Saddling up to the nearby bar, I ordered a drink and reached for my wallet. All around me, the speakers were radiating the sounds of this angelic voice, a tone of heart and soul that immediately stopped me in my tracks. I swung around and gazed up to the stage at the opening act. There she was, in all her melodic glory — Laura Reed.
Born in South Africa, raised in North Carolina, and currently based out of Nashville, Reed is — literally and figuratively — a breath of fresh air in an often stuffy and stale music industry. Where many acts are either carbon copies of their heroes or simply have talent but not an artistic identity of their own, Reed has soaked up all of her influences and molded herself into a powerhouse singer-songwriter — one that stands tall on her own when held up to the light of critics and audiences alike.
She harkens back to the golden era of Motown, blues and folk music, but also puts her own modern stamp on the essence of that music. What you see is what you get with Laura Reed, and what you get is a performer ready and willing to claim the bright lights of her destiny.
Garret K. Woodward: Nashville is well known for its country and rock roots. How do you fit in as a soul singer?
Laura Reed: Although Nashville is known for country, you’d be surprised these days how everything can “fit.” I never thought I would move from Atlanta to Nashville to make soul music, but it worked. Nashville has deep gospel roots, a deep songwriting tradition and my producer Shannon Sanders, who is based in Nashville, has been a soul music pioneer for years. Nashville cultivates that bridge between raw, rootsy soul and great lyrics.
GKW: When you’re in the moment, and your voice is fiery and silky all at once, what are you channeling?
LR: In those moments, I’m reliving the initial inspiration of the song. A song can be a three-minute script, a chance to really translate something raw to an audience. It can be a bit of an out-of-body or “holy ghost” moment when I’m completely committed and uninhibited to the song and feeling one with the audience. Sometimes it’s Zen and all sonic — that’s another sweet spot I'm rather reverent about.
GKW: You have one of the most driven and passionate careers I have possibly ever come across. Where does that determination come from? And what will be the light at the end of the tunnel for you, professionally and creatively?
LR: Thank you. I’ve felt called to perform, write, sing and share since I was very young. I never questioned my purpose once I recognized it, and that drives me. There is no second-guess or Plan B. I feel it’s important for me to push forward despite any setbacks and fulfill my potential. The light at the end of the tunnel for me is to exist in a space where I’m able to explore all my ideas — musically, artistically, and visually — record them, share them, and perform them to their full potential around the world. I want to pair this mission with philanthropy and inspire our youth to also recognize their purpose and mentor on how one can completely commit to that path and it’s fulfillment.
GKW: In an era of studio tricks, what does is mean to you to be able to put out a musical product that is not only raw and real, but also true and pure in this modern world of gimmicks and false artistic substance?
LR: I take that as a big compliment as it is often a battle keeping the integrity of one’s sound and identity in a world of gimmicks and insatiable consumption. It could be no other way for me, and those I work with — authenticity is the objective. We wanted to release a complete cohesive project with a message that would be timeless. That’s what I want from music these days personally, and what I want to also create.
GKW: What do you want the listener to experience at one of your shows? What do you want them to walk away feeling and thinking?
LR: I want a listener to experience the music as they need it in that moment in their life. I want them to feel like they were getting the message straight from an untampered source and it fill them with joy, growth, and inspiration. Music can be real medicine if done right and valued — that is my greatest hope.
Want to go?
Acclaimed Nashville soul singer Laura Reed will perform on Friday, Jan. 22, at the Asheville Music Hall. Preach Jacobs and members of the Secret B-Sides will open. Doors at 9 p.m. Showtime is 10 p.m. Ages 21 and over. Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 day of show, which can be purchased at www.ashevillemusichall.com. For more information on Reed and her latest record, ‘The Awakening,’ click on www.laurareed.com.
1 BearWaters Brewing (Waynesville) will host The Darren Nicholson Band (Americana/bluegrass) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21.
2 The “Wine Smackdown” benefit for ARF and The Community Table will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, at Evolution Wine Kitchen in Sylva.
3 Smoky Mountain Coffee Roasters (Waynesville) will host Sam Lewis (country/soul) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21. All donations will benefit Head Start of Haywood and Jackson County.
4 The “Robert Burns Dinner” Scottish celebration will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, in the Tartan Hall at the Franklin Presbyterian Church.
5 Tipping Point Brewery (Waynesville) will host a Disco Night with DJ Hurley at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22.