Granada Talent Buyer Ryan Henry Has His Ear to the Ground
Ryan Henry's played with the New Frontiers and is ramping up a new act, Low Dark Hills, but we figured we'd catch him while he's still largely behind-the-scenes at the Granada Theater, where he's crawled up the ladder from working on their "Serenity" crew (who handle security and maintenance) to being a pretty successful talent buyer for the venue, largely just from standing in the right place at the right time.
If you were running for mayor of the local scene, what would your campaign promises consist of?
I would never run for mayor of the local scene, but I'd nominate John Solis. Or his beard. Or maybe he could run against his beard. That would be interesting.
Watching the staff commence a keg stand onstage at the 2010 Observer Music Awards paints quite the picture of the scene behind the scenes.
I don't want to give away our secrets, but we have some pretty crazy cupcake-eating, Die Antwoord video watching parties every now and then.
Do you all get in the habit of working all day, then staying around for the shows at night?
Most days I'm in the office cranking through emails, researching artists headed our way, putting offers together, and taking part in various weekly meetings we have. Sometimes I stick around for the show, like last night when we had The Head and the Heart playing, who were really great by the way. I don't work the shows anymore though. We have an amazing crew who handles everything at the theater itself.
You play music, but what specifically led you down this path?
The band I was in at the time, The New Frontiers, had just broken up, so I was looking for a job and saw a "now hiring" ad in a Granada email. I originally reached out because I was interested in the booking position they had listed as available. Come to find out that position had already been filled by Helen Eaton (who has since moved over to Billy Bob's), but they were hiring theater staff. After a couple interviews, I started working on Serenity, which is basically a kinder version of the typical security. On Serenity, I did everything from cleaning toilets, manning the box office, scaling seating, trash runs, security during shows, will call, all that stuff.
I had been on Serenity for a little over a year when Kris Youmans left. I'd had some experience playing in a touring band for a while and tour managing an amazing duo from Ohio called Over the Rhine, so I knew how to settle a show and understood offer structures and deal points but I had no experience actually booking a venue. Mike [Schoder, owner] discussed the opportunity with me to jump into the talent buyer position and was cool enough to give me a crack at it. So here we are, almost two and a half years later.
What's your strategy for hunting down good shows, getting them before the competition, and getting the populace to show up?
When it comes to hunting down great talent, a lot of it is just keeping your ear to the ground. Who is putting out a new record soon? Who are the music blogs and websites raving about? Who am I personally excited about? How have they done on previous tours? I don't know how people did this job before the Internet, honestly. A huge part of this job is passion and drive too. I'd be lying if I told you I loved every single artist that plays Granada. But when I get to book bands like M83, Spiritualized, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, or our now annual Gorilla vs. Bear event, I'm having the time of my life.
As far as getting people to show up, I'm focused on booking the kind of talent that puts on a great show and draws in a fanbase who really wants to come out and see them perform. We have a killer promotions/marketing department that takes it from there. I'll throw my ideas in the hat for how to push a show but they are on top of their game when it comes to getting the word out and getting people excited about what's happening here at Granada.
When I interviewed Gavin [Mulloy], his new rave on the scene was Mystery Skulls. What's yours?
There is a ton of great local/regional talent here in DFW. Quaker City Night Hawks are fantastic.Total boogie-down, swampy rock and roll. Probably my favorite local band right now. They're opening for Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights and The Orbans here on June 29. They may not be as new, but I love Leg Sweeper and Mind Spiders too. Such solid bands.