Joel Ryan: Musician, Police Officer, Board-Game Designer

Joel Ryan couldn’t be a more perfect fit for the final music performance outside the Gnoshery board-game cafe as Sturgeon’s Bay’s Under the Stars night-market series comes to an end this summer. 

“I’m an avid gamer and aspiring board-game designer,” he said, so an invitation to play by the new game store “was a nerdy dream. I had to accept.” 

Ryan toured the states with his former band, Boom Candle, for seven years; has released three albums of original music; and is returning to music after a five-year hiatus.  

When not pursuing hobbies that include photography, filmmaking, games, cooking, music and fostering dogs, Ryan works for the City of Green Bay as a police officer. He’s known there as “Skateboard Cop” for taking a longboard to his job, working to end laws and attitudes viewed as discriminatory against skateboarders, and starting K9 for a Day: a program in which shelter dogs accompany him on patrols and inspire adoptions. 

Ryan describes himself as an “eclectic hot mess of wild ideas,” with a conglomeration of musical tastes and genres to match. For the night-market performance, he plans to share re-creations of songs from the likes of Lady Gaga to Tracy Chapman. 

“Musically, I’ve always looked at each song as a chance to try something new,” Ryan said. “Country, blues, rap, EDM – I wanna try to make it all.” 

Photo by Jeff Koelpien.

Ryan’s latest library of originals includes a slow acoustic ballad, a techno-style track and a nod to traditional hard rock or metal. He even blends all these things under the incongruous title “The Marshmallow Song,” combining acoustic-guitar melodies, electronic beats and vocals that hint at heavy metal. 

Ryan has a handful of these new originals available on his website, and he’s currently writing the script and music score for a Krampus Christmas play. 

“It’s all just about making stuff,” he said. “Doesn’t matter what. Just make stuff.” 

The Gnoshery and Door County Candy are collaborating to host Joel Ryan on Aug. 28, 6-9 pm, during the final 2021 Under the Stars night market along Sturgeon Bay’s Third Avenue.

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