I first met Ryder Buck shortly after midnight, Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, in Los Angeles Historic Park. It was the second night of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros’ magical Big Top festival, and the band had just wrapped up “Home.” Toward the end of the song, frontman Alex Ebert asked audience members to share a story, and Ryder Buck did not hold back.
“Your music saved my life,” said Ryder, of Burbank, Calif. “All your music …when I was undergoing chemo … everything, it just saved my life. … I am so grateful … I love you all, just thank you.”
Backstage, after the concert, Ryder told me about his own band, Ryder Buck and the Breakers, and how it was his dream to one day open for Edward Sharpe. We immediately hit it off, exchanged email addresses and were soon Facebook friends. As I left Los Angeles for home in Kansas City, I was so grateful to have met this amazing young man, who had such incredible spirit, positive attitude and magnetic energy. I had met a friend for life.
For the past week, we had exchanged a few emails. I was planning on interviewing him for our “Storytime” section, in which we profile different ESMZ fans. I was working on my questions for him, and was planning to talk further this week.
On Oct. 22, Ryder wrote to us: “Great meeting you guys this weekend! What a killer experience.” He asked about Janglin Souls’ new Cover Song contest, and whether the song had to be from the band’s new album. His band was planning to enter the contest.
He also asked us if we wouldn’t mind sending him our video footage of Edward Sharpe’s “All Wash Out” acoustic jam from Saturday night’s after concert. I sent him not just the “All Wash Out” jam, but all the video footage we took during the entire four-day festival.
I never got to do my interview with Ryder. On Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, Ryder Buck passed away. Ryder was struck by a vehicle while walking along a freeway in California after his car broke down. He was 23 years old.
There was so much I wanted to ask Ryder. I wanted to know what it was like during those chemotherapy sessions, and how listening to Edward Sharpe’s music got him through it. I wanted to know what it was like seeing ESMZ at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. I wanted to know he was able to keep such a positive outlook on life.
After ESMZ’s final performance at Big Top on Sunday night, Ryder and I were standing backstage, sharing our favorite memories of the weekend and reflecting on the Big Top experience. I told him that I am learning to play the guitar. “I’m not very good,” I told him, “But I can play Home – even Stewart’s trumpet part.”
“Don’t give up,” he told me. “If you love it, keep at it. Learn to play a new song every day. You just have to stay with it, no matter how hard it is.”
We talked for a while. At one point, he said, “I apologize if I’m keeping you guys from something. I don’t mean to …”
I said, “Are you kidding, I could listen to you talk all night.” One of the best parts of the whole Big Top experience was getting the opportunity to talk to so many Edward Sharpe fans and getting to hear their amazing stories, and Ryder Buck was perhaps their biggest fan.
Rewind to our first meeting. We are backstage, after one of the best ESMZ concerts ever, and Ryder Buck looks into my eyes with a smile as big as the Pacific Ocean, and talks about his love for music and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros.
“I think that’s the most powerful thing you can do in music is just move people and bring them up,” Buck said. “It’s not about being a rock star. It’s about bringing people in. You see Alex dancing around with the crowd and bringing people together, and that’s what it’s all about. That’s what music should be used for. It’s a powerful tool and a gift if you use it for the right thing. And I love it.”