Few musicians can turn an already intimate venue into a family
gathering. Few can bring people from as far as Boston and Maine to a small cafe
in Ithaca and make a room dance with only a guitar and a voice. Reid Genauer
seemed to do it all without much effort this past Saturday at the ABC Cafe, when
he played a sold out show before an ecstatic and energetic crowd. For nine
years, Reid was the frontman for the band Strangefolk, a grassroots success that
toured across the country and released three albums. Saying goodbye to that band
last September, he left the life on the road and entered a life a bit less
strange. This transition brought him here to Ithaca to attend the Johnson School
of Management. The night at the ABC was his second solo show since leaving
Strangefolk, and he proved a commanding performer in his own right. I sat down
with him after to show to talk about his music, his life, and making castles
D: How was the transition from full-time touring musician to
Reid: Shitty. It was hard, a really hard
transition. Going back to school is hard enough, and I lived such an
unstructured lifestyle before... and it was hard to walk away from the band. It
was my life, my heart, my blood. It was brutal.
D: How much music are
you planning to play here in Ithaca?
Reid: Well, this is
my climb back on the horse. I'd like to do a lot, but I needed a little time to
D: Do you enjoy intimate venues like this [the ABC Cafe]
compared to the huge festivals and outdoor shows you played with Strangefolk?
Reid: Oh man, it was awesome; it's much more of a rush.
I mean, when you're up on stage, there's a veil of anonymity. There's a certain
callous there. You walk out there, and it's your domain. And you're, like,
whatever, there may be a hundred thousand people and it's all the same. It's
like this sea of color. Whereas here, in a room like this you're with these
faces and people. It's intoxicating, because it's so much more intimate.
D: So maybe this will motivate you to do more shows like this?
Reid: Oh definitely. It was high. I mean I'm flying right now. I
could go on and on about it.
D: And you're doing a show in Syracuse
at the end of the month?
Reid: Yeah, the 31st at the
D: So what, other than the Johnson School, brought you to
Reid: Familiarity. My sister went here.
Strangefolk has played here a dozen times. And it's just a similar feel to
Burlington [VT -- where Reid lived since he graduated from UVM and formed
Strangefolk]. It's a place where I can feel at home, and safe. It's a familiar
zone for me. And my fiancee lives in Rochester, so that's really what it comes
D: What do you think of the music scene here in Ithaca?
Reid: Well, this is my first foray into it as of late. I
know there is a thriving scene, with the Grassroots Festival, Donna the Buffalo.
I know there's a real folksy scene here. I'd love to become more involved with
D: Did you plan on music as your career after UVM?
D: What led you here?
Reid: I just got tired. I got burnt out from being on the road.
I'm getting married, and I just wanted to try to be a civilian for a while. So
that's my motivation: to get up in the morning and have a refrigerator and a
closet and all those normal things. D: Here's a tough one. If, for
whatever reason, you could choose only one, which would it be: to be a
songwriter, a singer, or a guitarist?
Reid: Shit, that
is a tough question. I'd say songwriter. To me, the thing I appreciate so much
is being able to communicate and share, to express the world. To paint a
picture. To me, it really is like painting.
D: So that's the creative
process for you.
Reid: Definitely. I mean, I love
performing and I get a high from it. One of the most painful things about
quitting is knowing that I don't have the immediate line to an audience. It's
like, knowing that I had this gig was such a part of my creative process because
I wrote some songs and I got jocked and I was all ready to roll. So,
D: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as
Reid: My greatest accomplishment is
Strangefolk. The fact that we created what we created from the ground up. You
know, from dirt and from dust. We created something real, meaningful and viable
and by far that is the biggest thing I have ever done in my life. And obviously
it wasn't just me, but it was the biggest thing I have ever been a part
D: And what were your influences with the band and on your own?
Reid: It's weird. I was reading an interview with the
Disco Biscuits recently and they said their greatest influences were their
bandmates. Then I thought about it and I have to say that my greatest influences
have definitely been my bandmates, especially Jon Trafton, the guitarist. Beyond
that, I am a Deadhead, true and true. I love the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Paul
Simon. I like Elliot Smith, Lyle Lovitt, Elvis Costello, all people who build
castles with words, and I think all those people do.
