Artistically Nutritional Moments with Reid Genauer
Written by Randy Ray
Last night, Assembly of Dust returned to the road for a New Year’s Run which began at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. AOD continues their brief tour tonight with a date at the World Café Live in Philadelphia, before front man/guitarist/singer/songwriter Reid Genauer plays a sold out solo acoustic gig on the 30th at McCue’s in Keene, New Hampshire. On New Year’s Eve, the band will hit the historic Colonial Theatre in Keene, also the site of their 2007 year-ending gig, which spawned their new live album, Found Sound. The performance was secretly recorded by noted sound engineer, Jack Trifiro, in what one hopes to be a continuing series. Featuring eight songs over 70+ minutes of music culled from a much longer performance at that December 31, 2007 gig, it is a sublime document of a band that can combine the sweet craft of songwriting with some rather formidable jam passages. Suffice to say, the album contains some of the best jams of any AOD release, and especially spotlights longtime guitarist Adam Terrell. Attendees to Friday night’s New Year’s Eve gig at the Colonial Theatre will receive a free copy of the new live album; whereas, the official release will be in early 2011.
Jambands.com sat down with Genauer for a pre-New Year’s Eve discussion as we look at his career-length evolution into one of our scene’s finest songwriters and musicians. It has been ten years since Genauer took that fateful step away from his original band, Strangefolk, the group he formed with guitarist Jon Trafton, and it has been another successful decade for the talented artist who continues to fascinate with resonating work, which is equal parts classic Americana with a lyrical edge and flat out ballsy rock.
RR: The first 150 people who purchased a ticket to the Assembly of Dust New Year’s show also get to see you play a solo acoustic gig on December 30.
RG: Solo shows are something I’ve done sporadically throughout the years. I guess at my core I think of myself as a singer/songwriter. Although, I prefer the band setting, it’s always been a nice yin to my yang. (laughs) It’s really just been a nice contrast to what I’ve done in the band context. Beyond a creative release, it serves two purposes—one being the revealing of the bones of a song for those that are familiar with it, that it has a meaning to, and then, secondarily, there’s a group of listeners out there who prefer acoustic music and to those fans, that form resonates more with.
There are people around the country who have not had a chance to see the band, or the singer/songwriter—you know, song and dance. So we thought that would be cool to combine the two for New Year’s and give those who were traveling a chance to take in both with one swipe of the credit card as it were. (laughter)
RR: You’ve been successful in a band environment and as a singer/songwriter. You also opened up the door to a collaboration involving various musicians, which occurred on last year’s AOD release, Some Assembly Required. Based upon that experience, and your roles in the past, where do you see yourself in the future?
RG: In terms of what I hope to do, I’m not 100% sure. I think the next album we do, which we’re starting to plan for now, I’d like to try and capture some more of the acoustic-y, singer/songwriter, stripped-down stuff. I’m not sure it’ll be all that. In the past, there’s always been a hint of that, whether it’s in the context of a song, or a couple of songs that have been placed strategically in the album. I’d sort of like to flip that equation on its head, and try and focus on some of the acoustic stuff—not necessarily solo, but more stripped-down instrumentation.
RR: Is it too lazy to say that you may be coming back full circle based upon your own origins and where you started off as an acoustic duo with Jon Trafton?
RG: Yeah, you know, I think the realization of a mature, acoustic-based band sound has been in my genetics, or in my cross hairs, since the get go, and I’ve never really fully realized it. I always know it’s there, and it’s something I hope to tap into. But, yeah, in some ways, at the inception it was there, and I had originally envisioned a standup bass for Strangefolk. It didn’t play out that way, and it kind of got swept up into a more electric sound, so here I am, ten years later (laughs), like you say, revisiting that notion.
RR: Are you considering doing some more acoustic duo work with Adam Terrell, and adding in layers of the band, as well?
RG: Yeah, Adam and I have done a bunch of acoustic duo shows in the past, and we’ve done little runs. In fact, several of the tunes for Some Assembly Required were just started with a click track and two acoustic guitar parts or, in some cases, just Adam playing the guitar. I think that’s certainly in the cards. It’s a pretty versatile group of musicians, and given the right venue—whether it’s the studio or live—and the right instruments, I have no doubt we can do it. One of the challenges in the live setting is bringing acoustic instruments into the bar scene can be a bitch. There’s an expectation. It’s like going to a barbeque, and there’s vegetarian dishes being served. You go to a barbeque expecting meat; you go to a rock club expecting rock. The converse is that there are other venues—whether they are theatres or smaller coffee house-type rooms—where there is, maybe, a more mature vibe—a less raucous one, anyhow. I think there are bands who just demand that kind of attention. Ray LaMontagne comes to mind or, even, Phish when they’ve done their a cappella things. You’re in a room full of 20,000 people, and the crowd will hush to a whisper. There are ways to do it, but it’s challenging.
RR: I know you’ve had to loosen up your songwriting process over time. How protective are you of your songs? Was it difficult to bring in other musicians to collaborate on your songs and broaden your ideas?
RG: In answering that question, I think it goes beyond the scope to control issues, which are much broader. I used to feel challenged when I’d bring a song to a band, and it would come out in a way that I didn’t imagine it. There are songs that I imagined a certain way, and would come out with a different feel or riff that somebody contributed that I hadn’t thought of. At the start of making music, I had a much harder time of backing off, and I think that’s one of the hardest lessons learned—how to collaborate cooperatively. I think it’s a bitch for people, in general, but it’s certainly a challenge for musicians, and, specifically, songwriters, within that subset.
That’s one thing that, when I examine myself, I’m proud of having conquered on some levels. In inviting all these guests to play on Some Assembly Required, that was an added layer of risks in that you’re dealing with a personality that you’re not intimately familiar with, and, in some cases, the recordings were done remotely, so you literally weren’t there. I guess, with few exceptions, they came back playing the parts that I imagined they might. I thought a lot about the pairings of songs and the players, and I was intimately familiar with each of their music, so I had a feel for what they did. There were a couple of instances where I was a little challenged to re-digest the song in a new way, but nothing revolutionary. I think the extreme example was Martin Sexton, who was assuming was going to sing harmony and maybe sing a verse or two, and he did an electric vocal solo that wound up sounding like a slide guitar. (laughs) That one kind of threw me for a loop. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it worked out.