Matthew Ryan ‘to invite you in’

Singer/songwriter Ryan wants ‘to invite you in’

By Tom Weber
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

At first, Matthew Ryan would seem like an unlikely participant in a songwriters circle. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter, whose songs have been heard on the “One Tree Hill” and “House” TV shows, is notably reticent about what’s behind those songs.

“I generally don’t talk much about what the songs are about,” he said on the phone. “I’ve never felt comfortable talking about that stuff.”

On the other hand, Ryan’s spare songs belie his loquaciousness. An avid conversationalist whose interests take him from Joe Strummer to Glenn Beck in the course of answering a single question, Ryan is surprisingly outgoing for someone who appears so reticent.

So he’s a willing participant in the kind of songwriters circle that he’ll be a part of at the next Americana Showcase concert, April 15 at Rochester Civic Theatre.

“I like ’em,” he said of the circles, in which songwriters perform their compositions. “It’s a different kind of theater, really. It becomes more about the songs.”

Just don’t ask Ryan to reveal what’s behind songs like “Your Museum,” “Some Streets Lead Nowhere” or “CIty Llife” from his latest album, “Dear Lover.”

“It’s not so much protecting the mystery,” he said. “But I hope if I’ve done my job and the song is written with some degree of clarity, people will see their own story in it.”

Ryan, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, said his first musical heroes were the Clash, “early” U2, the Replacements, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. “I guess those are my oldies,” he joked.

Ryan didn’t set out intending to make his living in music, although, he said, “I spent a lot of time playing air-guitar.” In fact, Ryan went to college to become a teacher but changed his mind after doing his student-teaching. “I wasn’t sure I had the intestinal fortitude to deal with what kids are living with everyday,” he said.

Instead, since the late 1990s, he’s been recording album after album of intensely personal songs sung in a raspy voice.

“It takes a lot of guts to write like he does, to play like he does, to sing like he does,” said Brandon Sampson, who organizes the Americana Showcase concerts in Rochester. Sampson recalled hearing one of Ryan’s first albums a decade ago. “I was like, ‘What is this?'” he said. “There’s been a handful of music-altering events in my life and this was one of them.”

Early in his career, Ryan was signed to a major record label. But the recording industry has undergone massive changes since then, and he’s now comfortable as an independent artist. “I just try to make the most beautiful music I can create and hope it will find a natural advocacy,” he said. “It’s never ‘I want to sell to you,’ it’s more an idea of wanting to invite you in.”

He’s even been willing to do something he once thought he’d never do: license his songs for television shows and movies.

When the idea was first proposed to him by Mark Schwahn, creator of “One Tree Hill,” Ryan was reluctant. “I said, ‘I don’t know.’ He asked me again, and finally I said, ‘What’s the harm?’ And because of that, it attracted a whole ‘nother group of people to my work. The outlets for music are so few, that you have to take any opportunity you can.”

Even if it includes opening the door just a crack on the meanings of those songs.

Six Mile Grove headlines ‘Americana Showcase’

Six Mile Grove headlines ‘Americana Showcase’
By Rachel Drewelow | David Richards | Austin Daily Herald

Published Tuesday, March 23, 2010

They started as four guys who wanted to play music. One was from Austin, and three were from Lyle. They spent hours of practice sessions in a southern Minnesota farmhouse and more than a dozen years later, they have a strong Midwest following, an extensive touring schedule and six albums to show for it.

Six Mile Grove headlines the Americana Showcase Friday at the Paramount Theatre, a show that includes special guests Sally Barris, a 2009 Grammy Nominee, and award-winning artist Dan Israel.

“We just try to become better musicians, work on crafting songs, writing honest, heart-felt lyrics and the people seem to connect,” said Brandon Sampson, lead singer and guitar player for Six Mile Grove.

Six Mile Grove formed in the 1990s, and the four southeast Minnesota natives grew as a band from practice sessions both in the basement of Sampson’s parents’ house, and at his great grandmother’s farmhouse.

“We listened to the radio to figure out what people were doing and tried to copy that, and we listened to my parents’ records and we tried to copy that,” Sampson said about how the band first started out.

In addition to Sampson, the band is also made up of Sampson’s brother, Brian, who plays drums; Barry Nelson, who plays keyboard and guitar; and Austin’s own Dezi Wallace, who plays bass.

The band’s name comes from the woods that run through the Sampson family farm, a place home to the largest group of Shagbark Hickory trees this side of the Mississippi.

