We recently talked with the incredibly talented B. Reith about his new EP, Heart on My Sleeve. He was ever-so-kind to give us some time and share more about the stories behind it all. We hope you enjoy!
TDB: How did you get into music and what led you here?
B. Reith: “I grew up in a musical home, so it’s always been a part of my life. I didn’t necessarily know that I wanted to be an artist someday. I just grew up in a house in blue-collar/midwest Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I always loved singing and even started rapping in eighth grade. So I kind of had this hybrid of style and multi-genre appreciation and approach to music. I was going to college and actually finished college, but was making music just for fun on my own. My dad had a studio up in Milwaukee, but I took some of the gear he wasn’t using. I made an album to get me through college and keep me sane, basically. I realized I couldn’t pursue music full-time in Milwaukee; all the jobs were competitive, so why not do something I was good at? It took me until after college to feel the call, or courage, to take a shot.
I was kind of hitting a wall up there. I was performing at coffee shops and doing the best that I could. I had a small following up there, but that led me to ask around to who my dad knew. That randomly connected me to someone in Nashville, which opened the door to come down and visit Nashville. I had come and visited some publishing companies, a manager out in L.A., and different people. But for some reason, when I visited Nashville, Franklin, and this area, I just loved it. I felt called to move down here and see what would happen. The rest of it was pretty much building relationships over the years, and that led me to sign with Gotee Records. It was a journey from getting some exposure being signed, then back to independent, and then over the years just playing one show at a time. Some of them, momentum was a lot faster than others. That’s how I kind of entered into this world, you know?”
TDB: Yeah! Nashville is very easy to fall in love with.
B: “Yeah, it sucked me in for sure!”
TDB: You mentioned before how you have multi-genre influences, which makes me wonder how you developed the unique sound you’ve created?
B: “Yeah, great question. As a middle school kid, I was listening to pop radio; Michael Jackson, soulful R&B. (Early ’90’s hip hop, basically.) Specifically, over the years I really listened to a lot of Switchfoot back in the day. I really love Jon Foreman’s approach to his lyric writing and his way of making a listener feel what he’s saying without being cliché. Then, Mutemath, De’Angelo, Lauryn Hill… I’ll stop there! Just a huge database of John Mayer, stuff like that.”
TDB: What was the main idea you were hoping to get across with the new EP?
B: “The concept for me was that I wanted to capture the vulnerability of where I’ve been. The theme that I saw throughout the songs was feeling discouraged, overwhelmed, and disappointed… just dealing with those disappointments, but still finding the courage and the way to keep fighting and not lose my mind in the process. Heart on My Sleeve is kind of a way to say, ‘This is where I’m at, and this is a snapshot of me right now. I want to be vulnerable with this.’ But then, the musicality still being positive and fun without being like, ‘oh my goodness, I’m depressed now.’
Kind of the way fun, roller skating genre music is. Like, it feels good and I’m enjoying it, but underneath conveying that this is hard. As far as the recording process, it was very… I don’t want to do it this way again! *laughs* The way it went down was, I booked a session in 2014. I had a handful of songs and we tracked drums and bass. I got the foundation laid for the songs and multi-tracked guitars. Because I didn’t know the release date or how I was going to release them, it took a couple years. Finishing them was very frustrating. But, with the Pledge Campaign, I was just saying, ‘I want to get these out to my fan base!’ while getting the courage to say, ‘I want to put this out!’ It kind of gave me a deadline. It’s like, songs are never done, I could work on them forever. I could change the mix of the snare like 80 times, but knowing they had to be finished gave me the peace to finish. I produced them, but I had musicians play on them. (Some of the guitar parts I played.) For the most part, I did the programming. (Of course, I got some mix engineers to make sure they sounded good.) I ended up mixing one of the songs myself.
TDB: How did the bass lines come about in “Roll With the Punches” and “Winning Feeling”?
B: So, with “Winning Feeling”, what happened was this: On the three other songs that have bass, we tracked in a studio with a guy named Akil Thompson on bass and Lamar Carter was on drums. We came up with those at the studio. I was in such a rush with “Winning Feeling” that I sent the track to Loren Clark and he tracked the song from his house. I had a reference bass in there, but he added his personal touch and feel to it. That was one of the things where I wasn’t a part of it, I just got it and put it in the session. For “Roll With the Punches”, Akil kind of came up with that in the studio. Watching that come to life was awesome because the song is there but each part that comes to life makes it new again, you know?
TDB: What made you want to slow it down more on songs like “On My Own”?
B: That was one I had come up with a few years ago, but I wanted to put it on there because it really fit with the theme of Heart on My Sleeve. To come out and say, “if I never wrote another song, would you still love me?” This was the album to say that on because this is an album directly to my fans, to the people who have been waiting for music. There’s still a lot of marketing to do for this EP, but the statement was perfect for this context. Saying, “Hey guys, can I just be honest? This is hard and I can’t do this by myself.” I just found the tempo on piano. Most of the songs are a discovery with the first line or the chorus. From there is the hard work of being like, “Okay now, what is this, and how do I write it?” But that first discovery just kind of came out in that first line.
TDB: So, what’s your plan for the future?
B: Right now, I’m in the process of booking shows for the year. I’m still independent, and I’m in relationships with people. The challenge is to keep moving forward. I will be touring this year, there aren’t any official dates this year. You can quote me on this, but make sure it says it MAY be a less-is-more approach. Instead of a country-wide tour of lights and production, it may be more of a stripped-down thing saying, “this is where I am right now and this is what it is.” So that’s all in the works. I’ve been writing a ton, and I don’t know what that means, I don’t know what release dates look like. But that’s what 2017 means, is definitely touring and playing those new songs. But I can’t put the details on it yet!
Special thanks to B. Reith for taking the time to speak with us. We cannot wait to see what’s coming!
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