Curating Vibes: The Man Behind the Music
Our conversation with MMH Creative Director, Ryan Smith, on setting the mood with music
By Hannah Zieschang
It’s no secret that whatever McGuire Moorman Hospitality, one of Austin’s finest hospitality and lifestyle groups, touches seems to turn to gold. Their attention to detail reaches into the specific music played in each of their restaurants, which Creative Director Ryan Smith carefully curates. With eight years of MMH experience under his belt, Smith knows what it takes to deliver the perfectly balanced, sophisticated yet relaxed blend MMH – and Austin – are known for.
We caught up with Smith to chat about what goes into crafting the perfect playlist. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to catch a Tribeza-exclusive, SXSW-inspired playlist created by Ryan Smith himself. Read on.
TRIBEZA: Why is music important to a guest’s experience?
RYAN: Music sets the tone to establish the intention of the space, food and atmosphere. I also think it’s just so obvious when the music is off in any situation or hospitality experience. It’s difficult to hangout, exercise, drive a car or just unwind with a bad song on.
TRIBEZA: Is music especially important in a restaurant in Austin?
RYAN: Yes, music is key in Austin, but not any different than anywhere else. You want the tunes in any restaurant to be good – so good that they go a little unnoticed; to where a guest just thinks to themselves how much they love the vibe and the way the space makes them feel when they are in the restaurant and even when they leave.
TRIBEZA: Is there a theme for every restaurant music-wise you try and stick with – does that theme change?
RYAN: Absolutely. Lamberts is sort of rockabilly, blues and rock. Perla’s is 60’s LA surf rock, Americana and reggae. Elizabeth Street Cafe is a bit more eccentric, electro pop and hip-hop allowing more room for experimental music. June’s All Day is very specific to 1970’s, good ‘ole country, & disco deep cuts. The range of these particular themes stretch and our team finds more artists, new and old, each day in all of the genres to play. The general feel tries to stay pretty constant. We are always looking to evolve and improve and we never have the same playlist repeat once we’ve created new ones (which is seasonally).
TRIBEZA: Is there an overarching theme guiding music selections for the entire franchise?
RYAN: None other than we just play music we like. We won’t play songs we’re not fond of just for the sake of a particular theme. That’s kind of the basic idea for everything we try to do as a team, whether it be the music, food, design, service, events, etc.
TRIBEZA: What do you look for when cultivating a new restaurant’s theme?
RYAN: I guess I think of it like walking onto a movie set. How do I feel when I’m here in this space and what do I take away with me? What’s the story, you know?
TRIBEZA: Where do you find new music to add to the playlists?
RYAN: Everywhere! Friends, blogs, movies, books, artists reveal their favorites – all over the place.
TRIBEZA: Do you have a handful of go-to artists you keep in your back pocket to use?
RYAN: This is a tough one. I try not to go too heavy on any particular artist. We want to keep it interesting and help others discover new music as well. I do REALLY love a dude named Erasmo Carlos right now. He’s this amazing Brazilian folky, sexy, soul singer/songwriter from the ’70s.
TRIBEZA: Are the playlists something guests can find on Spotify if they really enjoy it?
RYAN: It’s on the horizon! We plan to move all playlists over to Spotify from iTunes as soon as possible and will publish older playlists as we continue to make more.
TRIBEZA: Tell us a little bit about the playlist you’ve curated for Tribeza.
RYAN: This is a fun Tiki Cocktail-inspired mix highlighting some fun bands playing the festival…but also kinda just a mix for drinks with friends by the water (with the sun going down). Hope you enjoy!
Read more from the Music + Film Issue | March 2017