Ryan Quinn, a Clinton High and SUNY Oneonta graduate, was the only contestant to turn all four chairs during the blind audition portion of NBC’s The Voice last week. Quinn’s performance of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” blew away the judges and rocketed to number two on the iTunes rock charts following the broadcast. To date, his performance has over one million views on YouTube.
This week, he faced off against fellow Team Adam member Katie Basden, performing a duet of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and was selected to continue as a member of Levine’s team. Basden, managed to stay in the competition after Blake Shelton “stole” her for his team.
Since last Monday, Quinn’s life has been a whirlwind. His Facebook following has increased fourfold, the number of Twitter followers has done the same and naturally, reporters have come calling for interviews. No further proof of his popularity surge was needed than at his performance Friday night at one of his home venues, Cavallo’s in New Hartford.
Reservations were recommended to attend the show, and the room was at full capacity thirty minutes prior to Quinn stepping onstage with his partner, long-time family friend, guitarist Dave “Dinger” Wingfield. NYS Music was on the scene for the home town performance and also sat down to speak with Quinn about how he’s dealing with his sudden fame; what the kids at the House of the Good Shepherd mean to him and where to next.
To meet Ryan Quinn is to meet a down-to-earth, humble young man grateful for the opportunity to make music. His show Friday night, at the bar that has given him a home the past two years, was his opportunity to not only showcase his incredibly diverse vocal range and musicianship, but to also share the spotlight with his friend, vocalist Cassidy Gerkin and heap praise upon his co-workers and students at the House of the Good Shepherd for the support they have given him. Quinn paused frequently between songs to recognize the cheering section comprised of fellow House of Good Shepherd staff, all donning black t-shirts with the hash tag #Quinnsanity across the front.
Quinn sat for an interview with NYS Music on the eve of the second round of competition for The Voice. The person who emerged was one eager to deflect attention towards others and who is just now coming to terms that he has earned a spot on one of television’s most popular shows.
Mike Kohli: It was great meeting you the other night. Great show. You had a ton of people there.
Ryan Quinn: Thanks for coming out Friday. I appreciate it. It was wild. Probably the best show I’ve ever played.
MK: So, has it started to sink in yet? This whole The Voice thing?
RQ: I think it’s finally beginning to. Maybe not the sheer magnitude of it, but every day it’s a little bit more clear as to what’s going on. I guess that gig was a good indication. People were there from Boston. People were there at 3:30 for a show that started at 8:00. It was so absurd to me. But, yeah, I’m finally starting to wrap my head around it.
MK: One thing about the people in this area; when one of their own does well, they’re all on board.
RQ: Oh, my God. It’s unbelievable. The support is more than I could ever have even dreamed of.
MK: It was obvious during your performance, many times throughout the night, the look on your face was one of overwhelming shock at the adulation you’re being given. You did a great job of… you were very humble, in deflecting that attention towards the people who were onstage with you, the people and kids you work with…just mentioning the House of the Good Shepherd several times throughout the show. It just kind of shows that you’re not in it to become a famous musician. You’re in it because you’re doing something you love and you just happen to have people that you love surrounding you. Is that Ryan Quinn?
RQ: Yeah. Yeah, that’s definitely me. I’m just really glad that came across. Music is just something that I’ve just always loved to do. It’s my favorite thing in the world, to sing. I’m just happy that I get to do it. And with the circumstances now, it’s just so cool. I couldn’t be any happier about it.
MK: So, the House of the Good Shepherd is your full-time job? Are you kind of on a leave right now while doing the show?
RQ: Yep. That’s correct. I’m on a leave. They’ve been super flexible with me. I don’t know if I’ll be able to continue working there, depending on what happens. I’ve worked there steadily for two years and it’s a great experience. Whether I can continue working there or not, I just want to always be giving back to them. They’re a great organization.
MK: What drew you to work there?
