By James Barker, Staff Writer
One of my favorite recent discoveries is Scottish singer-songwriter Roseanne Reid. Her debut album Trails in 2019 featured openly LGBTQ+ lyrical content across a stunning backdrop of Americana, folk and country sounds, brought to life by Reid’s remarkable voice (receiving praise – and a guest appearance – from no less than Steve Earle.) Now Reid is back with her new EP Horticulture.
Horticulture continues to mix more folk and acoustic elements into Reid’s Americana sound. Whereas Trails evoked vivid characters, here the emphasis is on mood and atmosphere. In particular “Tentsmuir Sky,” which reflects the peace of being in nature. Reid says the song “tries to capture the magic of a place which has offered me both escape from, and reconnection with the world”.
Yet in an EP focused on nature and atmosphere, in only four songs Reid explores an impressive range of emotions. “Passing Through”, which sounds the most traditionally country with its guitar picking and harmonica, gives a sense of intimacy and warmth. “Fly High” gives a potent and wistful sense of nostalgia, loss and letting go. “You Underestimate Me” is a statement of strength, and its lyric “a quiet revolution” may be the best way to describe the way this rootsy folk music packs a mighty emotional punch.
I got the opportunity to interview Reid about Horticulture, how she approaches her music (and even a cheeky question about Dolly Parton!) Reid also gave us exclusive access to a live performance of ‘You Underestimate Me’ from the Americana Music Association UK Festival 2021 earlier this year. (At bottom.)
How would you describe the genre and sound of your music?
I think it’s somewhere between Americana, roots and folk music. It treads the line between all three. You can definitely hear there’s country influences and country elements to what I do but I think it’s closer to Americana and roots music than country.
I definitely get that from listening to your music. Something you’ve spoken about in interviews is the Scottish and Irish folk influence, is that something that you’ve tried to explore a bit more on this new EP?
Yeah it’s definitely something that I think was fairly absent from the debut album. I don’t think you can really hear Celtic influences on that, but with this EP doing it myself, and it’s not even a conscious thing I think it’s just the way it’s come out.
There’s definitely more of a Celtic, Scots, Irish folk sound to it and it’s something I want to try and incorporate more into the second album as well. I don’t just want to try it for one EP and leave it there, I want to explore further if I can.
What was it like recording the new EP?
It’s been enjoyable to do because there’s been no time constraints and it wasn’t planned. It wasn’t like we’ve got an idea for an album and we’ve got two months to get the whole thing done, this was a completely home written, home recorded project. The idea behind it and the initial motivation was just to try and keep producing music, during the time where life stuff is completely off the table and the second album was inevitably going to be delayed after everything that’s happened.
I thought what is something that I can do that will keep me being creative, that will force me to explore new territories, home recording, and will allow me to create my own sound. There’s no producer on board for this, there’s no other people involved, other than Dave Eringa who mixed and mastered it and Graham Cole who contributed a couple of instrumental parts, but it was a pretty solo based project.
How would you describe the sound of the new EP and how would you compare it to your first album?
The sound of this EP is quite folky, it’s very singer-songwriter, acoustic, rootsy, there is Americana in there, but I’d say it’s probably more folk than Americana, to be perfectly honest. Compare that to the debut album and you had a full band on it, Motown influences, it had country, it had lots going on. With this EP I think it’s been a much simpler sound that’s emerged, it’s very scaled back and it’s just me and the guitar for the most part.
You mentioned that you’re working on a second album, do you know what you want to do with that, are you thinking of using some of the sound from this EP or will you take it in another direction entirely?
I’m going to take a large part of what I’ve done with the EP and try to incorporate it into the second album. I think we’re going to do it differently this time, and by that I mean I don’t think it will be done in the traditional sense of being in a studio with a band and a producer. I want to get it recorded this year and I think with the fluid situation with COVID, you have to adapt so I think we’re going to do a lot of it remotely. I’m going to record my vocals and guitar in the studio over a couple of days and get overdubs added as we go. It will be a very different experience to the first album but in terms of sound, I would like to take a lot of what I capture in “Horticulture” and try and get it on the album as well, because I love doing it and I’m proud of it.
This year you performed virtually at Americana Music Association UK festival 2021, what’s your experience been of Americana and country scenes in the UK?
It’s been a fascinating experience and a fascinating journey to see it develop the way it has. When I was starting out, which was close to 10 years ago now there certainly wasn’t an Americana scene. There were lots of people that did it, but now we have a central meeting point, for me that’s what the UK Americana Association is. You’ve got the center point and it’s quite an established thing now. When I first started there wasn’t really a sense of there’s a home for this and there’s a way you can collaborate with other people.