“There’s a township named after the Six Mile Grove. There’s a church named after the Six Mile Grove, and now there’s a band named after the Six Mile Grove,” Brandon said.

The group describes themselves as an Americana band that has a bluesy folk-rock sound.

Currently, the Americana Showcase is organized as a series of monthly events hosted Brandon, with each show including a diverse, variety of performers and styles.

The concept was originally conceived to introduce southeast Minnesota audiences to the Americana genre, but now the showcase has expanded as far as Nebraska and South Dakota, along with various other places in greater Minnesota.

Tickets for Friday’s show are $10, and they available online at and, at the box office or by calling 434-0934.

As for Six Mile Grove, the band is still making albums and just released its sixth effort, a live album.

“We just love to play music and still do,” Brandon said

Americana Showcase

When: Friday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.

Where: The Paramount Theatre

125 Fourth Ave. NE

Tickets: $10

Pass The Jam: An Americana Showcase

Metro Magazine Interview
Ellen Burkhardt

Passion, creativity, skill – musicians need them all if they want to succeed. Anyone can learn to play an instrument, but true artists are their own breed. For bands, it’s the unique blend of technical skill and chemistry that brings everything together. More often than not, it’s the indescribable, unpredictable “ah-hah” moment that solidifies a band’s place in history. For Brandon Sampson and his band, Six Mile Grove, that moment came four years ago amidst some soul-searching in the deep South.

METRO: Let’s start with the history of Americana Showcase. How did this all get started?Sampson: Back in 2006, the band and I went to the Americana Music Conference in Nashville, and we returned to Minnesota inspired. We had finally found a genre that we fit into. We wanted to bring this music (Americana) back with us and expose people in Southern Minnesota to it. So, we had the clever idea that instead of us traveling all over the place, we would use our connections and bring bands and artists to us.

METRO: What type of music are we talking about exactly?Sampson: We’re talking about Americana: roots-rock, folk-rock, little bluesy tinge to it music. It’s music with classic country roots that brings in rock’n’roll aspects and makes it sound like 2010.

METRO: I’ve been hearing that word – Americana – a lot more lately, but I feel like everyone has a different take on it.
Sampson: It’s a story-driven genre with honest, sincere songwriting. It brings musical heritage up front and lets the musicians talk about where it came from, where they came from, and where they’re going.

METRO: What does a typical Americana Showcase look like? Is it set up like your regular concerts?Sampson: It is set up like a concert. The showcases coming up are modeled after the Bluebird Café’s style. That was the first time I ever performed in Nashville, and it was the most terrifying and inspiring performance of my life. I’d never done that before – played in a concert where four artists sat in the middle of the room and took turns introducing and playing their songs. Then, as you got more comfortable, you start chiming in on other artists’ stuff.

METRO: Right. Definitely not like a regular concert. What about the audience? Did their reactions phase you at all?Sampson: The audience was drawn into the experience so intimately that time just flew by. People were at the edge of their seat waiting to see what was going to happen next. That’s what we do: we create a one-time, one-of-a-kind event each night.

METRO: How are the artists’ reacting?Sampson: It’s so much fun to bring in the different personalities of artists. When they’re in the showcase environment it takes a little bit to get them warmed up and comfortable. But then the stories come flowing out, and it’s really engaging for everybody – everybody connects. And that’s usually the hardest thing at concerts, quickly connecting with the audience and drawing them in. But for some reason this format gets that barrier down instantly and everybody feels like they’re part of an event.

METRO: It sounds like quite the jam session.Sampson: Most of the artists have something in common; many have played together before as bands. It’s fun to hear the frontman sing a song and then sing backup on it. People will hear familiar stuff from all the artists, but it’ll be like one of Adam Levy’s songs (from The Honeydogs) with Martin Zellar singing back-up. It’s great.

METRO: Walk me through this: each artist brings their own repertoire and then you pass it around and everyone joins in on that song. Is that right?Sampson: Yeah, we just take turns. For example, I usually start because everybody else is scared or doesn’t know what to do. So I’ll introduce the song, start playing, and half way through I’ll hear some noodling on the guitar next to me as somebody warms up. Once I get done playing, the next person to go will either be reminded of a song or they’ll take it in a whole different direction and play one of their songs. It all just keeps going around and around. We do that for a couple of hours.

METRO: Who typically comes to the shows?Sampson: All ages. People can bring their kids if they think they can handle sitting there for a while; we’ll give them an intermission. It ranges from younger kids to people in their sixties or seventies… my grandpa and grandma love coming. And they don’t go to clubs very often, so this is a good excuse for them to get out.