RQ: You know, funny story. My mom actually worked there a long time ago in the 70s. The guy who’s playing guitar with me [Dave “Dinger” Wingfield], he’s my dad’s best friend and his wife is my mom’s best friend and she’s still working there. It’s where she and my mother met and became friends. After college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I just knew I wanted to play music. She thought I would be a really good fit teaching music at the school and told me about the position. I applied and got it on my own. She didn’t pull any strings or anything. I didn’t really know what to expect but I ended up falling in love with it.
MK: What do the kids think about all this?
RQ: They were completely shocked. Obviously I couldn’t say anything to anybody. But they can’t even believe it. They didn’t expect it at all. I just kinda said, “I’m pursuing a musical opportunity. I’ll be back to visit.” That’s basically all I said. I dont know if you saw the WKTV segment where they interviewed them; it’s one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.
MK: It has to be very rewarding for you.
RQ: Oh, absolutely. I just want to be a positive. Really, it’s just to be a positive, consistent force in their lives because it’s something they’ve never had. I just want to carry that forward.
MK: Is your style of music something they’ve been able to latch on to and be influenced by?
RQ: I don’t push it on them. I just kind of let them choose whatever they want to listen to, sing whatever they want to sing and just kind of help them do whatever they’re doing to the best of their ability.
MK: So you went to Oneonta. There’s a pretty good music scene going on down there.
RQ: I was in a couple of ensemble groups, basically just for credit. I was the lead vocalist with a funk band with Jeremy Wall. He was a founding member of the band Spyro Gyra, which is kinda cool. We played Stevie Wonder and Tower of Power stuff. I did a band called The Mothers of Intention. It was a Frank Zappa cover band. So we just did a bunch of albums of Zappa material. Yeah, the music scene there is very tight knit.
MK: You and Dave have been putting together some songs for an EP. Has there been any progress on that at all?
RQ: Ya know, kind of…I have some original material. It’s on Reverb Nation, a couple of songs on Soundcloud. It just takes me so long to write. I’ve been focusing on this and only this. It just takes me so long to write because I’m so hyper critical of everything that I do. Eventually I will put out my own material.
MK: When did you sit down and say, “I want to audition for The Voice?
RQ: Four years ago, I went to New York for an audition and it didn’t really go anywhere. And then my parents and my girlfriend and random people at gigs would just say, “Why don’t you just try?” I finally caved after about four years. So in July, I went and did an open call, and here I am!
MK: When did you find out you were going to be on the show?
RQ: (laughter) A few months after that. It was one of the most exciting days of my life. It’s horrifying too. It’s like, “My God, I’m actually going to audition in front of these people for real?” I can’t just put it on the back burner anymore. It’s like, no, you’re there. It’s gonna happen, so get ready.
MK:Obviously tonight and tomorrow night, the show is airing. You’re not sure when or if you’ll be on either show, correct?
RQ: Correct. I’m not sure when or if, but there’s always a chance. I’m gonna be watching anyway to see everybody. Of course, I hope to see myself too.
MK: It’s an exciting time around here, as exhibited at Cavallo’s the other night.
RQ: That was such a great show.
MK: You basically went straight through, what, 32 songs…
RQ: (laughter) You counted? Nice! I used to do three sets but the energy was so great that when you get the adrenaline going and everything, at least for me, I feel like I could just sing forever. I took a break not needing to, just realizing that I probably should. But I probably could have just played straight through if I wanted to. I just love doing it.
MK: Your guest vocalist…
RQ: Oh, Cassidy? Her name is Cassidy Gerken. It’s a small community here. Her father, Vic Gerken, who was doing sound Friday…he was in a band with Dinger, who I was playing with, and my dad, who was a drummer, back in the 70s and 80s. They were in a band together, all three of them.
MK: It’s all coming full circle.
RQ: It’s all coming full circle. It’s pretty funny. We’re all working together again.
MK: Best of luck to you. Thank you.
RQ: Of course, thank you.
Ryan Quinn is performing again at Cavallo’s Friday March 25. If you’re in the area, the man puts on a show covering all genres from all decades. He has a voice that does justice to Marvin Gaye and Thom Yorke. But be forewarned, you may have to arrive at 3:30 to get a spot on the deck.