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Where Art Meets Music:

Ryan Stilwell

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With A Child On The Way And A Hefty Live Show Schedule As Lead Singer Of Glendale’s Black Bottom Lighters, “Stilly” Still Finds Time To Put Paint To Canvas And Create More Than Music


By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Aug. 14, 2014 — The amount of talent Black Bottoms Lighters lead singer Ryan Stilwell has been blessed with seems just a little bit unfair. Besides being a particularly strong singer and charismatic front man, Stilwell is also a former scholarship baseball player at Eastern Arizona College, a skilled painter, graphic designer, and tattoo artist.

“I ended up going to school on a baseball scholarship so at that point I had to put my art on hold for awhile. Then I got back and dropped out. I just wanted to be an artist so from there I had to weasel my way into the scene,” he said about becoming a tattoo artist.

Stilwell found himself an apprenticeship however, and went out looking to apply his talent for drawing and painting on students at the Arizona Art Institute where he had began taking classes.

Stilwell said, “I started tattooing in and out of my dorm room, and fucking people up. I’m sorry to all those people if you are reading this.”

The tattooing was just an extension of Stilwell's lifelong passion for drawing which he says was sparked by his mother’s simple desire to “shut me up.” But interestingly, the plan backfired, as drawing would become the groundwork for Stilwell’s introduction into self expression. Which has lead to him becoming the lead singer of BBL.

“A lot of the songs I write are story-telling songs where I can really paint a vivid picture of what's going on. I’ve always been a really expressive person and its easy for me. It just goes through me and comes out of me,” said Stilwell, “and I like to put it out right when it goes through me because to me, that’s what art is.

I’m definitely an artist first. One thing that has stayed consistent through my art is symbolism. Which is reflected in my lyrics through my favoritism for using metaphors and similes.”

Whichever way his passions lie, they are not hindering the band one bit as they prepare to release their first full length album 2 or 2000, as well as to play at one of the pinnacle shows of the Valley’s music scene, Apache Lake Music Festival. With the band Stilwell has found himself on the bill at the biggest shows in the Phoenix metro as well as on festival stages in Arizona, California, Washington, and Florida.

Wherever the band may take him however Stilwell said, “I really enjoy just sitting down with a pen and the biggest load of paper I can possibly find.”

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at
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