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NAVIGATING TWO WORLDS

With Steven Van Zandt’s help, Marc Ribler finishes, releases new solo album

Having recorded 15 songs in three days, New Jersey-raised guitarist and singer Marc Ribler was well on his way in February 2017 to finishing a solo album.

Then came a three-year stretch when the project stayed on the shelf, and for good reason: Ribler says he was “brought into Steven’s world.”

He’s referring to über-busy Steven Van Zandt, for whom Ribler has served as music director — and as Ribler puts it, among the job’s myriad responsibilities are “making sure every ‘i’ is dotted and ‘t’ is crossed for every soundcheck and that everyone [in the band] is on top of whatever they need for that particular day.”

“We toured pretty much constantly; when we weren’t on tour, we were making the next record or making [music for the film Christmas Chronicles 2],” Ribler says about that three-year period.

After the Nov. 6, 2019, show that concluded the tour in support of Van Zandt’s 2019 album, Summer of Sorcery, Ribler found himself at home for a few months. Not long after 2020 began, he resumed work on his album and started finalizing some mixes.

“A month into the pandemic, I was on the phone with Steven, and he asked me what I was doing,” recalls Ribler. “I said, ‘Just finishing up my record.’ He said, ‘Your record? I didn’t know you were making a record. Send me that.’ ”

The next day, Ribler was back on the phone with Van Zandt, who after listening to the music said he had good news and bad news.

Van Zandt started with what he said was the good news: He loved a lot of the album. Then came the bad news, which Ribler says was actually “the best news ever” — Van Zandt wanted to assist in finishing up the production and arrangements. They spent a few months doing that, and the end result is the 12-song The Whole World Awaits You, released July 16 on Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool label and distributed by The Orchard.

During the sequencing of the record, Ribler says, Van Zandt suggested that he write “an international thing … something from another culture.” Ribler responded by composing “Manzanillo.”

“I’ve always loved Latin music and Latin percussion,” says Ribler. He wrote it during summer 2020: “It was really this cathartic thing about processing what was going on in the world and in this country at that time.” Ribler also notes that his mother, who was sick the year prior while he was touring, “is very present in the lyrics.”

According to Ribler, Van Zandt refers to “Manzanillo” — which appears about midway through The Whole World Awaits You — as “a palate cleanser.” And it was Van Zandt who had the idea for the song’s mariachi trumpet part.

“He’s all about serving the music,” says Ribler, “and that’s what he brought to my record.”

— By Chris M. Junior

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