Reid Genauer: Dust Never Sleeps (Ten Years On)
Today we look back 10 years to Jeff Waful’s conversation with Reid Genuaer from January 2003.
Derek Trucks with Reid Genauer & The Assembly of Dust, Peekskill, NY, 5/31/03- photo by Warren Churgin
Many are familiar with Reid Genauer from his days with Strangefolk, a band whose popularity snowballed in the late nineties. When the group headlined the 1999 Gathering of the Vibes, performing in front of more than 10,000 people, it seemed that things were falling into place perfectly. However, Reid’s gut was telling him otherwise and in a bold move he decided to leave the band and return to school to obtain his MBA. That was more two years ago.
Today, Genauer suddenly finds himself right where he wants to be, although his journey was not planned. His new band, Reid Genauer and the Assembly of Dust, nonchalantly formed in the summer of 2001, almost by accident. The line-up features a talented collection of mutual friends and touring veterans – including keyboardist Nate Wilson and bassist John Leccese of Percy Hill, guitarist Adam Terrell of Groove Child and drummer Andy Herrick of Moon Boot Lover. After a few initial gigs, (which were "fucking awesome" according to Leccese) a few more dates were booked and soon an album was in the works. The disc, The Assembly of Dust, blends Reid’s poetic lyricism with earthy arrangements, accomplished chops and studio perks such as glossy gospel back-up vocals. After the recent success of singer/songwriters such as John Mayer and Jack Johnson, it will be interesting to see if the mainstream will embrace the record; it’s certainly in the realm of possibilities. The disc hits stores March 15 and is currently available online. It can also be purchased at any of the band’s live shows.
JW: Things seem to be going pretty well for you these days with a solid new band and a new album out this week. When you left Strangefolk, was this what you envisioned?
RG: It really wasn’t. It was something that just kind of evolved. I didn’t have a real, astute musical vision when I left Strangefolk. I had just sort of had it on all fronts and I slowly but surely picked up the reins again and jumped back into the saddle. It was really a gradual thing and then all the pieces started to make sense. The whole prospect of making music started to make sense again.
JW: Take us back to when you first started to put the band together. You started playing music again at an open mic night, right?
RG: Yeah. The frustration for me, prior to leaving Strangefolk was a really draining, rigorous tour schedule and feeling sort of like my destiny was not in my own control; musically, organizationally, geographically and financially. Those were all things that sort of drove me to go my separate way. Going back to school was a great thing and an empowering thing, emotionally, and it gave me some time to just sort of figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I was definitely down in the dumps about not playing live music. That had been the bulk of my adult life, spent chasing the dream and it was like a point of light on the horizon. As destructive as it was in some ways, it was really a focal point and a beacon in other ways.
The first time I played again after I left Strangefolk, I went to an open mic in Ithaca. I was watching a couple guys play in front of me and they were probably a good ten years younger than me. I remember sitting there watching this duo and thinking it reminded me a lot of me and [Strangefolk guitarist] Jon Trafton in college. I just found it amusing, their whole persona and the songs that they were writing. It really, really reminded me of myself. So they got done and I got up and did my three songs in front of like five people.
JW: Did you go there planning to perform or were you just inspired by the duo?
RG: I went there to play. I went with like two friends. There was literally like ten people in the place and the [house engineer] was like giving me my three song minimum and telling me how to plug my guitar in and stuff. So I did my three songs and he pretty much pulled the plug on me. When I was done, that kid that had gone before me came up and before he even spoke he lifted his shirt and as an undershirt he had a Strangefolk shirt on. That was like…it gave me the chills. I was with friends from school who didn’t really know much about what I did prior and didn’t really fully comprehend the extent to which I’d been playing music. So that kind of blew their mind. It blew my mind.
RG: Yeah, it really blew my mind. It was just a neat moment. It was Step One. Then I figured I’d just book my own gig there and kind of show them who’s boss [laughs]. So I booked this gig at the ABC Cafn Ithaca. It holds all of 100 people. So I played the gig and I actually sold it out in advance. People came from all over the Northeast. It blew me away the amount of support that was still out there. It went over really well. I felt oddly complete doing it again. It just gave me such a high. It just felt right. I still hadn’t made any divine plans, but I continued to do a few sporadic solo gigs. The culmination of those was when I finally headlined the Wetlands as a solo act in late May of 2001. That was a coming home in a lot of ways. That was a big gig for me as a solo acoustic guy and I had spent so much time there with [Strangefolk] so that was neat.
JW: And then that summer you hooked up with some of the guys that are in your band now?
RG: Yeah, that summer I was in New Hampshire and I had been hanging out with the guys from Percy Hill a little bit, socially. I had their manager Al Ostroy book me some gigs for the end of the summer. So those were all set and in the interim I was at the Stone Church, which is a really cool venue in New Hampshire, and in talking with the owner there I found out they had a cancellation in like two weeks time from when I spoke to him. So I decided to take the gig. About a week later, I went to see Percy Hill play and I sat in for a tune and I had spoken to John [Leccese] a little bit and I ran into Adam Terrell who I had known through his other musical endeavors. I mentioned that I was playing at the Stone Church and the idea popped in my head to have him come sit in with me. We practiced one night and he learned like ten tunes and then came and sat in with me. Somewhere in that timeframe, I had also spoken with John and he had told me that if I wanted him to come play bass when I did any of my solo shows, he would. At that point I kind of said, "Well, shit. We’ve got four gigs booked. We’ve got guitar, bass and songs. All we need is a drummer and we’ve got a band." So, those guys all knew Andy Herrick real well and I knew him fairly well from mutual paths and so we called him and he was game. We practiced two nights and went out and played those four gigs and they were just explosive. I mean it was totally, totally magical. There’s one tape from the Middle East in Boston and Leccese thanks everybody and says, "This is fucking awesome" and it just was. So, from those four gigs, I think I booked another four and I decided to make an album. We sort of put a stake in the ground and booked some studio time in February.
JW: It seems like there’s a certain duality that you were trying to achieve with the album. The songs are concise and catchy, but also stretch out nicely in the live setting.
RG: Right. It’s a trick to play in both worlds. My first priority was to make a record that was a sound record that stood on its own for the presentation. My first priority was to make a well crafted, well structured, succinct studio album. It’s really a trick to do that on one hand and then go out and have those songs have the elasticity and the strength to expand to unknown horizons. As we put this band together, a lot of it was fortuitous and it was the right place at the right time. But also, I looked at the fact that I had a lot at stake here. You don’t get two tries at reinserting yourself. If you come out and you suck, that’s the end. You suck.
JW: Right. You only have one debut as a solo artist.
RG: You really do, especially when you’ve got some sort of reputation to live up to. I was really conscious about the people that I was getting involved with and there was a huge element of risk when we threw this thing out into the world. I felt like you can only do what you can do, but the first step is making sure you have great players in your band and that they’re great people. That is the case with the all the people that I "assembled."