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Ryan McNally digs deeper in latest album, Listen Up

Masha Scheele

Ryan McNally, known for his acoustic blues, jazz, and old-time music, is now incorporating the calypso rhythm into his music.

His new album, Listen Up, will be officially released in April this year but McNally has already been promoting the tunes through many of his shows this past year.

When he stumbled upon some early calypso tunes he was surprised to hear lyrical content talking about colonialism or social justice issues.

“You’d be listening to the song and it sounds really happy and fun to dance to and groovy but its not until you’ve heard the song three or four different times where you actually start hearing the words and what the story might be in the song,” McNally said.

Discovering these songs inspired him to write a couple numbers that were easy to dance to but also made a statement on certain topics without being too controversial.

“You can dance but if you want to listen more to the lyrics there’s a bit more behind that too if you want to go deeper,” he stated.

He added that writing big bold lyrics wasn’t necessarily a goal for him, but he is happy to have discovered it by accident.

McNally was surrounded by old sounds and sights as he grew up, which he now realizes has influenced his musical style.

His mother was an antique dealer and he learned to appreciate the craftsmanship of all the wacky old items coming in and out of his childhood home. He inherited a vast collection of vinyl from his grandparents and discovered jazz and blues.

“At 10 years old, my room was full of vinyl and I could listen to them on five different record players that my mom was trying to sell in her antique shop,” he said.

His love of old timey tunes has only grown as he’s created a life out of it. More often than not, he’s found on the road to his next show.

Currently he won’t be back home in the Yukon until April when his album officially releases, before he heads off again in June for festival season. 

He commented that music has taken him to some crazy places he never thought he would find himself, from small towns to Chinese jazz festivals and more in the works. 

In early 2019, he performed solo in Hinton with the Home Routes tour. Most of the music he played then was from his 2018 album, Steppin’ Down South, which he wrote while on a three month trip to New Orleans.

“I just went on a tear in a short amount of time with writing. This [new] one I took more time. I was going down different paths with my musical interests,” he said.

His Listen Up album remains in the old time vein but jumps around between country blues, old time fiddle, and original calypso.

Recently he’s also enjoyed getting into the fiddle music community, playing at fiddle camps with friends.

“I really like the community set around fiddle music. It’s pretty inclusive and awesome,” he said.

McNally and the band, the MessaRounders, will be bringing a bit more energy to the stage this month in Hinton, compared to his solo performance in 2019.

Banjo, fiddle, acoustic guitar, tuba, baritone, saxophone, a marching band bass drum, and four combined voices all make for a big sound during their performance.

“If people want to dance they can do that. It’ll be more all over the place – trad jazz off the older album, calypso off the new album, country blues – different styles of music,” he said.

Ryan McNally & the MessaRounders perform on Feb. 15 at the Performing Arts Theatre of Hinton, starting at 7:30pm. For tickets, go to