My colleague at Caltech, Patrick Morrissey, informed me one day that the very popular guitar teacher he had been working with for years had an opening. I met with Tony and hit it off immediately. He worked with me on right hand technique and guitar rhythms and guided me on an exploration of scales and chords through exercises that he came up with and through songs from the great guitar repertoire. I saw from his choice of songs that we had a lot in common.


One day I casually mentioned that I wrote songs and would he be interested in hearing one. His response was positive, so I played Melting Away for him. His reaction surprised me. He said “Don, I am no longer your teacher, I’m now your producer!” This was a bit of a shock to me as I had been writing songs for decades and had a collection of them. I never thought they were anything special, but I faithfully kept working on them, trying to perfect my craft. Tony saw something in me and my songs that I could not see myself. His confidence and enthusiasm for my weed-patch of songs opened a new chapter for me. I began to embrace my creative side and consider that I could maybe call myself an artist. At first I focussed on my role as songwriter, but when we starting talking about recording my songs and I suggested we hire someone to sing them, Tony flatly refused and told me that I would be doing the singing. Again, his confidence pushed me to embrace myself as a performer. No half measures with Tony!


Thus began several years of creative work with Tony. He and I truly have a chemistry for songwriting and together we crafted my weed-patch of songs into something much more finished and ready for recording and performance. Our musical sensibility is so compatible that nearly every change he suggested made sense to me. He really helped me understand how to structure a song for maximum impact and how to let the song go where it wanted to go. In his studio we slowly crafted each song, visiting each one many times, and explored the essence of each one.


We knew the ultimate goal for our efforts would be a recording. Tony’s experience with recording guided us to prepare as much as possible before starting the recording process. We refined the arrangements so that we didn’t have to make those decisions on studio time. We prepared charts so our team of musicians would know exactly what we wanted. Tony began selecting this team from the musicians he had worked with over the years. We also began selecting the recording studio and the engineers who would help us record our tracks. With Tony at the helm as producer, we began the process that led to our first release, “Moon in the Branches”, that will be coming out on my birthday, April 11. It has been a wonderful road and a lot of hard work. I know for a fact that I would not have taken that road without my partner in crime – Tony Ryan.

Tony at Rich Mix Studios adding acoustic guitar magic to the tracks


astro-nerd songwriter

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