely extremely gratifying.”
Pacific Records CEO Brian Witkin, who also has several other performers playing the same stage, notes it’s a unique concert set up. “We’ll literally be on the water…on a boat!,” he said. “Water taxis will transport guests between the North and South stages in style, where passengers can enjoy local bands, a full-service bar, sundeck, multiple restrooms and free WiFi during the 15-minute cruise between Broadway Pier and Fifth Avenue Landing stops.” He considers Hiller to be perfect for an event like this. “I’ve worked with Ryan for years and what I love his positive attitude and outlook on life in general. I think that positivity really translates into his music, making it (a lot of) fun to listen to.”
Hiller was born in Salt Lake City, arriving in San Diego via New Orleans where he attended music college. It was Hurricane Katrina that proved the impetus for his move. “I had toured the whole country with a band during my time in New Orleans,” Hiller recalled. “Once that storm hit I had to move. I got a map of all the cities we had toured, and San Diego was by far my favorite. We had played at Winstons in 2004 or so, and I remember the vibe in OB being analogous to a New Orleans on the beach. It was an absolute no brainer to move here to San Diego. I had to start all over, but it was worth it!,” he said
He’s excited to be performing at the inaugural Wonderfront Festival. “Festivals are such a great opportunity to play music to a large group of music lovers. This looks like it’s going to be a really cool event!” He’s particularly happy to be showcasing his original music. “It totally depends on the gig, but a late night gig in a bar is probably not going to get any attention, unless it’s a sing along song that everyone knows. However, a show at a music event where people are there to see music, such as this, usually is the perfect place to play originals.”
What’s the best thing that’s happened to Hiller through music? “I’m not sure there is one “thing” that I can come up with,” he mused. “However, overall, I would say that it is who I am. It is my life, and it somewhat defines me. It is how I express myself, how I communicate, and very luckily- how I survive,” Hiller said. The answer to his favorite thing about being a musician comes more quickly. “It’s not having to get up too early!” he joked.