Bloomington Central Catholic High School grad Ryan Latham said succeeding as a session musician and on-call live performer in Nashville is all about saying "yes."
That was his response when asked to be part of “We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered,” a salute to the 1970s light pop dynamo The Carpenters. That six-piece Nashville-based group performs a fundraiser at Latham’s alma mater Friday, Sept. 28, to benefit Faith in Action, a local nonprofit serving seniors.
Speaking via Skype from his Nashville home, Latham said this outfit is one of many in which he performs. And despite his strong jazz education and background, Latham isn’t shy about praising the deceptively simple melodies and arrangements that made The Carpenters a Top 40 staple.
“The waterfall harmonies they have … their solos in terms of saxophone, there is two very iconic solos. One on 'Wait A Minute Mr. Postman,' and the other on 'Rainy Days And Mondays,' which I actually play note for note during the show. Putting those two iconic solos in my tool bag and getting to play those really felt great, and expanded my vocabulary musically,” said Latham, who played in the CCHS pep band and jazz band.
From there he found his way to Middle Tennessee State University after a two-year stop at ISU where he said he never found his niche.
“At MTSU I enrolled in the jazz studies program, did the whole four-year thing there and ended up staying in Nashville where I started doing session work and road work,” said Latham.
Certainly Nashville is where the work is for a great a musician, but it’s not difficult to swing a cat in Music City and not hit 20 other great musicians.
“It is constantly a work in progress, but your relationships are the most important thing you can have,” said Latham. “You have to go out and meet people, otherwise nobody is going to know you’re there, and your phone will never ring.”
Though session work is part of his repertoire, Latham said he really enjoys performing the live setting. But in either instance, being available is key.
“When the phone rings I always say that I’m the ‘yes man,’ wherever and whatever it is,” said Latham.
“That’s how you keep working. If you say ‘no’ too many times, people stop calling you.”
Michelle Berting Brett is the voice of Karen Carpenter during performances of “We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered.” Latham said she incorporates her memories and personal stories of The Carpenters between songs. He said at CCHS, Brett may share how she once traveled to Downey, California, where Karen and Richard Carpenter spent their teen years.
“Or she will talk about how her brother and sisters wanted to be certain things, but she wanted to be nothing but Karen Carpenter. When she heard Karen the first time, she wanted to sing just like that. And when you want to sound like somebody, you have to dive into it 100 percent. She really does a fantastic job bringing back Karen’s voice,” said Latham.
Latham performs with “We’ve Only Just Begun: Carpenters Remembered” on Friday, Sept. 28, from 6-9 p.m. at Central Catholic High School in Bloomington. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased in advance via Faith in Action office.
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