Public School Fast Food & Blue Jeans
The diverse, music-driven city of New Orleans has fueled the rapid growth of singer-songwriter Ryan Chatelain. Chatelain's independent CD, 'Public School, Fast Food and Blue Jeans,' draws on both the good and hard times seen by someone who calls 'The Big Easy' his hometown. 'So many of the people who live there have it (music) in their blood,' Chatelain, 27, said. 'You can't help but be affected by it.' New Orleans might be on the map largely because of Cajun music, blues and R&B, but other genres also have a firm grip on artists. 'People don't realize just how incredible the singer-songwriters and rock musicians are from New Orleans,' Chatelain added. 'They kind of get overshadowed by what people expect of New Orleans music.' Chatelain's musical tastes have broadened over the years. Whereas his first desire was to be in a hard rock band, everything from country to mainstream rock soon grabbed his attention. 'I discovered in college that I was better at writing country songs than rock songs,' Chatelain noted. 'I discovered that I was better at writing songs built on emotions rather than anything else. I focused my energy on that. 'But a couple of years later, my sound evolved into something that was more rock but used a lot of the same ingredients that I used in country songs, such as trying to appeal to people's emotions.' That emotion has been poured into performances at various venues, such as Tipitina's, The Howlin' Wolf and Carrollton Station. Aside from the physical and emotional aspects of performing live, Chatelain has freely tackled the task of songwriting -- he also works as a newspaper reporter. 'Songwriting is definitely more challenging,' he said. 'In journalism, you're given a topic or a real, live person to write about. The story is already there in front of you. 'In songwriting, you're starting from scratch. You're taking the smallest idea and expanding it -- like starting with a short melody and then finding a story and music that work well together to tell your story.' The stories on 'Public School, Fast Food and Blue Jeans' include a little of everything. The opening track, 'Poor Man,' speaks about the different worlds of an affluent woman and a poor man seen through their relationship. 'The Boy I Used to Be' addresses in a somber tone the loss of childlike innocence and joy that accompanies adulthood. Chatelain's own musical transition from a kid who started playing guitar in junior high to an adult has included more than a few changes. 'Before, when I was writing, I would try to write songs to fit a certain genre,' Chatelain said. 'Now my attitude is that I'll just write whatever comes out. I'm not so much concerned what people classify it as.'