For many in the WXPN audience, Philly’s Ryan Gilfillian is a familiar face, whether or not you realize it. In 2021, he appeared on the XPoNential Music Festival stage, joining his brother Devon’s set to sing along to “The Good Life”; the following year, he returned to XPoNential be the featured vocalist in a performance by Philly collective Omar’s Hat, singing a cross-generational R&B/funk/soul revue that included Usher’s “Nice & Slow,” Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and Bill Withers’ “Just The Two Of Us.”
Just when we thought we had him figured out as a sublime singer and accompanist on other folks’ songs, Gilfillian struck out on his own last December with Evergreen. It was his first project-length creative statement, and it chronicles heartbreak and catharsis in the spirit of Philadelphia International Records icons like Billy Paul and Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. At the same time, it updates that classic sound with a contemporary hip-hop / R&B flare, and on the project’s single “Talk To Me,” Ryan teamed up with Devon who sang the hooks and played guitar while he barred down about finding (and then losing) an emotional connection.
In short, it’s a lively introduction to an engaging new voice — at once playful and not-too-serious while also deeply tender and relatable — and Gilfillian performed Evergreen front-to-back in WXPN Studios with his stellar band for this week’s Key Studio Session. On the roster, we have his Omar’s Hat brethren Ajay Shughart on bass, Kayla “Black Buttafly” Childs on keys, Austin Marlow on drums, and Yesseh Furaha-Ali on saxophone, with SNACKTIME’s Eric Sherman on trumpet and Michael Spearman on trombone. Rounding out the players are guitarists Nickyboyleo and Eoin Murphy of Brushstroke.
Watch the performance in full below, and be on the lookout for Gilfillian’s next few hometown appearances; tonight he’ll be at a free Omar’s Hat show in the Commonwealth Plaza of Kimmel Cultural Campus, tomorrow he joins Black Buttafly and Friends in the Lounge at World Cafe Live for a Black History Month Show, and on Saturday, March 4th, he’s part of the stellar lineup of music happening at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Keep up to date with his goings-on via Instagram at @ryangilfillian.