Marc Ribler: The Daily Vault Interview

by Max Kaplan


A veteran of the rock ‘n’ roll industry, singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Marc Ribler has shared the stage with the likes of Steven Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, and many more. His career began in the mid ’80s with the band Nightflyer. Their minor success opened the door to opportunities including opening for Sam & Dave, Sly And The Family Stone, and Rick Danko of The Band. Marc then settled into a rewarding career in the ’90s as a songwriter for RCA. His songs have charted in the Billboard Top 100, the American Top 40, as well as in Canada and across the world. Marc currently holds down the responsibilities of lead guitar for fellow New Jersey native (and E Street Band member) Steven Van Zandt in his group Little Steven And The Disciples Of Soul.

In addition to these accomplishments, Ribler has composed scores for commercials and television, including advertisements for V8 Juice, Green Mountain Coffee, and what he describes as “a thought-provoking Trojan Condoms commercial.” Marc has also had his hand in numerous shows benefitting charitable causes, including a “50 Licks” Rolling Stones tribute show benefitting the Asbury Angels foundation, and the "Empty Sky Memorial" benefit for surviving families of 9/11.

Ribler is a living proponent of the classic New Jersey rock ‘n’ roll sound that the world has come to love. “The Asbury Park Sound,” as Marc describes it, is coursing through his veins. He is part of a legacy of rock pioneers including greats like Springsteen and Little Steven. With his third studio album, The Whole World Awaits You, Marc Ribler intends to continue that legacy.

Your third solo album is The Whole World Awaits You, and the first single off of it is “Shattered.” Those are some pretty poignant titles; what can you tell us about what they mean and how you came up with them?

“Shattered,” I actually wrote with a friend of mine, Christina Aldendifer, in Nashville, but I forget who came up with the title. Obviously there’s been other songs called “Shattered”; you know the Stones had one. But it’s a great verb—it makes you think, “Wow, something’s going on here,” you know? When people break up, someone can get shattered. I think we’ve all been shattered or maybe have shattered people in our lives, right?

And how about The Whole World Awaits You. What was the inspiration behind that?

Well, I think that that’s sort of like the grand question. It’s our quest or journey. All the possibility that’s ahead of us, you know, infinite possibilities. It’s just this positive statement of what could be. We’ve been through this really rough year, that’s been really challenging for most people, maybe the most challenging of their lives. So it’s sort of saying that this too shall pass, and there’s unlimited possibilities for great things ahead. It’s all part of this adventure.

marc-ribler_600And “Shattered” is the first single?

Yeah, “Shattered” was released a couple of weeks ago. It’s the first single, an actual vinyl single. We’re actually selling signed vinyl copies on my website. There will be a couple of other singles before the album comes out in July, but those will just be streaming, downloadable. This first one we actually did a vinyl pressing of it—you know, old school, sit on the carpet, look at the cover while you watch the vinyl spin on your turntable.

I think that a lot of people these days think “Oh, it’s just streaming music.” When I was kid, it was this whole experience about the world behind what made records. Like, who are all these people? Who are these musicians? The studios they were made at? The record companies that put it out? Who are the songwriters? So it’s all this information that kind of blows past everybody right now, because if you’re just streaming, you’re just getting these soundbites. You’re not getting the full experience.

So I feel fortunate and I’m really happy that a lot of people are getting back into vinyl, because it’s like a meditation. You know, you put the tone arm on your record, you sit on the carpet cross-legged, you read the lyrics, it’s like a whole meditation. I think it’s a good way to slow down a little bit in this world that’s moving so quickly all the time.

Where did you record the album?

I recorded all the basic tracks at a place in Long Branch, New Jersey called Shorefire Studios. The owner of that studio is a guy by the name of Joe Demaio and he’s a great engineer. So I did the basic tracks there and then did most of the overdubs here at my home studio. Then when I was finishing the mixes during COVID, I had a friend of mine put on a trombone part from his home studio in New York. And another friend put on some trumpet from his studio. So those two pieces we did virtually, but the basic tracks and a lot of the album was recorded at Shorefire. I recorded the vocals at my studio.

Are the players on the album your solo band, or studio musicians?

They’re my guys in the sense that we’ve been working together for years. Whenever I get a call to work, like when Steven Van Zandt called me to get a band together, these are the guys that I call. Rich Mercurio on drums, you know, he’s worked with Sara Bareilles and Idina Menzel. Jack Daley, he was the bass player with Lenny Kravitz for many years. Andy Burton, the keyboardist, worked with John Mayer and Cindy Lauper. These are some of the best musicians on the planet. We’re very close friends and we do very well on the road together.

