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Rocko Wheeler and Ryan Levine

July 17, 2021 7:00 pm PDT

Second Stage

Doors Open: 6:30 pm


From his roots in rural East Texas to emerging in the Hollywood indie scene, Rocko Wheeler writes music as diverse as the terrain. He was deemed “the ghost of Gram Parsons” by the Deli Magazine for his lyrical LA-themed debut The Book of Rocko Wheeler. His songs, while story-driven, often include autobiography. During early 2020, while living in Nashville, quarantine was precipitated by a deadly tornado, flattening the epicenter of East Nashville. With producer/songwriter Kyle Cox, he wrote and recorded songs about the destruction of the storm, FaceTime dating, isolation, and hope for good news—mixed by Mike Marsh of The Avett Brothers, and containing a host of Nashville’s finest. He’s tracked albums at the famed Butcher Shoppe and Bomb Shelter with Grammy-Winners Sean Sullivan and Andrija Tokic. His forthcoming LP, TAKE SHELTER releases September 24, 2021. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

At the end of 2018, Ryan LeVine’s life cracked down the center. His band of six years, Wildling, called it quits and his relationship with “the one,” fell apart. It felt like a tsunami of loss and confusion, and it left Ryan uncertain of how to proceed, both in his career and his personal life.

“Everything important in my life was ending and I had to take a moment alone to process what it all meant,” he recounts. “I was in that place for a while—isolated and questioning everything. What about these breakups felt so painful? Who was I on my own?”

Understanding those questions was a long process for the musician, who has been playing in bands and writing songs since he was 12. He felt ready to pursue music as a solo artist for the first time, but finding his way there was challenging. It meant going inward, sitting with discomfort and uncertainty —a daunting pursuit—but soon Ryan began writing songs, just him and his guitar, and he realized songwriting, like it always had been, was the only tool he had to move forward. He started recording his debut EP, Good Things To Remember, in early 2020 at Boulevard Studios in Los Angeles and then connected with his co-producer Kevin Ratterman (My Morning Jacket, Ray LaMontagne, Strand of Oaks) to finish the songs at Kevin’s home studio later that spring. For Ryan, it was important not to demo the songs ahead of time, but instead allow them to take shape for the first time “while the tape was rolling.”

“It was just us playing the songs and really trusting that we got the performances,” he notes. “Because it was recorded during the shut-down, we couldn’t move freely between tracking and listening to takes in the control room, we really had to be in the moment, which I think served the EP well. It felt so much more energizing doing it that way.”

The introspective EP, Good Things To Remember, reveals a songwriter searching for answers. While he may not always find them, there is a resolving sense of peace that comes from the process. It opens with the meditative number and title track “Good Things to Remember,” which was the first song Ryan wrote that really made him feel like a solo artist coming into his own. “It was written towards the end of a long period of self-isolation and introspection—before COVID,” Ryan explains. “It was a time of doing the work to try and understand why I was feeling so much hurt and anxiety about the future. The song almost serves as a ‘notes to self’ for how to move through these periods of idle introspection. It was incredibly cathartic to write.”

On the other end of the spectrum is “Signs,” a sparse, emotionally-wrought song written as Ryan was wrapping up the EP. “It speaks to feelings of self-doubt, lack of faith and apathy,” he says. “I felt vulnerable, wounded, and unsure of how to move forward. I like how the song doesn’t exactly resolve or answer any of its questions. There’s an awareness of the state I’m in and a desire to move through it, but no real answers yet. Ultimately, I’m okay to sit with that uncertainty.”

While the songs come from a place of loss and self-doubt, Good Things To Remember offers a feeling of solace for the listener. It’s a reminder that no matter how isolated and withdrawn you might feel, you’re never actually on your own. Someone, somewhere, is feeling the same thing.

“The songs allowed me to process what for so long seemed overwhelmingly painful and unclear, both romantically and professionally,” Ryan notes. “I had a lot to figure out and I feel like I’ve done that, or at least become more comfortable with the process. I hope that for people listening there’s some sort of connection or catharsis and that it touches them in that way too. I think that’s what music does best— whatever feeling you’re feeling is reflected in a song and that helps you feel less alone. Or it makes you feel it deeper, which for me has always been the first step in healing.”

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One ticket is usually good to stay the entire evening, unless otherwise noted.

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Ages: 21 and up


July 17, 2021
7:00 pm PDT


Hotel Cafe
1623 N Cahuenga Blvd
Los Angeles, 90028 United States


Door Time
6:30 pm