On Stage: Anthony Ramos looks to conquer pop music, too

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor

Anthony Ramos

Anthony Ramos is a bright young star in the entertainment world – star of stage and screen (film and television) – and now is poised to become a star in the world of pop music.

Ramos just released his debut album, “The Good & The Bad,” on October 25 on Republic Records and now is on tour in support of the new LP. The tour brings him to Philly on November 5 for a show at the Foundry at the Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com)

Ramos, a native of Brooklyn’s Bushwick area who is of Puerto Rican descent, burst onto the scene when he originated the dual roles of John Laurens and Philip Hamilton in the TONY® and GRAMMY® Award-winning Broadway hit musical “Hamilton.”

Last year, Ramos embarked on his music career as an independent solo artist. He sang on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Almost Like Praying” benefit single and hooked up with producer Will Wells (Logic, Pentatonix) to make his “Freedom” EP, which was met with good reviews.

In the time since he left “Hamilton” in November 2016, he played the role of Ally’s best friend Ramon in the Academy Award-winning film “A Star Is Born,” directed by Bradley Cooper and starring Lady Gaga. Ramos also appeared in the role of Mars Blackmon in the critically acclaimed Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It,” created by Spike Lee and based on his 1986 film.

Ramos has contributed multiple songs to the show’s soundtrack, including the poignant new original song “Cry Today, Smile Tomorrow.” The song was inspired by Ramos working with a patient at Katie’s Art Project, an organization that connects children facing life-threatening illnesses with artists through collaborative programs to create a lasting legacy through art.

“The catalyst for making my own album was being in ‘Hamilton’ on Broadway,” said Ramos, during a phone interview last week from his New York home.

“Every night, I was singing songs about revolution and telling stories about history. At the end of the day, it was someone else’s story. After you sing those words over 600 times, you think – damn, what’s my story?

“I started writing songs. Then, I met record producer Will Wells. He came up to me after a show and said – do you want to make a record? I said—yes, that’s dope. We had some tacos together a couple days later and, within a week, we were working on the first song.”

The seed had been planted for the next phase of his career.

“I left ‘Hamilton’ in 2016 and then did the ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ TV series,” said Ramos. “After that, I had a little cash in my pocket. So, Will and I went to L.A. We got in a studio and did some writing. That was in February 2017 and we spent three months working.

“I made my first EP, kept writing and got a music manager. In January 2019, I got signed by Republic Records. Within days, I was back out in L.A. I recorded 21 songs in 30 days. The songs just came pouring out.

“I recorded a lot of the new album at Republic Records Studio. I also did some recording at MXM – Max Martin’s studio in L.A. – and some at Jungle City in New York. Will and I also did studio work at Power Station in midtown Manhattan.”

“A lot of the album was written when we were at Republic Records studio. We worked pretty quickly. We had the album mixed and ready to go by May.”

Ramos is also reuniting with Miranda for the upcoming film adaptation of “In The Heights.” He recalled how he and Miranda first crossed paths.

“I first met Lin-Manuel when I went to an open audition in 2014,” said Ramos. “I had no agent. I just walked in and sang a little song. I sang the Temptations’ ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.’

“That audition was for a different show. They said they wanted to call me in for an audition for another show – ‘Hamilton.’ I got called back for four auditions. Then, there was the day I got laid off from a show I was in at Radio City Music Hall. Three hours later, the people from ‘Hamilton’ called and offered me a part in Hamilton.’”

Everything has been on fast track for Ramos ever since.

“Now, I’m sitting here at my place in Brooklyn getting ready to go out on tour,” said Ramos. “In my live show, there will be funk, pop, and R&B with flavors of Latin. There are five of us – drums, bass, guitar, keys and me.”

Video link for Anthony Ramos – https://youtu.be/EYRXCaazHSw.

The show at the Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia, which has Julius as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16.

Jason Hawk Harris

While things have been falling in place nicely for Ramos, it has been just the opposite for another up-and-coming singer/songwriter — Jason Hawk Harris.