It felt very solitary in a lot of ways when I started doing it so I think it’s an incredibly healthy thing to have a scene like we have over here. The UK has such a rich history musically anyway and culturally. I think it’s a brilliant thing because I think it’s quite easy to just associate Americana and country with America, but there’s a huge appetite for it over here, and there’s a huge breadth of talent, people that are doing it across the UK. It’s just been great to see that evolve and to see that go from strength to strength, it’s been a really cool thing to be a part of.
Who were your country or Americana influences and in terms of the current industry now, who do you see as your contemporaries and people who are doing the kind of music that you really like today?
There’s been a lot. When I think of my original influences there’s people like Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt, really strong songwriters. Dolly Parton’s a big one as well. You’ll struggle to find a songwriter that hasn’t been influenced by Dolly Parton in some shape or form, she’s that incredible. I don’t think we’ll ever see another songwriter like her, totally unique actually in a lot of ways. It was people like that, people that have a really strong back catalogue of original songs, that’s the people who I gravitate towards.
In terms of the UK scene and contemporaries now, I think people like Rob Vincent and Danny Nickels are coming out with really strong material. I’ve done a couple of gigs with Rob and I’ve seen Danny live as well. They’re just very, very authentic performers. They’re the artists I’m drawn towards but they’re the people I’m drawn towards as well.
One thing that’s struck me about your music, a number of your songs have openly LGBTQ+ lyrical content, but in a very unassuming way, that just felt naturally part of the country, Americana landscape. How has that been received by fans and was that something you were conscious of doing or was that something that just happened naturally?
I would say it’s always been very natural. It’s never something I’ve taken a step back from and gone “is this the way I want to move forward, do I want to be so open about it, do I want to be so honest about it”. it’s just been here, because if you’re not putting everything you have into your songs for me there’s no point, that’s how I express myself. It needs to be honest and it needs to be vulnerable to a large extent, I think as well.
I’ve been very fortunate and I’ve not had a lot of bad experiences in terms of doing gigs singing songs about other women and someone’s said something off the cuff, to me. I can count the times that’s happened on one hand through all the gigs I’ve done. I don’t think I’ve ever been put off by anything that’s happened. I love singing about other women as well, it’s not like it ever has to be forced, it’s not like it’s ever inauthentic, it’s just what I do and I love doing it. It’s cathartic for me. I think if it ever stopped being that I would reconsider and I would re-evaluate it, but I can’t see that happening, to be honest, it’s such a big part of what I do.
When I’ve had conversations with people about country scenes outside of the US, I’m interested on your thoughts on whether the UK scene is independent from the US country scene or if some of the industry barriers are imported over to the UK scene as well?
I’d say in terms of the UK scene it is very open and it’s a very tolerant community. I think it is quite an entity in itself, and there are influences from Nashville and you can hear that, and you can see that, but for me you take all the great bits from Nashville. It’s probably easy for me to say this as a white woman, but I’ve not had any interactions or issues with conservative opinions or “you can’t do this because you’re that or you can’t make this progress, because you’re that”. But again, that’s from a very singular point of view and that’s from a very privileged point of view, but from my experience the UK scene is very open, it’s very tolerant and it’s very inclusive.
Was there anything else that you wanted to add about the new EP and is there anything that you specifically wanted to say to Country Queer readers?
I’m very excited to get it out, there’s definitely a lot of anxiety around it, because it’s a solo project for the most part. I’m excited for listeners to hear a different side to what I do and a more stripped back collection of songs.
And to Country Queer readers, just thank you so much for the support. It’s fantastic to have a base for artists, like myself, to communicate with and touch base with. To have that really exciting support system behind you as an artist is not something to take for granted, so I appreciate everything you guys are doing and I’m sure we all do.
One final last question as you mentioned Dolly Parton, what Dolly Parton song would you recommend that I listen to?
Personally, I love “Eagle When She Flies”, the Highwomen’s version of that is superb. I also love “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind?” I think there’s just been a new version of that released as well by Justin Townes Earle and Dawn Landes. Those are her strongest songwriting accomplishments for me and I love hearing other artists take them on as well, I think that’s really cool.
Horticulture is out April 30th on digital platforms with a limited vinyl release on June 25th. Reid will also be Opening for Teddy Thompson in 2022 in the UK more info and tickets here