Marc Ribler

Reaching legend status is one way to describe Vocalist/Guitarist/Songwriter/Producer Marc Ribler, as his work has spanned globally for several years and in various musical styles from records to jingles to movies. He has played with many world renown musicians including Little Steven and The Disciples of Soul. He has written and produced many songs for worldwide major label musicians that have made the Billboard charts as well as international charts. On top of that, he is a champion for charity benefits to raise money for disasters, as well as New Jersey musicians who have passed away and a Supper Club benefit for Parkinson’s’ Disease. Now he is getting ready to release his latest LP THE WHOLE WORLD AWAITS YOU on July 16th.

Having the opportunity to catch up with this extraordinarily talented musician, he revealed some details of his latest album, some history of his past experiences and projects, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: Your new Album THE WHOLE WORLD AWAITS YOU. Is there a theme? What inspired it?

Marc Ribler: Well, I guess there is a theme that sort of happened by osmosis. It’s interesting. The songs I’ve been compiling for a few years. The last bunch of years, the business has changed so much, so I’ve been doing more touring, and you just have to be very diversified nowadays to kind of you know, keep it going and make ends meet and everything. Anyways, so I hadn’t put out an album since 2008 (This Life) and I was putting a few songs aside, then got very busy, and then when I started working with Stevie Van Zandt, we recorded his record which was the first one that I co-produced was Soulfire, and then we had two months off. He had a commitment with Bruce (Springsteen) to go to Australia for two months, so I figured that was a good time. I didn’t know how long we’d be on the road with Steven. I figured maybe that was the most opportune time to go record these songs, so I called my guys. Actually, the same band that I hired for Steven. Jack Daley on bass, Rich Mercurio (drums) and Andy Burton (keyboards), and we went in like in three days in February of 2017 and we recorded 15 songs that I’ve been kind of holding onto and I did some quick overdubs and preliminary mixes. Then probably starting in April that year, we did our first gig with Steven, and then we basically were on tour for three years. So, I really didn’t have much of a chance to look at it until we got back. We finished our tour in 2019, just a couple months before the pandemic, and when we had the lock down, I figured, if I don’t do something creative, I’m going to jump out my first story window. I mean, aside from I’m sure everyone went through the whole thing thinking, God, is this it? Is this Armageddon (he laughed) Is this the apocalypse? It was certainly the zombie apocalypse. Sort of still going on. So basically, I said, you know, I got to do something constructive. So, I started mixing my record, you know, kind of finishing up some overdubs and updating some things, and I was on the phone with Steven a few weeks into the lockdown and he asked me what I was up to. I said, “ah, I’m just you know, finishing up my record.” He goes, “record? I didn’t know you were making a record. Send me it. Let me hear what you got.” So, I sent it to him and he says, “well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news” (he chuckled). I said, “Ok. Give me the bad news.” He says, “well I’m going to give you the good news first.” He said,” I love a lot of these songs,” and he says,” the bad news,” which to me was the great news, is that he wanted to work on some of the songs with me and he had some ideas to do a co-production on it with him, and just working with Steven for so many years, knowing the level of his you know, arranging brilliance. I mean, he’s co-produced some of the biggest selling records in history. And I said, “this is fantastic news!” So, it was just kind of the medicine I needed to get through those early days of the pandemic, and we just basically spent a couple months doing everything virtually. Just updating some of the arrangements. I would work on parts and then send the ideas back to him. We’d both sign off on different new aspects of the arrangements, and then I’d have musician friends, everything was done virtually. Like I would send, let’s say a singer. I’d record the parts I wanted him to sing, and then they would send it back. They would work in their own home studio. So, it was truly, the end of the record was really like a virtual, I mean, it was a pandemic production. Necessity is the mother of invention and that’s how we were able to finish the record. So, Steven brought his arrangement brilliance and his production brilliance, and I think it really lifted the game. As far as the theme, being that it’s called THE WHOLE WORLD AWAITS YOU and that was a song that I had recorded for the record. It was actually Steven’s idea, he said, “I think that could be the title” because I was thinking of a couple other tracks as the title to the album, and when he said that, just realizing the state we were in, you know in the world. In the heart of the pandemic. I said, “man that makes so much sense” because we’re really in this place of you know, unknown possibility and the future’s unlimited or as limited as we want to make it. I don’t know if it’s coincidentally or there’s themes within the album. Like there’s a song called “Without You” that’s really about, the chorus is, I don’t want to live in a world, basically I don’t want to live in a world where there is prejudice and where it matters what color you are. So, there were just some relevant themes that I value that just seemed to be timely and in light how steroidal all these issues that have been in everyone’s face that are so important. Like when Obama became president, I thought, oh man, we’ve made huge progress. Then you realize that it might as well be you know, 1860 all over again. The division is deeper than it’s ever been and there’s only been band-aids put on these issues. So, there’s a few themes. There’s another song that’s called “War on Peace” which is very relevant to you know, that there’s really no, people aren’t going to get rich if they stop war and everything seems to be motivated by people’s greed. Corporation greed.

