Interview with Rob Reid

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Folks, I wanted to take a moment to post a recent e-mail interview that we completed with Rob Reid. He is a local singer-songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. One of the bands I am in has traveled quite extensively with Rob, for the past 5 years, throughout the Midwestern states playing our respective brands of original music.

The photos that follow are some vintage Rob Reid from Spring 2006. He was kind enough to come and play at my job at the time. He is always a big hit wherever he plays his songs.


Let's get on with the interview and let Rob do the talking. I hope you enjoy!

Interview begin:

1. You have a new album that was just released in recent weeks, can you tell us about it?

Rob's Response (R): I'm happy that it's finally done. Now I can focus on wrapping up 2009 and hopefully soon re-joining the rest of my friends in the year 2010 by some time in mid-February. I've heard from those who've been, that 2010 is a really good year.

2. Is there a larger story to this album that each of the songs touches on?

(R): There's as much of a coherent plan to this album as there had been to my life at the time I wrote the songs, which is to say almost none at all. The songs were written over a long stretch between 2004 and 2008 when I was struggling with trying to balance all my passions in life, including traveling to Africa, teaching ethnic seniors how to shout "Bingo!", volunteering in India, studying re-use of abandoned cinemas, playing broomball, drinking free vodka under mandate at Polish dive bars, thinking about building robots, etc. Sometimes the inside of my head resembled an old married couple, bickering back and forth and never resolving to consensus but all the while staying married out of obligation.

Back in '06 I hired something of a psychic brain surgeon/hypnotist to help me sort this all out. The title, "The Principles of Crop Rotation" comes from a concept she introduced me to called the "The Universal Cycle of Change". Just as trees know to let their leaves fall off in the autumn and regenerate in the spring, I could learn to more gracefully allow my hobbies to come and go like seasons. When I got tired of playing music, I could let that go and not worry about losing the plateau, while following some new hobby like trying to unlock the mysteries of Elston Avenue, one of the city's loneliest streets. Then when I got back to the music, I was that much fresher and often could fold my newer ideas into older projects.

3. Where did the recording take place? Can you expand a bit. Some of our readers are gearheads.

(R): The actual recording all took place in my home. I didn't want to waste anyone's time but my own. When I finished the tracks, Tim Sandusky mixed and mastered them in his attic.

My home is quintessential Chicago West Side, and not sound insulated, so if you listen real hard you might hear an occasional roaring engine, my neighbor's band in the basement, somebody yelling something about tamales, and possibly even a few gun shots. Most of the guitar tracks were recorded through an amp in the bathroom, where I got this cool echo-ey sound that I found much to my liking.

4. Any secret weapons (music gear) that you use to record Rob Reid albums?

(R): I couldn't distinguish quality gear from a Radio Shack deal if it struck me over the head during a guitar solo. But Populele, one of Avondale's most prominent gearheads, left two extended voice messages for me over the past month- one raving about the sound quality of the StudioProjects VTB pre-amp which I used to record my vocals, and the other proclaiming that he had just bought one himself. It's that good- and very reasonably priced due to its relative anonymity.

5. If there were albums from other musicians that you kept at the fore of your mind, for inspiration, during the recording of this album, what five albums would you narrow that list down to?

(R): Most of what I listened to during that period was anthologies of world music that I found through Chicago Public Library. This probably influenced me subconsciously, but with the exception of a few tracks this is not a world music album. Some more direct influences would include:

Catalpa (Jolie Holland)
The Charts' Greatest Hits
Tusk (Fleetwood Mac)
Nandolo with Love (Francis Bebey)
Living with Ghosts (Patty Griffin)

6. Tell us about any plans that Rob Reid, the musician, has in store for 2010.

(R): Ideas take a long time to germinate. I bought some percussion last winter in an effort to drown out my neighbor's band. I gotta tell you, I enjoy striking a drum more than I do plucking a guitar. I've been practicing. I put my thrift store kitchenware drum kit back together and have been playing that a bit. I can tell you this, my music in 2010 is going to be a lot louder than anything you've heard from me in the past. I'm going to start all of my sentences with the word "I" in 2010. I might have a band called Illinois Bovine Explosion involved in implementing my vision, or I might just hire robots to fill in as band-mates.

7. For live music, what are your top three places to play live Rob Reid shows at in the world.

(R): The Green Lantern, Winona Minnesota circa 2005. There's been nothing like it since- a coffeeshop with no profit motive, a puppet master as barista, and an eclectic magnetism for ballroom dancers and dungeons and dragons veterans alike.

Though it took me some time to warm up to it, I really like Uncommon Ground these days. Jen does a great job on sound. All my friends are getting old, and they're starting to like sitting down at tables instead of standing up at bars.

State Grounds in Hastings, Michigan is another favorite. It's really just the epitome of an unlikely class of songwriter-friendly coffee shops - a small venue owner in a culture-starved town willing to occasionally shell out gas money for a touring artist mostly for the sake of charity and/or his own entertainment. It's not like I've ever brought customers into the place, but he welcomes me back and pays more attention than the aggregate of a roomful of barflies.

8. What was the last album that was recommended to you, by any one of your friends, that you have found to be a very good recommendation?

(R): While I'm often buried in stacks of cryptic/obscure albums from the distant past and from abroad, I do a terrible job of keeping up with what's new in the music world.

My sister, now that she has mellowed out and no longer "drives like a getaway driver for a bankrobber on a Sunday afternoon" has gotten really good at finding new and interesting music.

This past Christmas, she picked up "Wooden Arms" by Patrick Watson for me, and I love it.

9. Of other musicians that exist in the world, name one artist or group that is active right now, and making great music, that just doesn't get noticed enough by other media outlets.

(R): Musicians all know that mainstream media outlets consistently ignore musicianship and talent in favor of slicker and more accessible sounds or images, but Portuguese fado music has received a knife to the back far more damaging than most starving American musicians could rightfully complain about, due to Portugal's longstanding underdog status as well as fado's association with the repressive regime of Antonio Salazar last century.

Ana Moura is my favorite fadista singing today- successful in her own right, but unknown to probably 95% of Americans.


Rob will be playing a house concert this Saturday Feb 13 2010. For those that are interested in seeing him live, go to the following website for more details: Rob will be playing a set and then Ty Maxon will also play a set of songs. Should be an amazing time.

Please visit the following for more information on Rob Reid and Ty Maxon.

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