It is a good time to be Reid Genauer. With a new Assembly of Dust record, Sun Shot, recently released, and the long-desired reunion of the original Strangefolk members in full swing, one can understand it if the singer/songwriter/guitarist feels a bit unbalanced these days in more ways than one. However, despite the challenges of juggling multiple careers, the musician seems completely relaxed, focused, humorous, and refreshingly modest about everything going on all at once. Indeed, Genauer has balance and direction.
This isn’t always an easy thing to do as Jambands.com caught up with Genauer after a whirlwind series of dates with AOD found the artist suddenly in Austin, Texas with little sleep and the opportunity to discuss his new album with that band, while ruminating on the Strangefolk reunion, and how exactly Genauer puts “creativity to work.” Our modus operandi at the site is to feature those musicians who somehow have managed to forge their own path in an often cookie-cutter music industry. Genauer certainly ranks among the forefront of that vision with an endearing ability to write some fairly timeless tunes, while playing numerous memorable gigs during these past two decades—with Strangefolk, AOD, or, as a solo act. The new AOD album, Sun Shot has a poignant ability to gather together material from various timeframes into one cohesive package. One could say the same thing about Genauer as he continues to create memorable music.
RR: The last time we spoke was around the December holidays in 2010. Obviously, a lot has happened in your life and career since then. I was working on the laptop, and had various tabs open while doing research, and I felt that was probably your life—multiple tabs of work going on all at once. You have two professions, you have your home life, you have the Strangefolk reunion, you have Assembly of Dust, and you also do solo acoustic work.
RG: Yeah, I have a lot of tabs open, for sure, man (laughter)—literally and figuratively. When I turn on my browser, one, two, three, four, five (laughs)—the essential tabs that have to be open.
RR: Let’s tackle some of those essential tabs—the solo acoustic set, which is mentioned on the AOD site?
RG: I don’t know that it’s up on iTunes or not, but it was part of the Kickstarter campaign [which helped fund the Sun Shot album production and release]. One of the things we offered was, I think, ten tracks from a solo acoustic show in Philly. I know it’s for sale on our web site. I am not sure if it has made it up on iTunes yet or not. It’s called My Name is Forgettable [after a line from the song “Cabin John], and it’s just me strumming on a guitar. At some point, it is one of the things I’d like to do, really do, just a solo acoustic record with next to nothing, if not just me and a guitar, sort of like Stephen Stills. I know he did one of those at one point. It’s cool to hear him in that context. Mine is just a bootleg, more or less a glorified bootleg. But, it’s another shade.
RR: You mentioned Kickstarter, and AOD had a successful campaign that was used to fund Sun Shot. How did you initiate that process, and now that it has been somewhat completed, what are your thoughts about using Kickstarter as an important tool for single acts and/or bands?
RG: When it first started happening, I was very interested. I thought it was a great idea, but then, it felt like maybe not something I’d be interested in, and then I sort of lost that, and, of course, Amanda Palmer had so much success with it this year right around the time we were thinking about how to put the record out. I don’t know. I guess, for me, I’ve never had a particularly strong affinity for record labels. Most of the records I’ve done have been independent in one way, shape, or form, or released by an independent label. After doing this for so many years, me and the folks around me all understand what this process is, so it really just comes down to record labels being a bank, more or less. I think that is certainly their essential role. To be fair, there are benefits to have people who are experts in the field helping you, but it’s a trade off, right? You are entering this bureaucratic mess, if you will, so Kickstarter got increasingly more attractive from that perspective.
So we did it, and it was a ton of fun. There was a kind of gaming component of it as to whether or not—it was like watching a boxing match, almost, trying to figure out (laughs) if you are going to make it twelve rounds. The cool thing was the unexpected, which was the money and the process becomes a catalyst for revealing and highlighting and strengthening the connective tissues between you and your fans, in particular, your die hard fans. And, also, it provides a tool in activating the fans, if you will, because they become emotionally invested in each step of the process and interested in the record in a way that they wouldn’t be otherwise. Even as a die hard fan—you get the music, and you think, “I either like this, or I don’t,” but, you are pre-vested, if you will, or pre-invested emotionally, so I think when the record hits, there is a shared pride like there is a new baby in the family-kind of vibe. (laughs) It was great for that.
RR: Did that influence the 50,000 downloads in 50 days decision in any way? I wrote down a number a little while ago, and it’s already surpassed that by several downloads just in a the short time we’ve been on the phone. That’s impressive.
RG: Yeah, it totally is. We picked a number that we felt like we could be whole on. It doesn’t cover all of it, but the bulk of it—certainly the recording costs. On a personal level, I really make music to share the music, and it’s never been about money for me. To know that we weren’t going to be struggling to pay it off was a huge burden to be off the shoulders to begin with, and, then, it liberated us to do that. It’s been paid for, and I’d rather have people share the music and know the music and help us celebrate it than scrape a few pennies together on it.
RR: The recording of Sun Shot itself—a couple of significant things come to mind: the importance of having Ryan Freeland engineer the album, and the studio, One East in New York City.
RG: We’ve worked primarily with a guy named Josh Pryor, and he’s a friend and a childhood friend of Adam Terrell. I expect we’ll do a lot more with Josh. He’s insanely gifted, like insanely gifted. I’ve never seen such an attention to detail. He’s a perfectionist. But, there were a couple of things. One, he is super busy; he does everything from web programming to engineering. Two, I had listened to these records that I love so much and you can hand anyone a reference and say, “I want it to sound like this,” and I’m trying to think of a good parallel, and this is the one that comes to mind: if you look at tennis players, they’re all doing it basically the same way—serving a ball, hitting a groundstroke, hitting a backstroke, and no matter how much you say, “I want to play like so and so,” they have their own style or approach to being a professional in that arena. I think there are a handful of people who still…I think lots of people really respect the production quality of the original recordings, the height of rock ‘n’ roll in the early to mid-70s, but re-creating it is just like, I don’t know, I think it’s just like serendipitous, back to the [tennis] serve, it’s like someone who holds their wrist a fraction of a degree differently and that’s the effect, right? Ryan is a student of it, and he has his own approach, and, so, I don’t know, it’s a quality that I’ve always loved. It struck me; I’m a fan of Ray LaMontagne, and it struck me that all of his records really have that. Not only does his songwriting harken back to those times, but I think of him as a Stephen Stills-like figure of our generation. The music’s got that, and the production quality always did.
So, when I was thinking about this record, and just how the last one was engineered, both musically and technically, it had to be, we had all of these disparate studios and different people. When I die, Some Assembly Required —my hand will be sticking out of the earth with that in it; Josh made that happen. But what we decided was that there was no way we were going to top that, so let’s not even try. Let’s do the opposite, and be very basic in our approach. And that’s Ryan’s deal. He doesn’t cut and paste. He has you play the tune, hit the take, and he tries to capture it as accurately as he can and really capture the room.
You can listen back to those old records, and you have the sense that you’re standing in the room with these people because it has the sense of space and presence. So, he nailed it. He absolutely nailed it. I don’t know. It’s just a cool sound, we’re really proud, and it seems to be resonating with people. It’s also mellower than anything we’ve ever done; there’s a lot more ballads. With a few exceptions—there are guys who just want to be hit over the head with face-melting guitar solos—people seem to be really psyched about it.
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