SFL Music: You wrote the song about that “Who Could Ask For Anything More”, right?

Ribler: Yes. That kind of has a lot of those values in it as well. Like shutting down a bridge for personal gain. So, that was the longwinded answer.

SFL Music: You brought in some songs also, so that’s perfect! Are there going to be any shows? A tour?

Ribler: Yeah. We’re still in a state of confusion I guess or you know, like in a holding pattern mainly because I mean, obviously we’re getting some mixed messages about what is safe or what is you know, respectful or the right thing to do. So, I’m doing just some local. We’ve actually done this local show throughout the entire winter on Sundays.

SFL Music: At the (McLoone’s) Supper Club?

Ribler: No, no. Well, the supper club, that was a bunch of years ago, but this is actually a place called McCanns. It’s on a golf course (Spring Meadow Golf Club in Wall Township NJ). It’s like a bar, restaurant on a golf course. You know I take care of my dad. He’s 88. I’m very careful with him with COVID. So, it had to be social distanced and it had to be outside because we didn’t feel safe at all going inside. So, we play every Sunday. We play three hours straight outside. We started in September and we played through the winter. We would play you know, 28 degrees, snow outside (he laughed). There were heaters by us, but by the restaurant, there were those outdoor space heaters, so people could kind of you know, drink hot toddies and have soup. Yeah, a couple hundred people would come every week. People were dying to hear music. So, it was sort of like the medicine we needed and the medicine that our fans needed. We played some songs from the record and like a lot of classic rock covers that we kind of grew up playing. It’s still good. We’re still doing it and now we’ve actually done one indoor show which was at McLoone’s in Asbury Park. We actually did a residency there for a few years that was from like 2012 til ’16. Something like that.

SFL Music: I read when your alarm clock went off and the radio came on and you heard your favorite songs you were inspired, but what influenced you to become a musician?

Ribler: Well, I grew up in Brooklyn (New York). I’ll keep this as short as I can (he laughed). Just to give you like a little background. I grew up in the projects in Brooklyn, NY and when I was nine you know, I had black friends and Jewish friends and Italian friends and Irish friends. So, I grew up in a real melting pot, and like the alarm clock would go off. It would be Donovan, or it would be all these great songs that we grew up with. I guess I’m really a child of the seventies, but in my very young years, I just remember music coming out of the alarm clock radio. We had this station in New York WABC, and I just remember, I just liked singing with the radio and you know, parents would buy the singles, the vinyl. You know you’d sit and you’d have this amazing experience with this music that just kind of took you away. And we moved to New Jersey. My mom wanted to get us away from the drugs and the gangs and there was probably more drugs in New Jersey consequently, but anyway, it was just part of the culture everywhere and it was all white. it was very non-diverse compared to what I grew up in. Anyway, I really loved living in Brooklyn and I had my favorite cousin who still lived in Brooklyn. We were visiting his house one day and he was just starting taking some guitar lessons. He just happened to have the guitar out when I went to his house and it was like for lack of a better description, it was like the ‘Holy Grail’. I felt this thing. It’s like a call to me. It’s like, you need to be doing this. So, I don’t feel like I had any say, it just occurred, and then I asked my parents if I could get a guitar. I kind of never looked back. I just wanted to be great at music. When I was a kid, I’d practice six, eight hours a day just to be as good as I could, as quickly as I could. So, I don’t feel like I had any say. I think it just kind of, it just occurred.

SFL Music: Did you take formal lessons?

Ribler: I took a few lessons after I was really getting into it. There was this guy Harry Leahey who was an amazing bebop guitar player. Him and Phil Woods. A New Jersey based guitar. So, I took a few lessons from Harry and I learned a bit of theory and about Bebop, and he gave me some great exercises that I still gather knowledge from to this day. So, I thought about going to Berklee School of Music, but in retrospect, I wanted to be out playing. I didn’t want to be in a classroom, so I started playing in clubs when I was very young. I was probably fifteen at the Jersey shore and just kind of grew up playing cover music, and then started writing in my teens and played with some original bands. Then I decided I really wanted to write my own songs.

