By: Bryan Gibson
The Burning River Ramblers, a Cleveland-based rock/funk band with Ohio University roots, have steadily built a following since their 2011 self-titled debut.
Good press doesn’t hurt, either. Following the album’s release, The Cleveland Plain Dealer listed the group in its “Top 25 Bands to Watch” list, and lead singer/songwriter Conor Standish won the grand prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest’s (JLSC) Valentine’s Day Love Song Contest for the song “Stranger on the Street.”
That song was automatically entered into the JLSC’s annual songwriting contest, which takes place next month. The band will have a chance to win $20,000 and an opportunity to participate in the Vans Warped tour.
In the meantime, the group decided to try their luck by entering another national contest. However, this time, they’re asking for your help.
After making it through the first four rounds of the Hard Rock Rising Global Battle of the Bands, The Burning River Ramblers are now representing Cleveland–all of Ohio, actually–in the nationwide voting round, which starts today.
WOUB’s Bryan Gibson talked with BRR’s Dave Young about the Hard Rock contest, upcoming shows and his group’s soft spot for Athens, Ohio.
BG: Tell me a bit about how you entered the contest. Was it an online submission or did you have to perform?
DY: The first round was an online voting round. We uploaded a song and had to get as many people to download it as possible, because each download counted as a vote. We finished in the top eight in voting for Cleveland, which made us eligible for the live competition rounds. There were two rounds of live competitions – the semifinals and finals. There were four different semifinal shows making up the first round, each a week apart, and held at the Hard Rock Cleveland.
Three bands competed at each semifinal show, and only one was selected to go to the Cleveland finals. We won our semifinal night, and then faced the winners of the other three semifinal nights in the four-band final battle for Cleveland. We won this, which crowned us the Cleveland champions, and we now represent the city going forward. We also represent all of Ohio, because the Hard Rock Cleveland is the only Hard Rock Cafe in Ohio.
BG: The voting takes place on Facebook through May 1. How are you soliciting votes?
DY: We are making as many “get out the vote” efforts as possible. Voting begins on Monday, April 22 and we’re kicking off the day with a performance and interview on Cleveland’s Fox 8 Morning Show, followed by a radio appearance on 87.7 FM Cleveland Sound and a voting party that night in Lakewood, Ohio, at Around the Corner. We have many more appearances that we’re still working out in cities all over the state.
We’ll be in Athens on April 25 for a Jackie O’s show and we’ll be throwing a huge voting party at the Union on April 27 which will include free food, raffles, a live DJ and a performance from us. Other shows include Skully’s in Columbus on April 29 as well as appearances at the Cleveland Clinic and other major Cleveland events.
We’ll be spending a lot of time on the OU campus with laptops, trying to get direct votes. We’ll need help from people, not just voting, but also sharing and promoting the contest to others. We also plan to release a series of videos promoting us and the contest. The first will feature a direct introduction from the President of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. We’ll also be releasing a full music video for our new single and the Hard Rock Rising flagship song, “Don’t Wait on Me.”
Additionally, we’re on the cusp of releasing a new album, and will be releasing new songs as incentives for voting. For instance, when we reach different thresholds–say one-thousand votes– we’ll release a new song. The new record is highly anticipated, so we’re excited to be able to offer these songs to the fans.
BG: With two shows in one week, it sounds like Athens is still an important place for the band. How did the group come together?
DY: Ohio University and Athens both had a huge role in our evolution. Our lead singer/rhythm guitarist, Conor Standish, and bass player, Chris Rush, both grew up together in Lakewood, and with our friend Chris Walling (harmonica), were called the “Trip C’s,” the precursor to the Burning River Ramblers. When Conor and Rush went to school at OU, they ordered a pizza from Donatos one day and Jesse Catania (drummer) delivered it. He ended up jamming with them and then joined the band. He then brought in his brother, Zach Catania, to take care of lead guitar duties. I knew the Catanias, and through them brought in BRR for a recording project while I was an Audio Production student.
The studio sessions went so well that the band asked me to join as keyboard player, and I happen to be from the Cleveland area as well. Things have really taken off since, and in the 16 months that we’ve had this lineup, the sound has really evolved into something that’s darker, funkier, more epic and hopefully, more captivating. Chris Walling left the group over a year ago, as his life was going a different direction and our newer style called for less harmonica. We have a great core group of fans and both cities treat us amazingly well. Both cities have had unique influences on us. I’m proud to say we’re both a Cleveland and Athens band.
Visit The Burning River Ramblers’ Facebook page for contest updates and information.