In the future, Jerry Ryan would love to travel around the country and put on a music festival in every state, with profits going to charity.
“I thought about doing festivals in 50 states over 52 weeks,” explains Ryan, an Atlantic County native. “I would love to travel the country meeting people and helping nonprofits in different cities. Maybe it’ll be a reality, but for now I would like to build a stronger foundation each day leading up to the next event.”
For Ryan, the next event is Elephant Talk Indie Music Festival, which will be held in Mays Landing this weekend at the Watering Hole.
Even though Ryan wants to build a stronger foundation for his work, the foundation for Elephant Talk is a sturdy one. This weekend will be the 13th edition of the festival, and there will be over 70 musical acts performing, ranging from singer-songwriter, rock, indie, alternative, hip-hop, country and more.
Elephant Talks Indie Music Festival gives Ryan a chance to combine a couple of his favorite things in life: music, helping others and family. It’s fitting that the festival is always held in the Atlantic City area, an area where Ryan grew up and was involved in music.
“I got involved with music at an early age,” explains Ryan. “My mom was an aspiring country music singer until she had four kids and started to raise us. I remember listening to Blondie, Meatloaf and Van Halen, but I didn’t really dive into music until 1982. Like millions of others during that time, I loved Michael Jackson. Since I split time between Philly and NJ, I was into hip-hop from spending time in Philly, and metal from spending time in NJ. It was a great time to be into both of these genres because they were both taking off.”
Ryan, like many other New Jerseyans who don’t live near a town named Asbury Park, had to travel to Philly and New York City for shows. The Brigantine native tried to go to Atlantic City for live events, but couldn’t really find what he was looking for. Like any town that is dominated by vacation and gambling, Atlantic City has a huge DJ and cover band scene. In the sea of covers, Ryan wanted to ride the wave of originality.
“Early on there was a DJ and cover band scene in Atlantic City, and part of me thinks it’ll remain this way due to bar owners catering towards what the tourists want or what they believe they want,” says Ryan. “Originality in the arts has always been important to me.”
One of the positives of having to travel to Philly for music was that Ryan picked up some valuable information on booking and setting up shows. He also made connections musically, and was able to set up his space for making Atlantic City an area for original music.
“I was tired of driving to Philly and New York for shows, and I felt like Atlantic City had so much potential,” says Ryan. “Atlantic City needed an original music scene and I’m glad I could play a part in kickstarting one. I had attended enough shows at the Khyber and Johnny Brenda’s, and had the connections to start a festival in August of 2010.”
The festival has rotated stages, and indoor and outdoor stages. There are positives and negatives that come with planning the festival even though it always turns out good in the end.
“The positives are bringing together people to make an impact in our local communities through our mutual love of music,” says Ryan. “The negatives that come with planning this festival is that there is unpredictability when it comes to outdoor events and the weather. However, we are rain or shine and always make the best of it. That being said, I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend.”
Prior to launching the festival, Ryan started Elephant Talk Indie as a way to showcase local talent. Alongside promoting community and original music, Ryan had helping others on his mind.
Ryan’s son Jeremy has autism, and he started the Elephant Talk Indie Music Festival to raise money for children with autism to get music lessons. He thought it was the best way to help the community.
“We started to build a following early on, and it made sense to do something that was bigger than music,” says Ryan. “I wanted to use the funds we got from the festival to help autistic children get music lessons and instruments. I wanted to help the austisic community the best way I could.”
Like his father, Jeremy is into music and plays the piano and drums. He also loves to paddleboard, surf and spend time on the beach. Ryan is grateful for what Jeremy gives to him in life.
“Jeremy has brought out the best in me, and is the most beautiful strongest human being I know,” explains Ryan. Like a rollercoaster, we experience many ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone in the world.”
Ryan uses the festival as a way to bridge the gap about questions that people have about the autism spectrum.
“Instead of saying sorry when I mention having a child with autism, ask me questions,” says Ryan. “I’ll always make time for you if it helps to bridge the gap between our worlds.”
The 13th Elephant Talk Music Festival will be held at the Watering Hole in Mays Landing on August 5-6. More information can be found here.