SFL Music: Of course, you played like you were saying with Steven and also (Bruce) Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Carole King. Tell me a little bit about that experience. That’s awesome!

Ribler: I moved back to Brooklyn in the late eighties and my friend Paul Hipp, he’s an actor, singer, songwriter. I was working on his music with him. My manager at the time was interested in working with Paul and Paul at the time was dating Carole. He had this regular Wednesday night at a place called The Red Lion on Bleecker Street in Manhattan, and Carole would come down just about every week and we would go and just kind of, in the like little club where, The Red Lion is as big as your living room, (he laughed). Maybe a little bit bigger. So, it was just this kind of weird time and in talking with Carole, I realized that she actually, I grew up like a couple of blocks in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn. She lived in these row houses, and we lived in the projects like a couple blocks away. It was all this sort of interesting common ground and you know, we’d play her songs and we’d play covers and other songs, but at that time I realized that wow, Carole. You know Carole wrote songs for The Beatles. Like she wrote “Chains” for The Beatles. And just to kind of experience this person who even at that time in the late eighties, she was already an icon, but she was so down to earth and so humble and personable. It was just one of those you know, it’s like you play music and just kind of, magical things happen with things you never thought you would experience, or even being onstage with Paul McCartney, it’s just kind of something you never thought, you know, you’d say, I guess anything’s possible, but when it actually happens, it has a surrealness.

SFL Music: You have said Paul Prestopino was your mentor. How did he change your life would you say?

Ribler: Well, I was seventeen years old and I remember I was really frustrated with where my musical career was going even though at that young age, I had already really been very serious about music for five years at least, and just playing like with cover bands. In New Jersey there was this paper called The Aquarian and it was this weekly paper and there would be like want ads for musicians in there. I saw this ad for a guitar player/singer of this band they were called Nightflyer, and it said “now recording at Record Plant in New York City” and my eyes lit up because you know, you open up an album when we were kids. You had your vinyl record, you’d sit there and you’d look, oh this record was recorded at the Record Plant and this was the engineer. This was the assistant engineer, and I realized that well Jimi Hendrix record Electric Ladyland was recorded there, and Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic was recorded there. John Lennon recorded there, and Bruce Springsteen. Bruce made Born to Run and Darkness (on the Edge of Town) there. So, it’s like, I would love to get this gig. I didn’t even hear the music yet, but anyway, I went to the audition and these guys were quite a bit older than me. They were probably ten years older than me and we just hit it off and they liked my playing, and that weekend, like three days later, we were walking into Record Plant and all the gold records, the platinum records were on the wall of all these records that I have in my house. So, it was this very sort of magical Disneyland for musicians, and Bruce had just finished recording Darkness and Paul was the band’s producer and we would go in on the weekends and record on spec which meant we wouldn’t pay. If we got a record deal with the hopes you know, we’d shop it to the labels, the major labels. If we got a record deal, then we would pay. I guess its speculation, so it was like a spec deal they called it. The band never got signed, but just being in that environment and Paul who was the Maintenance Engineer at Record Plant, but he was also a great musician and he played on Johnny Winter records and Aerosmith records. He played dobro and banjo and lap steel. So, he was like the utility musician at the Record Plant and we just hit it off and we became really close friends, and his daughter who was my age, we actually dated for a while and I was actually living at their house for many months. So, he was such a great musician that just being around him, like he would hear a melody and he would know what chords to play and I was like man, I got to figure out how do you do this. He just said things to me that stay with me to this day and I still use. He was the first person I ever heard say” less is more.” And that’s the truest thing in the universe when it comes to art. If you can say it in three words or three chords as opposed to writing a symphony, it could affect people just as greatly if it’s the right combination.

SFL Music: That’s great advice. What would you advise new or up and coming musicians? You’ve done production and stuff. You’ve written and helped many people, but what would you advise?