METRO: How have you choose the artists? Do you just go down a list and decide who you want to play with?Sampson: Yep. It’s a highly scientific process. It started with us inviting friends to play, and we’re still working our way through that list. We’ve played together a long time (since 1997) and we’ve gotten to play with a lot of great bands over the years. Now we’re just trying to give them a call, see who’s available on what night and line it up that way. It’s really just a wide, very eclectic mix.

METRO: Has it ever gone horribly wrong?
Sampson: No, it’s never come to a screeching halt, which is amazing, to be honest. But that says a lot about the quality of artists that come. They’ve all been doing it a while and they’re all comfortable getting themselves out of jams if needed. But they’re also willing to take risks, try new things and give the audience things they’ve never seen before. I guess if you just really believe in it and try, only good can come from it.

The next Americana Showcase will be held at the James J. Hill Reference Library Reading Room and feature Adam Levy of The Honeydogs, Ben Kyle of Romantica, Brandon Sampson of Six Mile Grove and Martin Zellar.

Americana Showcase: Songwriters in the Round
Sunday, March 7
7:30 p.m.

James J. Hill Reference Library
80 4th St. W., St. Paul

Americana Showcase Invades the Capital City

On Sunday March 7, The James J. Hill Library in St. Paul will inaugurate a unique celebration of American heritage, combining the extraordinary photographic exhibit America the Beautiful: The Monumental Landscape of dedicated environmentalist Clyde Butcher, with the Americana Showcase, a Southern Minnesota-based music series that honors the rich musical heritage of the American Midwest. This celebration will include a series of five music concerts which will be performed in the midst of 50 of Butcher’s epic photographic images echoing his love of the American landscape.

The event was conceived by Amy Seitz, founder of Exhibits Development Group, and Brandon Sampson, founder and host of the Americana Showcase, as well as lead singer of the band Six Mile Grove. “When Amy approached me with this opportunity, I knew it was a great match. We’ve been working hard in Southern Minnesota to connect artists with art-lovers. Collaborating with Amy, and EDG’s vision, gives us the opportunity to create a larger more diverse conversation between artists and the community. It should be pretty inspiring for all of us!” says Sampson.

The series begins Sunday March 7 at 7:30 PM, featuring Brandon Sampson (Six Mile Grove), Adam Levy (The Honey Dogs), Ben Kyle (Romantica), and Martin Zellar (Gear Daddies). Subsequent concerts will be held through May 16, and will include performances by Americana singer/songwriters and bands from across the Midwest.

A five-concert season pass can be purchased for $75; Individual tickets are $20 in advance, or $22 at the door. Purchase tickets at Season ticket holders will also receive a discount on tickets to the exclusive after-show meet-and-greets with performers hosted by the Saint Paul Hotel at $40 for all five. Individual ticket holders can join the after-party for $10 per show.

March 7
Adam Levy of The Honeydogs
Ben Kyle of Romantica
Brandon Sampson of Six Mile Grove
Martin Zellar

March 27
Sally Barris
Molly Maher
Erik Koskinen
Brandon Sampson of Six Mile Grove

April 9
Brandon Sampson & Barry Nelson of Six Mile Grove
Martin Devaney and Jake Hyer
Bethany Larson and one of her Bees Knees
Ashleigh Still and Adam Levy

April 30
Dana Cooper
Brandon Sampson of Six Mile Grove
David Stoddard
Dan Israel

May 16
Season Finale – Artists Announced Soon!

Six Mile Grove’s Americana Showcase


By Tom Weber
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

The first Americana Showcase concert of 2010 will feature Brandon Sampson on stage with two of his heroes.

Sampson, who organizes the showcase series, has enlisted Martin Zellar and G.B. Leighton to join him for a Songwriters in the Round performance Tuesday at Rochester Civic Theatre.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if the three of us, who have never played together, got together and played,'” Sampson said.

Zellar and Leighton readily agreed, and will swap songs and stories in a relaxed setting.

Songwriter circles are common in Nashville and Austin, Texas, where there are more songwriters than snowflakes. Minnesota is producing a fair number of songwriters, too, and Sampson is intent on showcasing them.

Zellar, an Austin native, was a founding member and chief songwriter for the Gear Daddies. Zellar’s songs about life in a small town found a positive critical and popular reception. The Gear Daddies have reunited now and again, but Zellar primarily performs and records as a solo artist.

Leighton is one of the most popular acts in Minnesota music and regularly performs throughout the Midwest.

So how did you get these two guys lined up for a concert?

