Ryan Humbert's latest album is called ''Sometimes the Game Plays You,'' but the Akron singer-songwriter proved to be adept at playing the fundraising game in getting the album made.
He raised more than $10,000 through the website Kickstarter to record the 15 tracks in Nashville.
''We were the first to do a major Kickstarter campaign around here, and I felt there we some eyes on us,'' Humbert said. ''We're always trying to be ahead of the game and do bigger and better things, and there were people watching, 'Let's see what Humbert does with that.'''
His fans came through with more than 150 people contributing to the production costs. Long-time supporter Jill Bacon Madden, who is billed as executive producer of the album, also was vital to making the album happen, he said.
Once he got to Nashville, Humbert got some help from his musical friends. In addition to his regular backing band, ''Game'' features appearances by John Jackson (who's played guitar with Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams and Shelby Lynne), Ken Coomer (Wilco, Steve Earle), Audley Freed (Black Crowes, Dixie Chicks, Jimmy Page) and Dave Roe (Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp Dwight Yoakam).
Humbert didn't let the resumes of those players intimidate him in the studio.
WHO: Ryan Humbert, Strange Familiar and Jordan DePaul
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Judge Morley Pavilion, Wick Recreation Area, Mill Creek MetroParks, Youngstown
HOW MUCH: $5. Proceeds will benefit efforts to build a new children's play area at the metroparks.
''One thing I am good at is keeping things organized, staying on task,'' he said. ''We were on a budget and were trying to get a lot accomplished. Was it awesome having John Jackson sitting there? Yes. But there was work to be done.''
''Sometimes the Game Plays You'' is a more stripped down recording than Humbert's last disc, ''Old Souls New Shoes.''
'''Old Souls' was so over the top, so produced,'' he said. ''I wanted to make this record a more natural evolution ... I wanted it to feel like you were in the studio with us.''
That approach was dictated by the songs, which Humbert said were influenced by some of the turmoil around him when he was writing, from the deaths of those close to him to friends going through divorces.
''I didn't realize it until we were getting ready to record the record that some of that stuff came through in the songs,'' he said.
On many of the tracks, vocals are offered by Emily Bates, who has been singing with him since she was his intern at Akron public radio station The Summit when he was its development director.
''She said, 'I sing a little bit' and I said 'I have a band a little bit,''' Humbert said. ''We became fast friends and have been working together nine years. Now we're like brother and sister. We have a good relationship off-stage and that comes through on stage.''
Not only did he find a singing partner at The Summit, he learned some lessons that became valuable as an aspiring musician.
''I definitely learned a lot watching what was happening at the station,'' he said. ''You'd see band come in and think, 'That's the way it's handled,' and then there were bands that came in and 'Boy, that's not what you want to do.' You're definitely taking what you see, taking the good and the bad, and making it work for you, how you market yourself, how you handle working with radio.''
Humbert's concert Friday will be his second appearance at Wick Recreation Area's Judge Morley Pavilion. Instead of playing as part of the Wednesday free concert series, he will joined by Akron's The Strange Familiar and Youngstown's Jordan DePaul for a show that will serve as a fundraiser for a children's play area at Mill Creek MetroParks.
''We just loved the venue, thought it was beautiful and had a lot of fun out there,'' Humbert said. ''What can we do to up the ante a bit? We decided to come up with something a little more special, get another band or two involved, and that's what we did.''