DAN REEDER Discusses His Latest EP, Favorite Artists and More!
Posted On 16 Nov 2017
Last week on November 10th, Oh Boy Records released Dan Reeder’s newest project, “Nobody Wants to Be You.” The five-song EP is distributed by Thirty Tigers and was produced by Reeder himself.
“Nobody Wants to Be You.” marks Reeder’s fourth release on Oh Boy Records, a relationship formed after Reeder sent a burned CD to John Prine in the early 2000’s. Prine listened, signed Reeder to his label, toured with him four times, and released all three of Reeder’s previous records: “Dan Reeder” (2004), “Sweetheart” (2005) and “This New Century” (2009). The albums garnered glowing reviews; publications like No Depression deemed him “brilliant,” and NPR’s Fresh Air compared Reeder to Prine himself. The New Yorker’s Ben Greenman coined him as “one of the foremost outsider artists in modern folk” and he was featured on the Emmy award-winning show Weeds (“Work Song”).
While “Nobody Wants to Be You” is the precursor to a full-length (set for a 2018 release), the EP isn’t lacking in tenacity and holds true to his distinct style: slightly quirky, painstakingly honest, and undeniably witty. Compared to its predecessors, his latest work delivers a brighter, more energized tone, full of what Reeder calls “easy piano.” This can arguably be heard on the first single, “Kung fu is my fighting style”, a rock-n-roll, piano-driven ballad with a uniquely-distorted electric guitar solo, which also happens to be the only guitar on the entire album. On the other hand, the opening and title track, “Nobody wants to be you” is much more soothing. The bluntness of the lyrics are softened by Reeder’s crooning; yet, even with multi-layered harmonies, his voice maintains its iconic “wisp.” While the album varies from the folk groundwork laid in the past, Reeder’s musical intelligence is as present as ever. When you listen to Nobody wants to be you, you’re hearing more than an album. You’re hearing every piece of a self-made artist and his multi-faceted skill set — from the soulful, smoky vocal overlay to a singular, meticulous guitar sound, but best of all, you’re hearing the ingenuity that is Dan Reeder.
In addition to his musical background, Reeder designs all of his album art (including the cover of “Nobody Wants to Be You.”) and is a critically-acclaimed visual artist. Since moving from California to Nuremberg, Germany, over 30 years ago, he has won various visual art awards, participated in numerous exhibitions, led art seminars, and took on a visiting professorship at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (aka, Germany’s Academy of Fine Arts). In 2012, he published an overview of his work titled Art Pussies Fear This Book.
For more information, visit www.danreeder.com
Learn more about about Dan Reeder in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you? Is there music playing in the background? If so, what is it?
I’m at my studio. I rarely listen to music at my studio…. it screws me up if I’m trying to paint. At home, we’ve been listening to Charles Mingus. Maybe it sounds dumb, but I like the new thing by Justin Bieber…. “Love Yourself”, or whatever it’s called. Can’t help it. I just like to listen to it.
What music gets you instantly out of a bad mood? What is a song you are loving these days?
“A Whiter Shade of Pale.” The original by Procol Harum.
Did you approach the start of this year any differently then you did last year? What have been some of the highlights for you this year? What are you excited for in 2018 which will be here before we know it?!
Maybe. As I get older, I tend to set goals that I can actually achieve. I also find myself thinking about things that I’m NOT going to do. It calms me to think like that. Highlights? Not really. But it was a good year. An easy year for me. In 2018 I have the job of “lighting“ the castle here in Nürnberg during the annual “Blue Night“. That means that my pictures will be projected onto the side of the castle one night. It’s kind of a big deal here. I’m also looking forward to putting out another CD….though I’m not sure if I can get it done in time.
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you recall your earliest musical memory? Was there ever a time where you thought about doing something completely different? What do you think it finally was that pushed you to this career?
In high school, I wanted to be a blues harmonica player (just what this world needs). My earliest musical memory was singing in church….or maybe it was a revival meeting like thing. “Beulah Land“ was the song, though. That I’m sure of. I used to love singing harmony to church songs…especially if it was loud and crowded. Then you could sing the wildest shit you could think of, and it didn’t bother anybody.