I’ve been doing more and more shows with Zellar. He performed at one of our songwriter rounds a couple of years ago. That was the first time he had done a songwriter-in-the-round show. He was thrilled and said he wanted to do it again. So he was on the top of my mind when Iput this together.

What about Leighton?

I grew up going to G.B. Leighton shows. I’m a really big fan of his songwriting. Ithink it will be a nice chance for him to showcase all these songs he’s written, and he has written a lot of good ones.

Will Zellar be playing new songs?

I saw him at Thanksgiving and he was playing a couple of new songs. He has recorded a new record, so Iwouldn’t be surprised if he dropped some surprises on people.

Talk about the art of songwriting.

I’m constantly reminded when I play with Zellar how simple songwriting is. Some of these songs he wrote when he was in his teens still connect with people. Since I’ve been going to Nashville, I’ve seen that when professional songwriters get together, they try to get real clever. But it’s not about that.

Who do you have coming up in future showcase concerts?

We have Matthew Ryan from Nashville on April 15, and Ray Wylie Hubbard, from Austin, Texas, and Dana Cooper, from Nashville, on May 9. Cooper was really the inspiration for why we started this showcase to begin with.

You’re satisfied with the support for the series?

I can’t thank people enough for coming out and taking a chance.

Post-Bulletin Company, L.L.C.

Duluth Budgeteer

With a population hovering around 500, Lyle isn’t exactly bursting at the seams. But what the southern Minnesota city lacks in size, it more than makes up for in talent.
“I really enjoyed growing up there,” reminisces Six Mile Grove’s Brandon Sampson.

Though he fronts one of the most compelling outfits working the Americana circuit today, he’s not above talking up the finer points of his hometown: its close-knit nature, the close proximity to extended family and, true to the fertile land beneath his childhood feet, life on the farm.

The members of Rochester-based Americana outfit Six Mile Grove — from left: Dezi Wallace, Barry Nelson and brothers Brandon and Brian Sampson — recently celebrated 10 years of playing music together. Image courtesy of the band
Sampson’s interest in music began at the age of 8, unexpectedly enough, with a farming accident that smashed up his left hand.
“It really wrecked it pretty good,” he recalls, mentioning that a physical therapist said playing an instrument would help get his hand’s range of motion back. “That was my motivation to play guitar — to limber up my fingers — and it just kind of stuck.”

Soon after that simple twist of fate, Sampson’s younger brother, Brian, picked up the drums — and the two have been playing together ever since.

“When we were growing up,” Sampson said of his sibling and Six Mile Grove bandmate, “there was one common thing that kept us from fighting all the time: It was music.”

A great deal of credit must be given to the boys’ parents, who saw their sons’ potential and gave them their very own “band house.” (A neighboring farmhouse Sampson’s great-grandmother had left to the family when she died at the age of 101.)

“During the summer, it’d be all day long,” Sampson said, “eight hours a day just listening to these groups we heard on the radio and trying to figure out what they were doing, trying to copy that and make our own music.”

After putting in their time writing down chord progressions and trying to figure out how those musicians were making their music, the next step for the brothers — who were in eighth and fifth grade, respectively, when they landed their first paying gig — was tackling the small-town circuit.

“We played at all the county fairs and, you know, picnics and whatever festivals they’d let us play at,” Sampson said.

These early experiences would pay off tenfold in the years to come. Take, for example, Six Mile Grove’s last album (fourth overall), “Bumper Crop.” It was recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by members of the band. (The group’s lineup is rounded out by bassist Dezi Wallace and lead guitarist/ keys man Barry Nelson.)

“It comes from years of running your own sound at all these different festivals and setting up your own gear and playing your own music,” Sampson says of his group’s DIY success, “and trying to figure out what sounds good.”

Also impressive is the fact that, earlier this month, Six Mile Grove celebrated 10 years of making music together by playing to a packed house at Bunker’s in Minneapolis.

“It’s very simple: We haven’t recently had any big blowups or anything like that — we never really have,” Sampson said of his group’s longevity. “We’ve always been pretty open about our goals. We have regular meetings to make sure we’re all on the same page, and, once everybody says we’re on the same page, then we work toward that goal until another month later and we have another meeting. We just keep focusing on what it is we want to do, we communicate that and then nobody can complain because they were in, you know?”

He continued by sharing another “band secret”: If, during rehearsal, one Six Mile Grover doesn’t like what another is playing, he can say so — but he then must offer either an alternative or a suggestion for improvement.