Ribler: Well, anyone that wants to be in this business, the first thing I would say to them is, are you sure? (He laughed), and are you willing to live and die for it? Are you willing to go to hell and back to realize your dream and also enjoy the process? If you’re in this business to be a star and that’s your only intension, then I would say maybe think of something else because if you don’t enjoy the process of making music with other people, and if you’re a writer or you just play or you just sing, the process is all there is. When you have success, the process is, we have all these expectations about these events, but if you’re not enjoying what gets you to an event. It’s like life you know, creation. I feel like it’s the same sort of frequency, so you really have to make sure you love it enough. If you want to do it as a hobby that’s different, but f you really want to make this a career, just really understand that you’re getting into something that it has great rewards and it can cause a lot of pain. It’s a monster, but it’s also a beautiful, It’s a real paradox. It’s just like life. Everyone has challenges and you’re going to experience wonderful things when you plug into music, and you’re gonna to have challenges. Maybe, you’ll have to do other things to maintain your pursuit of being a successful musician. Maybe you’ll have to play a wedding or maybe you’ll have to work a parttime job, but if you’re willing to go through whatever you have to go through, it’s an amazing career. Look, you never know what’s going to present itself. I’ve had songs on the charts and I’ve had songs in television and film. I’ve acted in a film thanks to Steven. We were in The Christmas Chronicles Movie, and all these things. When I saw that guitar in the corner of the room, my cousin’s guitar kind of calling out, I didn’t in a million years, I never thought it would lead to any of that.

SFL Music: You did commercials too. Office Depot, V8 (juices), Activia, (as well as a few others). That’s really cool. How did that come about?

Ribler: A guitar player friend of mine, he was working with this South American artist and we were actually writing a song for her for him to present to her, and he got a call from this jingle house that he worked with. Jingle house with the ad agencies and so, he got calls for songs. I mean, it was back in the day. Everything is so different now, but this is like the mid 2000’s 2004 2005. And he said, “I just got this call to write a diet coke spot, like a 30 second spot.” He said, “it needs to be in this evening. Do you want to write it with me?” I go, “sure.” So, we stopped writing the song for this girl at that moment and we recorded this. I’ve always had a recording studio since I’m probably in my early twenties. Since I went to Record Plant. The day I went to Record Plant, I realized that one day I have to have some kind of recording studio because I got the bug. So anyway, we wrote and recorded this spot, this diet coke spot and we submitted it and it didn’t win the spot, but the head of this jingle house, Tony started calling me and he would say, “they’re looking for a Chase Bank you know, song or jingle and I started submitting. I submitted a couple and won actually this Chase one almost won, but then they changed direction and then he said, “Trojan condoms is doing an HIV, STD awareness campaign,” and he sent me this film of this couple sitting on a couch holding hands and then the screen goes black and it says “One out of four people with HIV don’t tell their partners.” I was like Whoa! It just hit me man, and I had this song laying around called “This Life” and I just modified it a bit and sent it in, and the ad agency loved it and then spent the next six weeks, they tried to you know, can we try this? Can we have the chorus start on a major chord or a minor chord. People that work at ad agencies, I think are so fearful of committing that if they make the wrong decision, they’ll lose their job, They’re all maniacs. So, they drove me crazy for six weeks then basically the song came back like you know, it went like 360 degrees back to where it was and I won my first spot and then it just started. I just kind of hit a hot streak for a couple years. I mean, I had the Activia Yogurt commercial which ran for like twelve years and they call it mail box money because after its on T.V. or on the radio, as long as it runs, they’re paying you. So, it was kind of a very interesting time that I never planned on happening. If I wasn’t writing the song with my friend that day for that girl, it would have never happened. It just kind of kept coming for a few years and then just as quickly as it came, it kind of dried up and I had to switch gears.

SFL Music: What inspires you when you write your music? You’re so diverse and it’s always awesome stuff.

Ribler: I would say just observing life and fortunately, I probably get it from my parents, but I’m a good listener. I just love watching people and learning, try to learn from what they go through like if they tell me about their experiences. I’m very inspired also by film. I love film. I don’t know. I think in some way, I learn from film you know, like stories and just observing what we go through emotionally. The challenges that we go through. I like to have a certain level of joy in songs or comedy whenever possible. “Who Could Ask for Anything More” has kind of a tongue in cheek quality even though it’s a very serious topic. Lyrics are very important. I really feel like the lyrics are as important as the music to me. Not to all artists, but I just try to say something that I feel an emotion, affinity to, and hopefully other people will grasp it.

SFL Music: The other thing you do are the benefit concerts. The one after Hurricane Sandy. You did an Empty Sky Memorial for 911. How did all that come about?