"Shattered" is reminiscent of that classic New Jersey rock ‘n’ roll sound that the world has come to love. Can you tell us a little about your influences for that song and the others on the record?

In the ‘70s, I used to listen to this radio station called WABC; it was a pop station, but it was an incredible melting pot. On the radio would be The Eagles, The Jackson Five, The Rolling Stones, Simon And Garfunkel, this great spectrum of sounds. And probably growing up hearing songs like “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, its actually a Bob Dylan song, just those jangling sounds. The Eagles have a jangly, acoustic guitar driven sound, so probably some of the textures used on their records.

When I write a song, I’ll get out the palette and think about what colors to use. Some things have more aggressive guitars or drum parts. Some things might have some cool percussion parts. Actually the B-side of “Shattered” is a song called “Hand Me Down,” and we used East Indian percussion on it—djembe, tabla. Every song kind of tells you what it wants to be if you keep your ears open. This sort of a jangly Americana rock thing.

Do you play a 12-string guitar just on the record, or live as well?

I play that live also. In fact when I was touring with Steven Van Zandt And The Disciples Of Soul, there were several songs where I would play the 12-string. I actually have one over here, it’s quite a different sound. This is a Rickenbacker, a new Rick. [Plays a few chords.] It’s like this jangle; the first four strings are tuned in octaves and it gives it a sparkle. What kind of music do you play?

I play blues and soul music, Memphis music.

Oh yeah. I play that stuff, too. I don’t sing that way, but I certainly write music like that for other people. You know, a lot of American guitar players were influenced by British players playing blues. But they got it from Black American guitar players. It’s kind of watered down. I learned the blues from people like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, and Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page. They all got it from Albert King, B.B. King. They got it from the kings. It went across the pond and came back and now it’s everywhere.

Yeah! I know that you’ve played with some of the New Jersey greats. Could you share a couple of highlights from over the years?

Well, touring with Steven And The Disciples of Soul has been a highlight. Steven is, as Peter Wolf from J. Geils calls him, the minster of rock and roll. He’s the keeper of the flame. So, when we were in London, Paul McCartney came to the show, and the band was pretty explosive. It’s a 15-piece band with horns, me and Steven play guitar, and there’s great rhythm section. So, Paul came to the show and he wanted to sit in.

Steven has relationships with all the rock royalty. One time in LA, Springsteen wanted to sit in with us. With Steven, I’ve also played with Elvis Costello, who’s just a great singer-front man. So yeah, through the years we just came in contact with these people either through Steven or from touring, in the studios, you kind of meet people. New Jersey certainly has a thing, that Asbury Park sound that Steven and Bruce brought to the world.

Marc Ribler, Steven Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen

Very cool. And are you planning to tour once this records releases in July?

We’re talking about that, and hoping to, but I think until we get into a safer place with the pandemic it’ll be a minute. I don’t know if it’ll be later in 2021. I can do local shows, but I don’t know about flying and going overseas... that might not be until late in the year or 2022. But certainly, I’m already planning some local shows. A lot of the venues in Jersey are now at 50% capacity. I’ll probably stick to New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut until we get to herd immunity, where it’s much less likely for people to get COVID.

When can we expect the next single to come out?

We’re going to release the video for “Shattered” later this month, probably around March 28th. And then the next single, a song called “Who Could Ask For Anything More,” will be out in early May. We’ll release five singles before the album comes out on July 9th. People can go to my website, marcribler.com, and get the vinyl singles there and my previous albums.

One more question: a lot of people are trying to break into the music industry these days, just like always. Do you have any advice for young musicians that you want to share?

Sure. The music business will lift you to the highest heights and it’ll drop you from the top of a mountainside and crush your ass. It’s all I’ve ever done, and it’s brought me great joy and it’s brought me great stress and pain. You have to be willing to go through whatever you have to go through. Nowadays you have to have several different ways of making a living in music. Years ago, I was just writing songs and making money as a writer. I would gig, but I didn’t have to rely on gigging. I would say to be as diversified as you can, be open to what you need to do to continue playing music. And enjoy yourself! Work with people who are like-minded and creative, who you can learn from, and who can learn from you. Enjoy the process, enjoy writing songs together, enjoy playing together. It’s a community thing, you know? Get out there, play in front of as many people as you can, share your music. The audience will let you know whether or not you should be doing it. If it’s in your heart to do it, follow your dream—just know that it’s not always going to be a beautiful sunny day. There’s going to be some rain, some snow, some cold-ass weather. It’s worth it if you really love it.

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