Written by Stu Fox
APRIL 2002 -issue 45

After spending almost a decade as a member of the popular jam band Strangefolk, Reid Genauer walked away from the music business at the end of the group's summer tour in 2000. He enrolled at Cornell that fall to get his masters degree, and pretty much vanished from the music scene for close to a year. The singer and guitarist eventually reappeared as a solo performer, and he's currently preparing to jump back into the musical fray as the front man of a new band.

His new group is loaded with veterans from the regional jam circuit, and includes keyboardist Nate Wilson and bassist John Leccese from Percy Hill, former Moon Boot Lover drummer Andy Herrick, and lead guitarist Adam Terrell from New Hampshire's Groovechild. "I've known them all for years, and they know each other even more intimately than I do," says Genauer. "Our bands have played together since the early 90's. The two bands we played with most back in the day were moe. and Percy Hill. They were like our cousin bands."

Long-time fans of Genauer's music should feel right at home with the sound of his new band. "There's a lot of Strangefolk material in there because that's what I've dedicated myself to writing for over the years, and that's kind of who I am musically," says the singer. "It's fun to bring some of those songs back and breathe new life into them. Nate has a whole collection of songs as well, and there's one that we have been noodling with at sound checks that we'll probably add to the repertoire at some point. Part of the problem is they live in New Hampshire and coordinating rehearsals is a bitch."

"It's certainly in keeping stylistically with the music I made with Strangefolk, but there are different musical minds there. It's a little funkier than Strangefolk and there's some slightly different dynamics. The guitar solos are a little less explosive and a little more melodic. Adam is a more melodic player with a little less tension in his release and a little less fire and brimstone."

The band has begun working on an album, and if everything goes according to plan, it should be out by the fall. "I want to make sure that I take the time to do it right," says Genauer. "I'm getting a masters right now, and trying to get a masters and make a full length record has been an interesting experience. Since late January, I've been in the studio on and off for like 16 twelve hours days. It's nice in some ways, because it lets you step away from the other piece and let your brain sort of percolate in a different direction. And then when it's time to re-approach the music or school, depending on which camp I'm coming from, there's a freshness or enthusiasm that wouldn't be there if I just focused on one or the other. And there's a degree of exhaustion, because I'm not really taking a ton of time for rest and relaxation."

"The nice thing is I have the luxury of waiting," he adds. "I don't have a tour where I'm going out for two months and the album has to be out for it. So, I'm just going to sit back and make sure that the music sounds good, and then think of a smart way to get it out there to the world and take it from there. The nice thing is that all of these guys have been out on the road and know it for what it is, and they have a very realistic perspective on how a band needs to come together."

The group has played a few shows so far, and all of their current gigs are booked under Genauer's name. "We have yet to come up with a name to call the band. My name will probably be a part of it, but I'd like to have a band name; Reid Genauer & the Heartbreakers or whatever," he laughs. We're in the process of making a record, and I think probably when it comes out we will unveil the official name of the band."

They've set up a web site at REID GENAUER.COM that contains lots of band information, and its most important feature is the music material. "We're trying to really get the music out there since a lot of people have yet to hear the group," says Genauer. "We've been trying to get MP3's up on the site and get some shows out on the trading circuit, and we're slowly chiseling away at that."

Genauer is clearly excited about his latest project, but he's unsure at this point how far he's willing to go in pursuit of his musical interests. This is his final semester at Cornell, and he'll have plenty of time to think about everything once school is over. "I don't have a clear vision of that," he admits. "I know I don't want to be on the road six months a year, so I'm just looking at how I can have a career in music. I'm trying to include music as a piece of the puzzle, rather than have it be the entire puzzle. That's a tricky balancing act, and I'm trying to figure out how I can do that."

The daily grind of being on the road with Strangefolk really wore him down, and it was the main reason he decided to leave the band. "We had a model and sort of an ethos that just was deeply entrenched in being on the road, and that was all we knew how to do," he recalls. "Our infrastructure and our lives depended on it. For me it came at the sacrifice of enjoying it. It became too much of a job for me, and not enough of a release. My personal life suffered, and artistically I felt like I was suffering because I felt flat and uninspired night after night."

"There are choices one is forced to make throughout your life, and for me it got to the point where it was sacrifice my involvement in Strangefolk, or sacrifice my enjoyment of making music. It was a difficult decision to make, but its one I'm feeling more and more comfortable with as time passes."

"For all of us in Strangefolk, that was our first band, our first love," he adds. "I started playing with Jon in 1991 and the band began going on the road in 94. It was a great ride. It was a ton of fun and a great experience all around, and I wouldn't trade it for the world."

His final performance with the band came on Labor Day weekend in 2000, and he's spent most the last two years concentrating on getting his degree. "School is sort of an incubator zone where you can go and figure out who you want to be when you grow up," states Genauer. "It seemed like a safe place to step in to after a life of a touring debaucherous rock and roller, and it was. It's been a positive experience, minus the friction from walking away from the band and the emotions tied up in that. Once that sort of smoothed out, it's been a cool couple of years. And I really have been enjoying playing music again, which is a blessing. To take control of my life, for sure, that was a piece of it. And also just to step away from the music and hear it again is great for me."

Once his musical batteries were recharged, Genauer started booking some acoustic gigs last year. "I'm still doing some of that," he says. "I've got a few shows here and there that I'll do solo acoustic, and I try and do a small solo acoustic set before each of the band performances. That's the way I evolved musically, the singer songwriter thing. I started playing, writing and singing songs by myself. When Jon and I started Strangefolk, that was a new experience. So for me going back and playing by myself is a matter of reacquainting myself with my past and my musical evolution."

"One of the things that we're going to start incorporating in this next run is to do some acoustic music as a band, so that there's a whole range from solo acoustic to band acoustic to full electric. They're obviously totally different songs when they are the campfire sing-along versions versus the raging Hammond organ and screaming electric guitar versions. It's a lot of fun in terms of performing, and I really like seeing the songs take on different personalities based on the orchestration. It's cool to be able to hear a song one way and then hear it breathed a different way the next night."

Upstate New York music lovers can check out Reid Genauer and his band when they perform in the area next month. The group is playing at Armory High in Syracuse on May 3rd and Milestones in Rochester on the 4th, and these shows are shaping up as two of the hottest dates on the spring music calendar.