Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Ryan Hiller has opened up for such greats as the Steve Miller Band, Lyle Lovett, Keb Mo, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, John Scofield, Styx, Black Eyed Peas, Chris Issak, and Brandi Carlile. His expertise has also garnered him sponsorship from Fender, Taylor Guitars, Sennheiser Microphones, Gator Cases, and LR Baggs Pickups.
As a child just picking up the guitar, Hiller was soon trying to emulate licks from the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton. In high school, he discovered jazz, becoming an Allstate Jazz guitar award winner. While still a teenager living in Utah (“but I’m not Mormon”), his band Real Eyes won opening slots for the Black Eyed Peas and John Scofield.
From there, he went on to study music at the University of Utah. Continuing his pursuit of the roots of American music, he moved to New Orleans where he ultimately graduated from the University of New Orleans with a BA in Jazz Performance.
“I was playing the Voodoo Fest in New Orleans, and Velvet Revolver was one of the bands on the ticket. My girlfriend and I were having a beer by their tent, and Slash came out and took a piss right next to us. It was very awkward at the time, but I guess when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.”
He has since performed in acoustic duos, rock trios, and hip-hop jazz groups, and was also a performer with both a twelve-piece horn funk/soul band and a large format gospel choir with over 50 people.
Hiller moved from New Orleans to San Diego in 2006. He had played Winstons during a 2003 national tour. “After Katrina, I knew I needed a change,” he says, “and the beautiful women and beaches of sunny California were the perfect lure.”
Hiller was drawing inspiration from one popular San Diego pastime long before he moved here. “My dad once told me that life is like a wave, and you spend most of it waiting. Sometimes you crash, and sometimes you catch the wave of your life. And when you catch the wave of your life, you have to ride it till the end. Something like that, anyway. The way he said it was more profound.”
After moving to San Diego, he released his second album The P.U.R.E. Project.
He describes his music as “a blend of soul, funk, groove, acoustic, jazz, and rock. Most of my gigs around town are solo performances, and they sound a bit different from a whole band. I use a series of pedals including a loop station during my solo gigs, and this allows me to create a much bigger sound than a guitar and microphone alone.” His musical collaborators include T-Bone Burnett, Rhett Miller of the Old 97’s, and singer Jessica Simpson.
In 2012, his third album How it Works spawned his first music video, “Always Gonna Be Something.”
He signed with Pacific Records in 2015, releasing a new album on the label the following summer.