Harris hit rock bottom during the writing and recording of his debut full-length Love & the Dark. In the last few years, the Houston-born-and-raised, Los Angeles-based musician endured life-altering hardships—illness, death, familial strife, and addiction—yet from these trials, a luxuriant and confident vision of art country emerged.

“Love & The Dark,” was recently released on Bloodshot Records. Harris is touring the album and will play locally at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia/) on November 5.

Harris’ grandfather exposed him to country music at an early age, and his family celebrated holidays with group sing-alongs. In his teens, Harris began listening to punk, indie rock, and, notably, Queen. In some part inspired by the instrumental flair of Queen, he later studied classical composition and was eventually wait-listed for the master’s program at UCLA, when things took a turn.

While touring and performing in the indie folk band The Show Ponies, Harris started writing his own songs, intuitively returning to his country roots but incorporating his classical and rock ‘n’ roll performance skills. He released his first solo offering, “The Formaldehyde, Tobacco and Tulips” EP in 2017 and started touring heavily.

Then, everything in his world began to fall apart.

His mother died from complications of alcoholism. His father went bankrupt after being sued by the King of Morocco. His sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and gave birth to a premature son with cerebral palsy. And subsequently, Harris got sidetracked by his own vices.

The “Love & the Dark” album is his personal narrative on death, struggle, and addiction — of a life deconstructed and reassembled.

While his music acknowledges mortality, pain, and hardship, it’s also Harris’ way of working through it.

Video link for Jason Hawk Harris — https://youtu.be/MOn6DgQn35k.

The show at City Winery (990 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, citywinery.com/philadelphia/) will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Dylan LeBlanc

Dylan LeBlanc, a singer/songwriter from Louisiana, released a new album and then embarked on a three-and-a-half-month tour that took him coast-to-coast and to eight European countries. His new album “Renegade” was released on June 7 on ATO Records.

Following that initial North American headline tour and extensive European run, LeBlanc began a fall stateside tour in Charleston, South Carolina on Halloween. The tour, which visits the Midwest, Northeast and Mid-South, will stop in the area on November 5 at Johnny Brenda’s (1201 North Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia, 215-739-9684,


Born in Shreveport, Louisiana with time spent in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, LeBlanc had released three previous albums – “Paupers Field” in 2010, “Cast the Same Old Shadow” in 2012, and “Cautionary Tale” in 2016.

“I’m really excited about the new album,” said LeBlanc, during a recent phone interview from his current home in Nashville.

“We recorded it last October and November here in Nashville at RCA Studio A, a great historic studio that Chet Atkins built in the 1950s. That’s the studio Dave Cobb wanted to use.”

Produced by Grammy Award winning Cobb (Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton), “Renegade” features 10 new songs from LeBlanc and his longtime band, The Pollies.

According to LeBlanc, “I wanted to write the same type of songs that matched the atmosphere the band and I were bringing live. So, I started with ‘Renegade,’ which was fitting since I felt myself going in a new, more intense direction with this record. In the studio, I let go almost absolutely and let Dave Cobb do his work.”

Not surprisingly, “Renegade” has a natural feel and a powerful feel.

“Dave Cobb is a realist,” said LeBlanc. “His whole thing is capturing the live feel. It’s not a perfect album. There are some mistakes. It’s definitely just us – live in the studio. Most songs were done in three takes.

“I started playing with the Pollies and they are a rock-and-roll band. I’d bring songs to the band and we’d flesh them out. The songs have louder guitar. I’ve never made a rock-and-roll record. It’s usually softer.

“The songs were all ready when we went in the studio. I wrote 20 and recorded 10. We booked 10 days in the studio and were done in five. Then, we spent five days mixing.

“None of the songs on ‘Renegade’ are longer than 3:30 – on purpose. I wanted a record of shorter songs. My next record will reflect more of my other side.

When LeBlanc performed in Philadelphia back in the summer, he was touring with a full band. This time, fans will get to hear the songs in a more personal setting as LeBlanc is currently touring solo.

Video link for Dylan LeBlanc – https://youtu.be/qMKxRyCSnoo.

The show at Johnny Brenda’s, which also features Night Moves, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

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