Ryan Humbert was born to play music. Ok, so there are many Canton musicians who claim to have been born to play music. Humbert, however, seems to have been not only born to play music, but to write, sing, produce and even market music. He sings with a powerful vibrato not often associated with pop and alt-country. The tone he delivers is matched only by the feverish pace with which he crafts his lyrical artform. However, what truly separates Humbert from all others is his uncanny ability to market music in unique ways. On November 5, 6 and 7, Humbert and his 10-piece string band will take you through a musical journey paying tribute to Roy Orbison at The Metropolitan Center Grand Ballroom in Canton. The proceeds will benefit the Rainbow Repertory Company, which was established in 1994 to bring theatrical arts into schools. Then on December 11, he will perform the fourth in a series of shows entitled “Strung Out (this one being the Holiday Extravaganza)” to benefit the Akron Canton Regional Food Bank. “I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t going to be making something doing this; I mean I am the promoter of this show (Orbison). If it doesn’t go off well and I don’t make any money it’s ok… but like the show at the Akron Civic we fed 3,500 people through the food bank.” And while Humbert meshes local non-profit work with his music career, he is honest about his national aspirations, which are lofty and yet, based on his talent, attainable. “The last thing I want to do is go away and make it big, tour the world, and comeback and Canton has died, he says with sincerity in his voice. “You want to help while you can. We did the show at the Canton Palace in May of 2010 and gave over $nearly 4,000 to Project Rebuild. That’s a great program right here in Canton.” Project REBUILD is a Canton based non-profit that re-engages out-of-school, unemployed and underemployed youth (ages 16-24) to complete a high school diploma while learning marketable skills in the construction trades through the rehabilitation or construction of affordable housing. Humbert is proud of that accomplishment. Over the past six years, he is also proud of the fact that he has opened for the likes of Elvis Costello, Chris Isaak, Michelle Branch and The Zac Brown Band. There are plenty more big names that have toured through northeast Ohio that have had Ryan on the bill as well. He has played over 500 shows since beginning back in 2004 at almost every venue in northeast Ohio and he has been nominated for several awards over the past six years. And when you talk to him he appears to be just getting started. Having just released his third full-length solo recording, the self-produced Old Souls, New Shoes, Ryan proves to be one of Ohio’s premiere songwriting talents. The album is a carefully crafted collection of 14 songs that would appeal to fans of pop, dance and what Humbert calls “weep and repeats”. “I just wanted to make a good pop album and that is what Old Soul, New Shoes is,” he explains quite frankly. “It’s roll-down-the-window, driving music. I like so many different kinds of music, even older musicians like Elton John, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. A lot of that comes out here.” Humbert began his journey into music as a teenager, while attending Green High School. “I have been a music fan for so long that if I want to cover a song, it’s because I really like it,” Humbert says. “There is a song by Lucinda Williams called “Can’t Let Go” off of her Car Wheels On a Gravel Road, and that was the song that made me want to play guitar. “It was like this song that was folk, country, rock, blues, it’s everything and I wanted to learn to play like that,” Ryan recalls passionately. “I had not been privy to full-blown songs that mixed blues, country with a punk attitude. I was listening to whatever was on the radio, whatever I was told to listen to.” He started playing guitar at age 17. Soon after Humbert formed a band called The Hand-Me-Downs which focused on alt-country. He led the group performing covers by the likes of Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and The Blasters. After high school Humbert attended the Pittsburgh Art Institute where he graduated with a Graphic Arts Degree in 2001. Even then, he began leaving his mark as he worked for the director for the arts and promotions for the National Gallery of American’s Young Inventors. He then worked for 91.3 The Summit radio in charge of promotions and was the creator of its current logo. His musical career was still his main focus and it would be during his time at the radio station that he made acquaintance with Emily Bates. Bates began