Genauer comes to Burlington

Written by Matt Powers

Singer/songwriter Reid Genauer came to Higher Ground recently for a special Valentine's Day show.
The nearly sold out show showcased Genauer by himself for a mini-set, followed by a two and a half hour set by he and his band (Nate Wilson, keyboards; Andy Herrick, drums; Adam Terrell, lead guitar; John Leccese, bass).
The band ran through the full song catalogue, taking time to put their own take on familiar Strangefolk songs, as well as showcasing their own unique, emerging style.
After the show, I sat down with Genauer to ask him a few questions.

Echo - The band displayed tonight that it really has its own sound -- the funked up bridge on Stouthearted, the bass groove set in the Dance jam -- is it the product of a desire on your part to try to really change some of the songs up or more just the product of you having four new people around you with different things to add?

RG: It's a combination of things. Largely, it is what you suggest, that we have four new musical minds there. Someone will say, "Hey, why don't we try this?" So some of the things we do never got to be done with Strangefolk because that mind didn't exist. That's part. And part of it is that I envisioned things that never happened in Strangefolk for one reason or another and I am able to sort of articulate them with this group and we're starting with a clean slate, so we capture it from the get-go.

Echo - A song like 45 degrees, where the way the band performed it tonight, if you close your eyes, you'd think you were in a jazz club. Is that something where you came in and said "let's jazz this up?"

RG: No, that's Nate Wilson (keyboardist) coming alive. A change that was more intentional is the porno-version, as somebody called it, of Strange Ranger, where it's almost more hip-hop or something. And that's kind of how I had always envisioned the song, but for one reason or another it never came out that way. It was something equally as good and different and it evolved but that was something that was more intentional and articulated.

Echo: When you talk about envisioned stuff, are there some things that you would like to do in the future to branch out?
RG: One of the things I would like to do is a real acoustic set with a grand piano and an upright bass; do a whole coffeehouse set. The other thing that I would like to do someday, we're making a CD now, is to have a huge band on stage, that's something I've always wanted to try - percussion, soul singers, have it be a carnival. Not that that would be the form the band for always But just go do a run like that with the Paul Simon-type thing.

Echo: Any particular soul singer?

RG: No, I'm actually trying to get the girls from Belizbeha to come and do some stuff, so we'll see if that happens or not. But I have always really admired the way they sing together.

Echo: Tell me about the album.

RG: Basically, it's a work-in-progress and the nice thing is that there's no tour, no immediacy to it, I don't know when it's going to come out. We're just kind of taking time and piecing it together to make sure that it's done right. It's nice that the pressure's off for once and we can just work on this baby.

Echo: Any names yet, Reid & Friends, etc.?

RG: Not yet.

Echo: As far as goals for the album, anything you are going in with a specific desire or intention for? Are you going to try to get that percussion, soul singer sound in there?

RG: Yeah, we've got the percussion done. That's already there and I think we are going to try to get the soul singer thing in there. The vision is to make a warm, big album and take a step forward. Right now, people are coming to see us purely based solely on the past, on a legacy, this will be a nice a chance for me to artistically take a step forward. That's something I'm looking forward to.
And it's also a promotional vehicle. Right now the reason people come is because of 'Reid: formerly of Strangefolk.' And it will be like, here is a CD that's something that's now, that's not Reid, formerly of anything but Reid, currently of whatever.

Echo: This tour is bringing you around the east coast. Are there any particular venues that you enjoy more than others, that you really look forward to playing at?

RG: Not really. Higher Ground is a great club as far as club's go. I'd also like to get into more of the small theaters because it's a little bit more of a show. So, I look forward to getting into places like the Portsmouth Music Hall, State Theater, hopefully one day the Flynn again. I really cherish those moments. And clubs are great because there is a rawness and energy and intensity to it but there's a lack of elegance. A lack of drama in some ways which is replaced by energy but clubs are a different beast, for sure.

Echo: My younger brother and I enjoy doing the island scene scenario of taking five albums with you for the rest of your life. Have you get any set ones?

RG: I don't know, that's a hard question. I really would have a tough time. I mean, I listened to Lucinda Williams album today. I mean, she's kind of a girlie band but the song writing is phenomenal and the band behind her is absolutely great. I just listened to that today, so I don't know as if I'd bring it with me to a desert island. I could probably bring five Dead bootlegs with me and that would do it. Or 50. I think that would be my answer.

Echo: How does writing change for you now that your not always on-tour, in a van -- is it a slower pace?

RG: It is a slower pace. There's just less incentive for it because I'm playing fewer shows and my life is busy in other ways. What I used to do is that I would have four song ideas when I was with Strangefolk and when I got a few weeks off, I would say to myself 'I'm going to bang these out now' and I would. And now I have two, three, four ideas and they sit with me for weeks so I work with them a day here and a day there and it kind of just slowly comes out. There's something to be said for that, though. It's a little less forced and you can divorce yourself from your own ideas a little bit. Sometimes even when you're trying to be mature about writing you get committed to it and you drive through that idea, even if it's not really the best. Whereas if you have the luxury of time and you can have a writing session, recording session and then walk away from it and come back, the immediacy washes away and you can look at it with fresh eyes and hear it with fresh ears. Maybe it is right, maybe it's not and you have just say - hell with it - and trash it all.

Echo: As far as song writing goes, is there any way you could see yourself collaborating with Strangefolk to make some more songs?

RG: You know, it's funny, I would love to. I don't know if it's a reality or not but I look back at Strangefolk and many of the one's I like the most are the ones I wrote with Jon or Eric because there's two minds in it, so they are typically more interesting. Eric writes great, poppy chord progressions and then to put a folky melody line or lyric on top of that I thought was cool. And Jon just has a million cool musical ideas. So it was always a powerful combination and I would like to find that -- whether it is with them or something else. Just to get some input rather than having to rely on your own mind. You know when you have a conversation you recycle your thought. So, it's not the identical conversation but it has a similar feel, similar vibe, similar emotional content, and, often times, similar actual content -- depending on what you're talking about. So if you have somebody else to speak with, tag teaming, it makes for a more interesting, dynamic piece.

Echo: So who's dog is Moses in Sinner?

RG:Actually, that's funny, it's a song I co-wrote with Eric and it's about Trafton's dog. It was the family dog who was apparently a bastard and bit people.

Echo: Paul McCartney: washed up sap or musical genius?

RG: Musical genius who is washed up. I have nothing but respect for him but he is what he is. I cringe at some of his public appearances. But musically, both he and Lennon, I bow down. It would be interesting to see what Lennon would do if he were still alive.
I think McCartney's thing is that he has been in the spotlight since he was a kid and he has lost his bearings on what's appropriate and what's not. It could be that he's not that comfortable in the spotlight. I don't know, I cringe though.

Echo: How's it feel to be in the spotlight again but on more a short term basis, as far as touring goes?

RG: It's nice because you're not afraid of having to put out as much energy as you can. You don't have to worry because you've got to do it forty more nights in a row. You can blow it all and then go home and recuperate.

The Echo