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Harvey Reid Interview With Sarah Nachin 11/17/99

What musicians & singers have influenced you in your career (either directly or indirectly)?
I don't model myself after anyone in particular, and have a rather large list of artists whose work I admire. I have studied a lot of what came before me, and I approach folk and acoustic music like a classical musician, where there is a body of music and skills you study. I have songwriter heroes, guitar heroes, and I have gradually learned about more and more of the lesser-known artists. When I was young, I heard only what was available in mass culture, and I liked artists like Gordon Lightfoot, Paul Simon, Rolling Stones & Creedence Clearwater. I have also listened to classical music most of my life, and always loved John Williams and Julian Bream. I discovered Bluegrass at the age of 18, and fell in love with all the great players of steel-string guitar in the early 1970's, which included Doc Watson, David Bromberg, Leo Kottke, John Fahey, Norman Blake, among others. Following them led me to the next layer of people, and I think I enjoy Dick Gaughan, Nic Jones, and Archie Fisher as much as anyone. I also have always listened to country music and rockabilly, and am in a major Vern Gosdin phase lately, for example. I played only Bluegrass for about 8 years of my life, and of course like almost all of the great bluegrass bands. I also like Delta blues and gospel music.

What are your goals and plans for your musical career in the next year or so?
My goals are simply to keep doing what I have been doing, and to write and record more music while I can. It takes a long time to learn your craft, and learn how to make a living at it, and it is a pleasure to still like who I am and what I do and not feel the need to re-invent myself or chase after some new trend. I'm not the least bit jealous of the pop stars who always have to do that.
Do you have any advice or secrets to share with other musicians who want to be successful in the music business?
Ignore all the trends, don't chase markets, and play what is in your heart and soul. That's what people ultimately want from artists. Find your own sound and your own voice, and find the people who appreciate what you do, however few of them there may be. It's incredibly hard work to be an independent artist, and almost impossible to have a life outside of it. But the rewards are deep.

What interesting experiences have you had while touring?
Got 2 weeks? I've been doing this for 25 years. I have to admit, now that there are so may new people crowding into the acoustic music world, the competition for gigs is way up, and it is harder and harder to string together a nice tour with a sensible amount of travel between shows so you can have time and space for interesting experiences. There is a lot of traveling at breakneck pace and hurrying, and not a lot of time to savor the moments as they pass. I had a bottle of super glue (that I use to repair broken fingernails) leak in my pants pocket on an airplane this last week. That was interesting, to discover that I had glued my pants to my leg when I got up to go to the airplane restroom. There is nothing in the musician manual to tell you how to deal with that. From now on I am taking a small bottle of acetone with me. There are lots of little things that stand out. I played in rural Norway this summer at the peak of local strawberry season. I bought a pretty big box of these rather unremarkable looking berries to share with some other musicians there, and I ate the whole box. I could not stop. My fingers and my mouth were red, like a little boy. They were astonishingly good, like nothing I have ever eaten, and I like strawberries. That was a pleasant surprise. I was driving through Arkansas last week and saw the sign for Aux Arcs State Park and suddenly realized that the word Ozark came from that French expression. I think that qualifies as interesting, since I always wondered about that word.

Do you prefer performing solo or with others?
I prefer both. I play solo largely because of economic necessity, and immensely enjoy singing harmony and playing with other musicians. The business and logistical difficulties go up exponentially the more musicians you try to involve. I don't know how the bands do it. They probably don't know how I do it either.

What do you like best or least about each?
The pleasures of playing in a group are obvious, as are the difficulties of playing solo. I think the greatest pleasure of playing solo is that virtually nothing can stop me from going to the place I like to go when I perform. I don't think I have ever done a solo show when I did not reach an elevated state of something. I don't have a name for where I go, but it is some altered state of consciousness I discovered when I was 13 and first banging on a guitar. I am always regenerated when I can go there, and it's nice to have learned how to do it in front of a crowd of people. I think that's a lot of what they want from an performer anyway. Music at its highest form is a spiritual activity of some sort.

What portion of the songs you do are your own & which are by other artists?
I have always played my own music, traditional music and some covers, and will probably always do that. Makes sense to me.

Could you give some thoughts & reflections about this year's Wings & Strings Festival.
It's exciting to see such an eclectic collection of artists at a festival. It's also somewhat un-elating to think of all the people within an hour's drive of there who don't know about this music, and who are probably bored with the music in their life, and to think how nice it would be if all the people who make good music and all the people who need good music could find each other. It is also nice to see a festival reach out to the local musicians as much as they do. I thought the Florida stage was a great thing, and I was happy to see a lot of Florida artists there and seeming happy. A lot of big festivals don't do that.

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