Jesse Reid grew up in the 80s. Luckily, he didn''t hang on to most of what the 80s created. He threw away his pastel and fluorescent clothing years ago. That was about the time he started playing guitar. Fronting numerous bands in his high school days, he put his vocal chords through a bit of torture trying to gain a little bit of range. Screaming at the top of his lungs late at night in his parents house was a near-daily ritual, which, surely, the neighbours were concerned might actually be ritualistic in a different sense altogether. Bloodied and bruised, stitched up, and sorted out, he hit the road. He traveled across the country with a ragtag group of misfits, doing menial tasks for a few dollars a day. He was struck by the western beauty of his country. He was in awe of the skies in the prairies. He was sick from eating unknown berries in northern Ontario...
When he finally emerged from the outhouse that was life at that time, he decided a change was in order. Though music was in his heart, he managed to stifle its call. He had the sea in his veins (literally-he cut himself open on Saltspring Island on a broken bottle and the sea water stung like a bitch). But less literally, numerous members of his family had been sailors. After a long time of wearing out shoe leather on Canada''s long highways, it was time to go to sea. Jesse spent 8 years sailing around the world. He visited more than 50 countries and managed to somehow get paying gigs in some of them. He says of playing in Malta, "hell, they paid me $700 US. The place was full of American yachtsmen who were watching a football game on the satellite TV that was placed right above my head onstage, giving me the illusion that everyone was watching me. I still don''t know how I feel about that actually." He was arrested in a few far-flung places as well; taken in by the police in Venice for not having a VHF radio license, thrown out of South Africa for trespassing and hanging a banner on the continent''s only nuclear power station. He stared down the harpoon of Japanese whalers off Antarctica, putting his body between graceful, intelligent beauty and the death ships that stalk them. His activist past led him to where he now sits. A little more wise to the ways of the world. A little less judgemental, perhaps, having seen the everyday struggle of so many cultures.
He writes songs now. Songs about everyday people. Songs about everyday happenings. Songs about the way things seemed to work out for the worst when you''re never home and spend your life at sea. He''s recorded 2 records. His first, titled From Her Steps, was recorded in the basement of a friend''s house in St. Catharines, Ontario, during a few whirlwind sessions that appeared out of nowhere. "I ran into this guy Roger Marin, who was at the time playing guitar for Fred Eaglesmith. Now, this was in North Carolina, where I was healing a wounded heart, and helping a friend build his house. Roger told me after their show that night, that when I get back to Canada, to call him up, and we''ll make a record. Well, that''s pretty much what we did. Simple as that." Reid played as often as he could, hitting bars around Ontario, even playing the great, and now sadly gone, Tivoli Theatre in Hamilton, Ontario. He also took to the road with Roger Marin and his band playing across the province and into Manitoba, where they were at the Dauphin Country Fest as well as in Texas where they travelled around the entire state, including a show at the legendary Gruene Hall, where the worn floorboards have seen the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett and Stevie Ray Vaughn.
All during this time, Reid had been putting pen to paper, getting as much new material down as possible. Exorcising demons from the past, all the while trying to keep a sense of humour about everything. "It wasn''t easy. I had no real job after I quit sailing. I was playing for free drinks at the bar just to have somewhere to go at night," he recalls depressingly. In 2005, he and Marin got together again to lay down the initial tracks of what was to become Gravelly Bay, Reid''s new album. "It took us over a year to get it all done. I didn''t want to rush anything. We did a song here and there...layed down a track here and there. Had people sit in for sessions when they weren''t out on the road touring. It was a real organic process. We let it all happen in its own way. I felt way too rushed on the first record, and maybe on the second one I should''ve been more organized, but Hell, I don''t know...there''ll be a third one sometime soon, and I''m sure I''ll attack from a totally different angle on that one. Thing is, I''m not big on being in the studio. I''d rather be on the stage" Well, whether he dislikes the studio or not, the audience loves it.
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