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Ryan Larsen Band still playing to crowds after 15 years

June 22, 2018

The sounds of the Ryan Larsen Band bring to mind the quintessential country summer, so it’s no wonder they are especially busy this season.

The Spokane-based band has been performing in the area for nearly 15 years. The current lineup features five members: Steve Lime (keyboard), Rex Romagnolo (bass), Rennie Espinoza (drums), original member Chris Blair (guitar), and the band’s namesake, Ryan Larsen (vocals). And though Larsen is the lead singer, all of the band members sing, too. This reflects their overall easygoing, approachable and down-to-earth attitude.

“We’re definitely a group of people doing it for the right reasons,” said Larsen. “Everybody in my band just loves to play music.”

Larsen talked with The Spokesman-Review about the band’s music and how it’s the crowd, not the venue, that makes the evening.

Q. How would you describe the sound of your band?

A. We’re kind of an all-around country rock band. We play a lot of things to the similar style that they are recorded, but we actually put our own spin on a lot of it … I like a lot of ’90s country more than I like now country. Everything now is kind of “poppy” and cliché, so I tend to like the older stuff before when everybody sounded different.

Q. Do you perform mostly covers or do you write original songs as well?

A. We do a lot of covers but we do have our own stuff as well. We try to play it at every show. But, you know, like anybody else in a bar or a show, people want to hear music they know. We sneak a few of our own in there every once in a while. Usually every show we play three of four of them, and they dance so they must not know the difference, so that’s a good sign.

Q. What styles of music or musical artists do you take inspiration from?

A. My biggest influence would be definitely Garth Brooks, for sure. I saw him in Moscow back in 1992 or 1993 and fell in love that day. I said, “Gosh, I love it. I love that guy. I love his message.” That’s kind of what we’ve always tried to do with our music is have fun and do as much as we can with it.

Q. What would be your dream venue to play?

A. Honestly, any venue is a dream venue, quite frankly. It’s not about the venue for me; it’s about the crowd … If you get one of those nights where the crowd’s just absolutely going crazy, those are just the most fun nights in the world. It’s an addiction. You get a taste of it, and you just want that every show.

Q. What are the biggest challenges and biggest rewards of playing music?

A. There for a while we were booked every weekend all year long, and sometimes multiple times a weekend. We usually played 140 shows per year, and that’s just on weekends. We all have real jobs, too. That was a challenge with the music schedule, family time and work. The biggest reward is honestly the people I’ve met through this band. I’ve met the neatest people that I would have never been introduced to before, from all walks of life … We have a young man that we met at the Coeur d’Alene Casino and he has Down syndrome … He’s just the coolest kid. We get him up on the stage and he plays air guitar with us and he dances around; it’s just the coolest thing. That’s the kind of stuff we love.

Q. What are your favorite songs to perform or which ones appear to be crowd favorites?

A. Anything Garth Brooks and anything Kenny Chesney goes over really well for us. My favorite song is probably “Anything But Mine,” by Kenny Chesney. It’s the first song I ever really sang in the band and it was the first song I picked to play in this band, just because I love it so much.

Q. What advice would you give other Spokane locals who might be interested in starting a band or pursuing music?

A. Follow your dreams. Don’t give up; don’t ever give up. Whether you do it for a living or you do it for fun, or you do it for escape, or whatever you do it for, just never give up and don’t ever let people tell you you can’t do something.