For Richfield resident Ryan Necci, songwriting — although in part influenced by personal hardships — is his passion.

Buffalo Gospel’s debut full-length album, We Can Be Horses, received critical acclaim for its deeply personal, finely crafted lyrics and skilled musicianship. Milwaukee Magazine recently caught up with vocalist and guitarist Ryan Necci for an interview.


Name: Ryan Necci

Age: 36

Hometown: Ixonia, Wisconsin

Occupation: Graphic designer for a downtown Milwaukee firm

Other Titles: Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist for local alt-country band Buffalo Gospel

How does the music you remember from your childhood shape your work now?

Growing up, my father had a number of country LPs he’d listen to — lots of singer/songwriters like Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zant, and country stars like Hank Williams and George Jones. I received a well-rounded music education at an early age. I guess I didn’t like the music too much when I was younger, but later in life I realized how much I really love it.

How did Buffalo Gospel form?

Prior to Buffalo Gospel, while I was in college, (UW-Eau Claire) I played a group called Fats Mawrooney, a sort of Allman Brothers-style jam band, but that wasn’t where my heart was. When that group fizzled out, I had the opportunity to form Buffalo Gospel. After college, I moved to the West Side of Milwaukee, where I lived for about five years.

The project started out as a vehicle for my writing. For a while, we were just recording a song here and there. But I wanted to get these songs out. The bass player Kevin is the only member left of the original band lineup. I’ve been playing with the rest of the band members for about two years now.

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How did you come up with the band’s name?

Our old drummer thought of the name. As corny as it sounds, the buffalo is my spirit animal — it is plodding and resilient, and has faced a lot of strife. Buffaloes are fighters. And the word “gospel” doesn’t necessarily have to have a religious connotation — it means “truth.”

At our shows, we usually get a few people who are expecting to hear gospel music. We usually win ‘em over with our songs, though. [Laughs]

How have personal tragedies shaped your music?

Sometimes I feel that if it weren’t for sad songs, I wouldn’t have any at all. It seems like a record coincides with life. Our first record was influenced by my divorce.

Then, my good friend and writing partner, Josh Tovar, passed away from brain cancer. Our second album, We Can Be Horses, deals with me losing a close buddy. I hadn’t faced loss like that before. I feel that, if Josh were here, he would be happy that something artistic came out of the situation.

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?

I’m still trying to navigate the waters of the music industry/local scene myself. But I’d say be centered around songwriting. Don’t write for other people — for example, don’t write a pop song just because you think it will sell; write what you’re going to write. You might write a lot of good songs and a lot of bad songs.

I like to think of songwriting as a blue-collar, sit-down process. It requires a lot of patience and hard work. Sometimes, bands create a lot of material that never gets released.

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What are the band’s future plans?

In the past year, we’ve been playing two or three dates a week, and we expect to be even busier in 2019. We’re also starting to work on a new album. Playing live is what we love to do, but actually creating the music as a band is very rewarding.

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