Ryley Walker had a very, very busy 2021, releasing no less than four albums on his own Husky Pants imprint and touring with Dinosaur Jr. (Not to mention a brief foray into the wilds of Vermont, though Walker is now back safely ensconced in New York City.) Calling the young singer and guitarist "chameleonic" on the basis of his diverse and dazzling recent catalog is too reductive a term; Walker isn't trying on personas as much as exploring the outer limits of sound and new modes of expression, either on his own or in the heady company of outsider worthies like David Grubbs, Chris Corsano and John McEntire.
If you haven't checked in with Walker in a couple of years, start with his storming love letter to Chicago's 1990s alt-freak elite, Course in Fable, but just know that by this point, he's probably on a whole other trip.
How did the stars align for this clutch of Florida dates to actually happen, especially at such a difficult time for touring artists?
Florida is a big beautiful state that I never get the chance to go to. I love the fruit that hangs from the trees and the nice tan everyone has. It's Valhalla for corn-fed Midwest simple folk like myself. I made certain we went down there this route. I haven't been in years. Love it dearly.
Is it true you're bringing along avant-jazz whirlwind Chris Corsano for these Florida shows to drum? Would you talk about your history and connections with him?
I've been aware of Chris' music since I was a teenager in the mid-2000s. I read Arthur magazine cover to cover every month and he was a rising star in that scene of weird musicians they put the spotlight on. His duo with Mick Flower changed my life. Almost as much as Led Zeppelin or something. We became friendly over the last decade. I'd see him at festivals or New England gigs. He's as cool as they come. A true innovator and genius. I'm so grateful to have him on this trek.
You've played a number of shows during the pandemic, on your own, opening for Dinosaur Jr., with David Grubbs — a pretty wide range of gig experience. What's been your personal impressions of playing live during the various stages of the pandemic?
I live one day at a time in this business. Today, all looks well and good. We're healthy, having fun and protecting ourselves and others the best we can. I don't know what's best for everyone. I'm glad to be working and don't wanna fuck it up.
You've released four albums last year and Husky Pants was humming along the whole time. How did you maintain your creative discipline during such fucked times?
My résumé is pretty bad. It's jam or starve. I'm also excited to play music. I've got a good life and live within my means. I'm happy and can't ask for a better situation. The joy of music and having fun takes me a long way.
How did Vermont treat you, and are you happy to be back in New York?
Vermont was real nice. Good ponds. Good dogs. Good hikes. I'm a city slicker by heart. So I'm glad to be back in the mix. New York works for me. I love it.
Talk about the making of A Tap on the Shoulder. Your collaborator on that one, David Grubbs, is such a singular force. And more broadly, how do collabs satisfy the creative itch in ways your solo music doesn't?
David is my hero and guru. He's humble and kind and everything I aspire to be. His guitar work is so unique and brilliant. We made that record over the course of two days. We just hit record and improvised. Very relaxed. Very fun. I came up in Chicago thinking that one makes song records, and in between does noise records. I always want to keep that discipline and pace of recording!
What albums will your set be drawing from? Mostly Course in Fable and Post Wook? You've got so much to choose from ...
The newest record, Course in Fable, takes up most of the setlist. Beyond that, we improvise and jam on lots of old tunes. Each set is unique. Florida gigs have always been a hoot, can't wait to stretch out more.