“Once we came upon that rule, it completely solved all of the ill feelings,” Sampson said. “As long as you don’t feel like you’re being attacked in a group setting, then it’s cool.”

Recently Sampson has been playing a lot more shows sans bandmates. No, Six Mile Grove isn’t breaking up (they’re putting the finishing touches on album No. 5, in fact); he just really, really likes playing music.

“I love Americana,” he says matter-of-factly. “That’s what we sound like. That’s what we are. That’s what we stand for, really.”

The solo sets also serve another purpose: They are another outlet for the Six Mile Grove material, which he writes all the lyrics for.

“I used to get really nervous about [putting myself out there], but it’s really liberating,” Sampson said. “… I’m writing songs about my grampa — and things I felt bad about not saying to him — or just these really standout small-town folks that have a story to tell but are too afraid to tell it themselves.”

Matthew R. Perrine , Budgeteer News


Brandon’s MPR Interview is available online!

The Dale Connelly Show on MPR’s Radio Heartland:

Click play below to stream!

This week, since most schools in Minnesota have started by now, we decided to take a look at the subject of education in music. We’ll feature songs about school, high school, elementary school and college from artists including Steve Martin, Chuck Berry, Van Morrison and more. In hour two we’ll meet Brandon Sampson from the band Six Mile Grove. The band is from Lyle, Minnesota originally and Brandon talks about growing up in a tiny town, learning to play music and eventually touring with Johnny Cash’s guitar player.

Hour 1
Van Morrison – “Graduate of the School of Hard Knocks”
Crosby, Stills and Nash – “Teach Your Children”
Asylum Street Spankers – “When I Grow Up”
Dan Schwartz – “All These Things”
Steve Martin – “Late For School”
Chuck Berry – “School Days”
Pat Donohue – “High School”
The Red Clay Ramblers – “School House on the Hill”
Josh Rouse – “Middle School Frown”
John McCutcheon – “Kindergarten Wall”
Ann Reed – “Marching Back To School”
Austin Lounge Lizards – “Didn’t Go To College”
Bright Morning Star – “Their Way”
Preston Reed – “Driving School”

Hour 2
Greg Brown – “Early”
Iris DeMent – “Our Town”
Six Mile Grove – “Hollywood”
John Denver – “Rhymes and Reasons”
Dion – “Kickin’ Child”
Luther College Nordic Choir – “Sicut Cervus”
Hank Williams – “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You”
Six Mile Grove and Bob Wootton – “Big River”
Sally Barris – “My Love Loves the Ocean”
Wilco – “What Light?”
Brandon Sampson – “This Old Guitar”

Visit Radio Heartland on for more information.

SMG Tonight at the Cedar in Minneapolis

Finishing off the weekend with another show in Minneapolis at the Cedar Cultural Center. Doors at 7pm. Show at 7:30pm. $5 Cover. More details at

Hope to see you there!


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Six Mile Grove and Bob Wootton are proud to release a new collaboration featuring 11 classic Johnny Cash songs.


Bad News
Big River
Doing My Time
Folsom Prison Blues
Frankie’s Man Johnny
I Got Stripes
I Still Miss Someone
Man In Black
My Baby Walks All Over Me
Ring of Fire
Orange Blossom Special


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On Thursday morning, Brandon was invited to the Minnesota Public Radio studios in St. Paul to be interviewed by Dale Connelly, host of the Saturday night “Radio Heartland” program. Brandon also acted as “guest DJ,” sharing songs that span the lifetime of his musical influences and inspiration, ranging from John Denver to Wilco.
In the interview, Brandon shares about the experience that started his musical journey– a severe hand injury from a farming accident when he was 9 years old– that led him to playing guitar for rehabilitation. As his hand healed, his love for music grew, and soon he convinced his brother to join him on drums, and their longtime friend Barry to join in with a keyboard. Years later, the three boys found their bass player, Dezi and Six Mile Grove was born.
The interview will air this Saturday Night – September 12th at 9PM on Minnesota Public Radio News stations: “Radio Heartland” with Dale Connelly
the MPR story

To hear the story of Six Mile Grove in detail, please tune into Minnesota Public Radio THIS SATURDAY NIGHT at 9PM! Listen online or on your way to watch the boys play at Bunker’s in downtown Minneapolis.
You can also show your support of Six Mile Grove and MPR’s Radio Heartland on Sunday night when the boys play the MPR sponsored show at the Cedar Cultural Center with David Stoddard. Show at 7:30PM.
AND don’t forget to let MPR know how THRILLED you are to be hearing about Six Mile Grove on their programs!