Andy Reed quickly morphs from one musical role to another.
The Bay City pop-rock singer-songwriter seamlessly shifts from acclaimed producer to multi-instrumental collaborator to introspective artist on his latest soaring solo EP, Relay Vol. 2. It’s his second release in a growing series of Relay EPs dedicated to highly-personal, contemplative songs written amidst other projects.
“The songs themselves are a little bit different than I typically write; I am from the power pop school of The Beatles and The Beach Boys. Over the years, I’ve worked with so many artists like Michael Robertson, J.D. Dominowski and Amy Petty, and this is more on singer-songwriter side, and I love that kind of music,” Reed said.
“My goal with this was to be a little more Dawes and be a little more Jason Isbell, but in the background my McCartney-isms are still going to come through, and that kind of stuff too because that’s who I am. I tried to think of it a little bit more from the storyteller’s perspective, and I just wanted to flex that muscle to see if I could do it.”
Reed strongly flexes his songwriting muscle on five poignant tracks about long-lost friends, newfound love, sci-fi journeys, family struggles and childhood nostalgia. He wrote and recorded the reflective Relay, Vol. 2 earlier this year in his home-based Reed Recording Company studio while producing projects for other Michigan artists and working on an upcoming album for The Legal Matters.
“They were all kind of recent personal things that I observed, and it’s definitely my most personal record. I wanted to write new songs because I’ve already handed over the songs for this newest Legal Matters record that we’re gonna do. It’s all the stuff I love about music in a little five-song thing,” said Reed, who played all the instruments on Relay, Vol. 2.
Answering the Call for Ennio Floyd
Reed beautifully opens Relay, Vol. 2 with a shocked response to unexpectedly hearing from a former love interest. “Answer the Call” blends drifting electric guitars, dreamy acoustic strums and soft drums as Reed reflects, “Build the perfect version of a life/Sometimes I can get in the way/Makes it harder each day/No looking back to try to make it right/We’re all better off in the end/Don’t even try to pretend/Seeing all that you took from me/Won’t make it better now/Wonder why you’d think of me at all/I won’t answer the call.”
“I have a buddy who recently went through a separation, and we were sitting together, and his ex called him, and so he saw the number flashing, and said, ‘Oh man, I wonder what that could be for?’ All these emotions just went through his head in like five seconds. What could this be? I was like, ‘Well, we’ve all felt that before.’ Someone calls you that you haven’t talked to in years. Did somebody die? Do they miss me? What is this all about? Don’t they remember they were a jerk to me?” Reed said.
Reed moves from one end of the romantic spectrum to the other on “His Love is Gonna Let You Down,” a country-rock ode to newfound love. The ‘70s California rock track features bluesy, Eagles-like electric guitars (think “Life in the Fast Lane”), light acoustic strums, propulsive drums and intermittent handclaps. Reed openly sings, “Making you mine was my personal agenda/So stunning and kind you always have a way it seems/To be the girl of my dreams/So c’mon and take my hand, and I’ll show you what I really mean.”
“The second song, ‘His Love is Gonna Let You Down,’ that’s when my wife and I met. She was still with another person at the time, and I hung around and was patient,” he said.
After exploring romantic relationships, Reed dreamily drifts into an intergalactic adventure on “Ennio Floyd,” an enterprising instrumental tribute to Italian film composer Ennio Morricone and Pink Floyd. Booming drums, crashing cymbals, bright astral synths, glistening acoustic strums and swirling electric guitars permeate the mind as listeners imagine their own sci-fi exploration.
“I love film music, and I love scores. My working title for the song was ‘Ennio Floyd,’ and I thought, ‘Well, cool, I think I’ll use that as the title.’ I wrote that initially thinking I was going to put words to it, and I loved the track so much I even tried to write a couple things,” said Reed, who’s also composed scores for documentaries and wants to release an instrumental project.
“I sang a demo of it, and I thought, ‘Well, I’m just ruining this thing, so I better take my voice off.’ As a producer, I’m doing so much instrumental music for people’s songs, and that’s such a part of who I am as well, so I thought it fit as a nice little thing.”
Holding Your Hair Back for The Rainbow Connection
Next, Reed returns to reality on “Hold Your Hair Back,” a peaceful, loving ode to his parents about beating cancer. Lingering proggy synths, upbeat acoustic strums and delicate maracas emotionally embrace listeners as Reed sadly sings, “The second time the kids were gone/Trying to fit in where they belong/Let’s not burden them/We can do this on our own/We did our jobs, and we sure are proud/Even when they play their music loud/Maybe one day they will tell our tale in song.”
“This song is about my mother and father being together through three bouts of cancer. My dad has been the caretaker, and that’s the first song I actually did for the EP. When I came downstairs, I’m like, ‘You know, I never write this open-hearted kind of thing,’ and this is really close to the vest. I wrote it just to send to him and say, ‘Hey, I wrote a song for you guys about your story,’ and that got the gears going a little bit,” Reed said.
Reed magically closes Relay, Vol. 2 with a whimsical cover of “The Rainbow Connection,” an inspirational track written by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher for “The Muppet Movie” in 1979. Originally performed by Kermit the Frog (voiced by the late Jim Henson), “The Rainbow Connection” features vivid acoustic strums, upbeat piano, pounding drums and echoing electric guitars Reed sings, “Who said that every wish/Would be heard and answered/When wished on the morning star/Somebody thought of that/And someone believed it/And look what it’s done so far.”
“I initially did that for a Paul Williams tribute record that came out last year. When I got asked to do the Paul Williams thing, I was like, ‘Well, I don’t know much about him,’ and they were like, ‘We want you to do The Rainbow Connection.’ Then I said, ‘Yes, I can do that,’” Reed said.
Becoming Reed Recording Company
Recording “The Rainbow Connection” also fondly reminds Reed of his musical beginnings. As an avid Beatles, Tom Petty and Traveling Wilburys fan, he started playing guitar and writing songs at age 18 and later became a bassist for The Verve Pipe. By the early 2000s, Reed released his own music and developed a strong penchant for recording music.
Six years later, he opened Reed Recording Company in his Bay City home after friends inundated him with producing, recording and mixing requests. Today, Reed’s recorded with hundreds of talented artists, including The Steve Taylor Three, Amy Petty, J.D. Dominowski, Escaping Pavement, Mark Jewett, The Hangabouts, Michael Robertson, Shawn Butzin and other Michigan acts.
“I was working four days a week recording people, and it was never my intent to start a studio. It was all accidental, and I realized I really loved doing this, and I wanted to do more. I just started digging in on my education and learned working on tape machines and digital, and I would just sit down here and try stuff. I still feel guilty at the end of the session when I have to ask people for money. I would do this for nothing if I didn’t have bills,” Reed said.
Outside of producing and recording artists, Reed has built an impressive catalog of his own music, including this year’s Echoes: Remembering the Music of Tom Petty tribute album with 23 Michigan artists, 2018’s Make Your Move with brother Jason Reed, 2016’s An Introduction to Andy Reed retrospective project and The Legal Matters Conrad album, and 2015’s dark, acoustic and emotive Relay, Vol. 1 EP.
“I thought with this ‘Relay’ series I’ll do a bunch of different EPs that are musical blips. With these last two, it’s been a hand-off, and maybe my instrumental project will be Relay, Vol. 3. Initially, that was my way of doing a bunch of different things. I’m glad people dig it, and I was doing it for myself. I didn’t say, ‘Hey, I’m gonna release an EP,’ I just did it, put it out and that was it,” Reed said.