Ribler: Well, the Empty Sky Memorial. Growing up in New York I mean, I used to go to work with my dad and I remember, I guess the early seventies when they were building the World Trade Center. My dad worked in the elevator line and I would go to work with him on the weekends and he would talk about the towers that they’re building, and a lot of times they’ll hire Native Americans because they have less of a fear of those heights. For some reason that stuck in my mind. I guess that’s true. I don’t think it’s a stereo type. I think it’s more, I guess there weren’t a lot of Native Americans working construction at that time, but anyway, the towers had been there since I’m very young and obviously when that happened, it was probably this country’s most vulnerable moment after Pearl Harbor, and just to see this hole like in the welcome mat of New York City which is ground zero and sort of like the center of the universe. It was devastating and everyone just kind of processed it as best they could and dealt with it. So, a few years later I met this woman Rosanne Hughes and she lost her husband in the towers. He had a meeting that morning. She’s just a very altruistic spirit. She would just do whatever she could for families that were affected by the attack and all this. So, she asked me if I would do a benefit show and I said, “absolutely” and I just called a lot of my great musician friends and we raised some money for the Empty Sky Memorial and then we played by the memorial in Jersey City one day for her. I just feel like as a musician, it’s like for any artist or any person really. I think whenever you can give back, that is a blessing. There’s a blessing in being able to give back to people. You get so much from it. So, whenever possible, or whenever something resonates where it makes sense, it’s like yeah, I’d like to. You know when Sandy happened, I felt helpless. Like we had no electricity for ten days. So, I just said, well what can I do? It’s like well, I could write a song and sell the music.

SFL Music:” Our Spirit Is Strong” and “Garden State” songs?

Ribler: That’s right. Yeah, you did great research Lori. I’m really proud of you.

SFL Music: Thank you.

Ribler: Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for caring (he chuckled). Those two songs yeah, we raised money. The ironic thing was that I had a check. Chris Christie was speaking at Belmar New Jersey, kind of like the epicenter of the Jersey shore damage a few weeks after, and he finished his little talk and I walked up to him and I handed a check for his wife’s foundation The Mary Pat Christie Sandy Relief Fund, and I was just really happy to be able to give him a check and I shook his hand. Then we find out a few months later that they were embezzling the money, millions of dollars that were donated. So, I don’t know if you saw the video and not to be political or anything. From that moment I was like who is this guy? I mean, this guy is and he’s you know, incredible amount of charisma, incredibly charming and yet stealing money from people in need. So, when we did the video for “Who Could Ask For Anything More” there’s a little shout out to Christie in that, just in the verse, but it was definitely inspired by you know, him doing the wrong thing when we raised that money. It’s like come on man, people are giving up their time. My friend George McMorrow, he made a music video for us. People put days of their lives into these things and you just, you know, I don’t know. Anyway. I digress.

SFL Music: No, it’s very cool that you’ve done that and that you’re involved in doing these types of events to help.

Ribler: Yeah. Trying to think of something now. I’m feeling a need to do something to help people now that we’re able to get out a little more, and so I’m trying to figure out what that next step is. I’d like to align with something that can be helpful to people and raise awareness. It’s funny that we’re talking about it, but I’ve actually been doing some soul searching and waiting for an answer about what the next step might be. So, if you get any ideas, let me know.

SFL Music: Ok. Well, I was going to wrap up with, what can fans look forward to? Also, are there going to be any new videos or anything else you’d like for fans to know?

Ribler: Yeah well, I’d greatly appreciate sending people to my website and I usually keep people updated there. Also, we’re selling, we have vinyl singles of the first single from the record “Shattered”. I’ll sign copies and we’ll send it to fans and we’ll do the same thing with preorders for the album on my website, and we made a couple videos. We made a video for “Shattered” and “Who Could Ask For Anything More”. In a couple of weeks, the next single which is called “This Is How The Song Goes”. We’ll have a video for that, and then we’ll have a video for the single after that, “Fly Away” which is something that Stevie Van Zandt brought. Stevie had a great idea for the outro of the song and I made Steven a co-writer on that. Then the album release in July. July 16th we’ll have a video then. Yeah, so if people tune in, if they go to whether it’s my website or music. That’s my artist page, and if any of the fans have an idea for some kind of altruistic idea or a charity to align with, I’m all ears. There’s a lot of need out there right now. A lot of people have been wacked pretty hard with the pandemic.

SFL Music: Yes, they have. There’s a lot for people to look forward to. Hopefully you can also play out more soon.

Ribler: Yeah, It’s mainly the Sundays at Spring Meadow Golf Club. Hopefully we’ll be able to think of some kind of tour later this year or ’22. We’ll see when The Disciples of Soul, if we’ll go out at some point again. The futures wide open, right?

SFL Music: This is true. We will keep our eyes open.

In the meantime, SFL Music readers, we have Marc Ribler’s great new music with THE WHOLE WORLD AWAITS YOU and hopefully a tour in the near future.

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