D: I can hear
country and bluegrass influences as well.
Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings.They are all people I really
D: What's your relationship like now with the guys in
Reid: It's been strained the last few
months because, I mean, I kind of slapped everyone in the face. But they're my
brothers and I've been through hell and back with them. I hope to God that I
know them until the day I die.
D: Have you seen the new band [with
new lead singer, Luke Montgomery]?
Reid: No. I can't do
it right now. It's sort of like watching your ex-girlfriend having sex with her
new boyfriend, I'm not really into it. But, I hear it sounds great and I wish
them the best. I'm totally behind it. It's tough though. It's just too painful
D: Was Strangefolk your ideal vision of a band?
Reid: Yes and no. I mean, being in a band, just like being in a
relationship, is all about compromise. You have a vision, somebody else has a
vision... You know, you bring your own song, for instance, and you have a vision
of what it's going to be, and it never is. So it's like asking somebody, "is
this your ideal woman?" There is no ideal woman, but you find the best fit
possible. And as far as I'm concerned it [Strangefolk] was the best fit
possible. But the very nature of being in a band is compromise.
Did you initially plan on being at the forefront of the Jamband scene? Do you
feel that's where your music fits?
Reid: Yes and no.
It's funny that you say we're at the forefront of the scene, because I don't
think we are.
D: Well, when you guys hit the scene a lot of people,
namely the neo-Deadhead crowd, really connected to bands like moe., Percy Hill,
Reid: Yeah, I always envisioned, when I
thought of having a band, like I said, the Grateful Dead are my religion. Flat
out, that's what I modeled myself after. So the short answer is yes.
D: What musicians have you enjoyed collaborating with the most?
Reid: I love Percy [Percy Hill -- a jamband from NH]. I have a lot
of respect for them as songwriters and as people.
D: You've played a
lot with Gordon Stone [banjo player originally from Burlington]?
Reid: Yeah. Grodon's great. He's a staple at this point. But, you
know, I have hats off to all of them; to Leftover Salmon, to moe., String
Cheese, Galactic, Bela. Percy I know the best, so I have a bias. But I love
their music. And I like Leftover's music a lot. Those are the two that get the
most play for me. I know every word to every moe. song though.
It's interesting that you're such a fan of the bands that emerged around the
same time that you guys did?
Reid: Well, we're brothers
in arms, you know. We're fighting comrades. We've been in the trenches together.
I mean, god, we've played with them all like twenty times.
Describe your experience with record companies?
Record companies are a bitch. I mean, I don't have any malice feelings toward
them. They are what they are and they're a business. They make decision based on
finance -- financial benchmarks and operational stuff, and it's not about
feel-good music, it's about the bottom line, and that's just the nature of the
beast. And unfortunately, we got crunched by it. It sucks. There are ups and
downs. The ups are that they have money and they have distribution. The trouble
for me is that being on the road is not a glorious thing. I mean, it is for
about a week, and it is at moments -- there are pearls strung together. But the
beautiful thing about making records is that you don't have to go on the road as
much. You still have to go a lot. But that's where record companies have
something to offer. They can offer you peace of mind and little more sanity...
maybe. I definitely see the flipside too, which is do it all yourself and call
me in the morning.
D: When you were with Strangefolk, you considered
yourselves a touring band, right?
Reid: Well, we tried
to walk the line between both. But our success was definitely in touring more
D: And you're records were a lot more polished than
most of the stuff being released in the scene?
They were, and you know, we hoped to have a bigger push behind this last one [A
Great Long While] and it just didn't work out.
D: Do you consider A
Great Long While a satisfying final statement with the band?
Reid: I don't know. I love it, I think it's our best. But, I mean,
there is no perfect last statement. The perfect last statement would have been
to keep playing with them until I'm fifty. I mean, we could have done another
album right after A Great Long While; we had so many songs. So it feels really
D: Is there anything else you want your fans to know?
Reid: If there was something else I'd want to say, it's
that for all those people who just shake their heads and wonder why I left; this
is my passion. Everything else is to just make ends meet.