We had the pleasure of interviewing musician Christopher Reyne. Please read this brief biography provided by Christopher followed by our interview. For more information, visit his website at christopherreyne.com.
Christopher Reyne is a New England-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a clear vision of how he wants his compositions to make you feel. His recordings are lush, layered soundscapes with lyrics set to them that as Mod City put it, “feel like honest journal entries put to music.” When he takes them to the stage however, he strips them down and allows them to speak for themselves, exposing his songwriting and musical abilities completely. His debut album ‘A Stranger at the Wheel’, recorded and mixed over a span of two years in his studio apartment and mastered by Doug Van Sloun (Bright Eyes, She & Him, First Aid Kit), has received high praise from music lovers and critics alike.
What was the process of becoming a musician like for you?
When I was nine, my father bought himself a cheap strat-and-amp starter pack hoping to learn how to be a rocker. After a few months of lessons and frustration, he set the guitar down and announced that he was through. Not five minutes later I picked it up off of its stand, brought it down into the basement and taught myself how to play the easiest song I could possibly think of: Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’. After that small accomplishment, all I wanted to do was play music.
Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
My main musical influences include The Beatles, Radiohead, Elliott Smith, Death Cab for Cutie, Elton John and Billy Joel among others. Non-musically, my influences range from Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg in the film world to Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway and William Shakespeare in the literary world. I also look up to actors Robin Williams and Bill Murray as well as artists Vincent van Gogh and Normal Rockwell, among so many others.
How has living in Portland influenced you creatively?
Portland nurtures artistic creativity more than any other place I’ve lived. There is always something or someone to be inspired by, and I think that was a great benefit while recording ‘A Stranger at the Wheel’. I can say for certain that the record would not have sounded the way it did had I not lived in Portland during the recording and production processes. Portland also has a very special feel to it, especially during the rainy months when the bulk of the production was done, and I feel like it came through in the recordings without me really even being conscious about it.
The lyrics to your songs are very vivid and personal. Which songs are most meaningful to you and why? What is it like performing them live?
Almost every song I write has some level of personal meaning. I write most of my songs as extensions of myself, but the songs that have the most meaning to me are ‘Put Down Your Fists’, ‘A Stranger at the Wheel’ and perhaps the most dear-to-me of them all, ‘Permanently Night’. The first two convey very strong feelings I have and want to instill in others; ‘Put Down Your Fists’ is my take on an anti-hate/war song and ‘A Stranger at the Wheel’ is my way of trying to tell everyone to take full control of their lives, thoughts, beliefs etc. ‘Permanently Night’ tops them because it’s essentially me in song form. I feel most comfortable late at night when nearly everyone else is asleep and all I’m left with are the stars in the night sky.
My delivery of the songs greatly depends upon where I’m performing them and who I’m performing them for. Often times it’s in a crowded bar where I’m just the background music, and I sort of just drone-out and play the songs casually. In the right setting where I know people are really paying attention and appreciating my performance however, the songs fill me up and I deliver them with as much feeling as possible. I really want to move people and strong songwriting is a huge part of that, but an emotional and honest delivery is absolutely essential.
How do you characterize your songs stylistically?
People tell me I sound like a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but I really don’t like to characterize or categorize my music to be honest. I think that my top four influences (The Beatles, Radiohead, Elliott Smith and Death Cab for Cutie) all manage to find their way into my compositions, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I sound like any one of those acts in particular. If I had to put a label on it, the closest genre categorization would be “indie”. I just really try to make each song different, and make them my own.
Can your songs be described as feminist? If so, how?
I’m not sure if any of my current works can specifically be described as feminist, but I feel that I absolutely write my songs with a very equalistic voice towards gender and race and am actually working on a tune right this moment that stresses that very subject. I don’t believe that there should be hard lines to define anything or anyone; hardly anything in life is truly black-and-white. Growing up with great transgender friends as well as friends of every race and sexual preference has been a front row seat to just how terrible people can be to each other for so many trivial reasons. I feel that everyone, regardless of what gender they’re attracted to/identify with (if any at all) or what the color of their skin is, deserves the very same rights and treatment across the board, period. The sooner we all adapt this mentality, the sooner we can achieve this “world peace” that we’ve been talking about for so long. Anyone unwilling to adapt is part of the problem. I believe we’re making progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go.
You have done some great covers including “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths and “Movin’ Out” by Billy Joel. Do you have a favorite song to cover?
My absolute favorite song to cover right now is “Rhiannon” by Fleetwood Mac. The guitar riff is just incredibly fun to play, and on a good night with some tasty reverb I can get really expressive with the vocal delivery. It’s one of those songs that I can really feel and lose myself in performing. Buckingham/Nicks at their finest.
What are some of your interests outside of music?
When I don’t have an instrument in my hand (which is rare), I really love educating myself with literature and documentaries. I also enjoy traveling and spending quality time with friends and family when I have the opportunity.
What projects are you working on currently?
Right now I’m trying to chip away at a new solo EP, but am also working on a few musical collaborations here and there with some other artists as well. I may end up staring a secondary project in the near future as a vehicle for all of the songs I’ve written that wouldn’t quite fit on a “Christopher Reyne” album.
Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
My best advice is something you’ll hear said by many, many musicians: Do it because you truly love it. Do it because you’re passionate about it, because you have something to say and because you can’t possibly see yourself not doing it. Don’t ever do it for the money or the fame or the girls; that’s completely unrealistic and you’ll end up regretting it and giving up. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a break and you’ll be able to make a living at it.
I also would strongly urge you to try everything. Experiment, pick up new instruments and figure out how to play them or at least how they can fit into a sonic landscape with other instruments. Try playing things that sound impossible to learn, because eventually if you try hard enough you’ll learn it and be that much better of a player because of it.