working as an intern in 2003 for The Summit. She had come from her hometown of Greencastle, Indiana moved to Akron after graduating from Denison University near Columbus. “He is a music encyclopedia,” Bates says with awe. “He could tell you something about every song. And it is very interesting in that he has such a wide variety of influences. So we do a little bit of everything.” Bates has now been Ryan’s backup singer for seven years. And in 2010, the two recorded an acoustic album of ballad duet classics entitled, Tell Me What You See. The duo covered songs by Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Tom Petty, Simon and Garfunkel and of course the title track of The Beatles’ “Tell Me What You See“. “We work really well together” notes Humbert. “We went in with a bottle of wine and a book of songs and record this live, all one day in the studio. It was a side project and people seem to love it. It’s us doing songs we love.” Besides Humbert’s new solo release he has produced six albums including his 2004 debut Nothing to Lose, 2005’s Hangman, 2007’s One Night Only: Acoustic Live, 2007’s Before You Leave (with Emily Bates) and their follow-up, Tell Me What You See in 2010. Humbert’s current backing band lineup includes: Emily Bates on rhythm guitar, Ben Evans on keyboard from Canton, Matt Middleton on drums from Hartville, Jared Lees on bass from Akron, Erin Vaughn on lead guitar from Canton and Michael Houff on violin from Cleveland. “Ryan is very energetic,” Evans says. “He gets excited when he finds a new melody; it’s infectious. It is a very genuine sound we have with Ryan. We have all been music buffs our whole lives and we are not trying to be something we are not.” Besides doing his own songs, Humbert has become a producer for noted local veteran singer Tracey Thomas, onetime singer of the Akron ‘80s new wave sensation, Unit 5. “We just became buddies,” Humbert recalls. “I was driving home from Pittsburgh one night and I heard that song. And I thought, ‘What the hell is this, it’s so cool,’ and I called Bill Gruber (91.3 music director), who I knew. He told me it was Tracey Thomas.” Humbert would go on to co-write five songs off Thomas’ 2007 release GhostTown and co-produced it. He also plays guitar, mandolin and sings on it with Thomas. She knew I had a vision and she just let me have at it. Humbert also co-produced Thomas’ 2003 Dancing in Cairo. “Ryan is one of my best friends. He is the most driven, ambitious person I have ever known. He is an amazing talent and I love working with him,” says Thomas. In 2006 Ryan and his band had the honor of playing for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s American Music Masters Series in honor of Roy Orbison. They were the only band from northeast Ohio asked to participate, performing a 12-song “Roy” set. The success of that show prompted the upcoming second show in November. The tribute show is actually Humbert’s second performer he has done in tribute fashion. In September of 2007, Ryan portrayed Hank Williams in a three-night run of the Canton Cabaret’s “Hank Williams: The Concert That Never Was” in which he performed 22 of Hank’s songs. Although Humbert moved to Nashville in the spring of 2008 to record Old Souls, New Shoes, he has been back in Canton since 2009. So what keeps this rising star from letting the accolades and success go to his head? “It is upbringing really,” he mentions immediately. “That and the people you are around. I was a bit of an asshole when I was younger. Things made me mad. I realized that was not going to get me anywhere, so I eliminated the stress as much as possible.” “I like doing things that I have a passion for. I have seen too many people who I know and love doing things that they don’t really want to be doing. And for me, as long as I can get away with it, I am gonna do what I love. And if it becomes a point where I can’t do it, then I am ok with that. But I am gonna give it a shot while I can, and able to do it.” Don’t be fooled by his words because Humbert wants to break out big. What may lead Humbert to the promised land of musical fame is not just a powerful voice, songwriting skills beyond his years or a desire to give back to the community, but his knack for putting it all together and still having fun. Years from now Humbert may look back at what led him down the path to pop glory, and all he will have to do is look at his shoes which are firmly on the ground and a soul that is not old or new, but genuine as he reaches for the stars. For more information on Humbert’s upcoming fundraising performances, information on his catalog of music, you can visit his website, at: www.ryanhumbert.com.