The rest of the question is hard to answer, since I’m not really a musician. I DO do something completely different. I’m a painter. I have a “career“ as a musician because John Prine put out my first CD. I have a “career“ as a musician because the Pentium processor made it possible for me to sing harmony with myself. I have a “career“ as a musician because a friend of mine tricked me into building guitars. The fact that my voice is too quiet and weird for a normal choir forced me to sing with myself….it’s also a factor that led to me having a musical “career“.
I always like to know how a particular city has influenced an artist. How do you think your hometown has affected the kind of music that you are making today? How has your current city influenced your music?
My dad was a minister….in the south. We didn’t sing by notes. You just sang whatever harmony you could. If it got too high, just go an octave lower. If it got to low, go an octave
higher, and so on. I sing in a choir here in Nürnberg. They expect you to sing exactly what’s written. That has been an experience for me. Nürnberg has a very active blues scene. I don’t know if that fact has actually influenced my music directly, but it’s what is being played in the pubs. They’re good, too, and that sometimes pisses me off. White guy from the suburbs of LA used to play blues harmonica, and now he’s pissed off about cultural appropriation. Hmm.
How does it feel to have released your new EP “Nobody Wants to Be You”? Did anything surprise you about the whole process of putting it together?
It wasn’t supposed to be an EP. I had a bunch of stuff on my hard disk…some of the songs that I sent to Oh Boy are 8 years old….and I thought I should just put out one last record. (Streaming has made it financially pointless to put out new music. I’m really not in it for the money, but it doesn’t motivate me to think that anything I put out just goes into the heap, and the clever guys at Spotify and Apple collect the money for it). I had pretty much given up on the music business. People kept asking me when “the next one” was coming, and I finally just decided to go ahead and do it. The old songs and the new songs didn’t fit together, though. It was hard to get them under one roof. We decided to cut it down to an EP, and work on a full CD for next year. I don’t know if that’s going to work. It’s actually a lot of work to make a CD. Maybe that was the surprise: how much work it is.
Can you talk about why you chose to hand-make everything that you recorded on for this EP? Where did the idea for this come from exactly?
Actually, in this case I didn’t. The piano is virtual: Modartt Pianoteq (wonderful, by the way). The keyboard is a Studiologic SL 990 Pro. I thought about making a MIDI expander…there are circuit diagrams online, and the parts are easy to come by….but why? I’ve learned that nobody CARES if you made your own guitar or preamp or mixer (they mega do not give a shit that you soldered together your own mixer). I’m still thinking about making a keyboard.
I record in my studio on a computer. I do it myself, because that way I can work spontaneously. I’ve learned how to mix my recordings…. mainly by doing. 20 years of messing around is also an education. And it’s free.
How do you think your painting has inspired your music? Do you find that you prefer one over the other?
I’ve noticed that on days when I can’t tune my guitar, I should paint. There are eyes days, and there are ears days. I don’t really prefer one over the other, but I have to be aware of my day to day condition.
Now that the summer is over, what was something fun that you did or tried for the first time?
I ordered a duduk. It’s not here yet, and it has nothing to do with summer being over, but I’m really looking forward to having it, and playing it.
How do you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? Where do you think you are truly the happiest- on stage performing or elsewhere?
I’m always terrified when I’m on stage. I avoid playing live. I’ve done it. I’ve never really failed, but it does scare me.
Do you believe that the music being created right now will be greatly influenced by the intensely politically charged times we live in right now? How has it affected you as a musician in general?
Sure. It’s like there’s a war going on. Everybody hates everybody. Nobody trusts anybody. The government is a Twitter account. All of the principles that once really made America great are being abandoned. To answer part 2 of the question, I think most artists are just in shock. The people in power are talking about nuclear war again. Holy shit.
What artists have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely love to work with in the future?
Beck is an inspiration. Pink is an inspiration. John Prine is still an inspiration. I’d like to talk with George Massenberg.
What advice would you give to a young person who is considering becoming a musician one day?
Artistically, stick to your principles. They’re all you’ve got. Practically, don’t quit your day job. Go out there and love the people up.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? What do you hope is the message of your songs?
I want the people who hear my music to get the feeling that anything goes.