Grace plants seeds of talent in every generation. But what becomes of it can’t be known until the lucky ones make their choices about how to use it. Down the road, those choices become their story, for better or for worse. Reed Föehl began discovering the seeds of his own talent as a young teenager, playing on the streets of Boston, beneath the grasshopper weather vane at Faneuil Hall.
He was encouraged by his parents and their own love of music. “I grew up listening to my family playing country music and traditional songs every Thursday night. My dad introduced me to many of the artists that still move me today. Folks like John Prine and Steve Goodman,” Reed recalls.
The first choice that would help define Reed as a young man and artist presented itself on one of those Thursdays. “Billy Conway, who played drums in my parents’ band, and the rock band Morphine, took me aside one night and asked me when I was going to start writing my own songs. I thought that was a pretty good question.” So Reed got to work, and in his late teens, he emerged as not only a talented performer, but a great songwriter, too.
After a move to Colorado, Reed’s clear tenor, emotional songwriting, and undeniable charisma as a front man launched Acoustic Junction in 1989, which developed a cult following in the jamband era of the 90s. The band released six albums, a collaboration with Graham Nash, and was signed to Capricorn Records and later Mercury Records. Making music with friends and seeing family all over the country fueled a tireless road schedule and devotion to high-energy performance and songwriting. But 10 years into Acoustic Junction, Reed found himself at a famous crossroad when his son, Jaden, was born: Would he continue the life of a road warrior, or be a father to his son? “After two years of leaving Jade at home, I knew I just needed to plant myself there. To help raise my son. To build a real relationship with him. But it wasn’t easy,” Reed recalls.
He battled with the idea that if he stayed on the road, his notoriety and financial success in the industry could grow more quickly. But he’d miss out on seeing his boy grow up. “All the money in the world couldn’t buy that time,” Reed said. “Kids don’t care about money. They just want their father there. Luckily, I realized that.”
Not long afterward after getting off the road, the second event that would shape Reed’s next decade came; his father succumbed to a battle with cancer. It was a huge loss for Reed. But the responsibilities of being a dad and the burden of grief from his father’s death did not stop Reed’s growth as an artist. He treated his emotion as something intensely sacred, and poured it into his songwriting. His church and confessional were anywhere there was a microphone and an audience within an hour or two of home.
Reed found a new kind of success in short trips once or twice a year to Los Angeles, New York and Nashville that earned him placements on the silver screen, television, and commercials. He put what money he could from the royalties to make three solo records: Spark (2004), Stoned Beautiful (2007), and Once an Ocean (2009). Meanwhile, the music industry was seeing some of its deepest shifts since the dawn of Tin Pan Alley. Large labels were falling by the wayside in favor of independent artists with grit, stamina, and charisma as pioneers of a new musical landscape – traits, you might guess by now, Reed carries in spades. He continued to produce his own brand of powerfully emotional, masterfully crafted music, with each new song informed by his fresh experiences with love, death, family, and solitude.
And though his absence from the road may have kept him off the radar of many listeners, the industry continues to affirm Reed’s instincts. Country legend Lee Ann Womack’s September 2014 release leads with his song “Fly.” And the industry insiders who licensed, placed, and collaborated with Reed while he stayed home are already calling him about the what they’re hearing from his next record: Lost in the West.
Lost in the West is a soundtrack for the invisible cinema of the mind. It features seven songs combining Reed’s powerful lyrics and vocal performance set against wide-open landscapes painted with Stratocaster and Wurlitzer, creating a sound that is intensely emotive while still tender. These are songs to fill the long stretches of highway we seek on a sweltering Sunday with a foot easy on the gas and thoughts heavy on the mind, hoping to get lost in the West. A deeply talented and accomplished cast joins Reed as producers, performers, and co-writers on this record. Co-producers John Raham (engineer and drummer for The Be Good Tanyas) and Jefferson Hamer (The Child Ballads, 2014 BBC Radio 2 award-winner) return after their first collaboration on Once an Ocean. John also delivers a masterful performance on percussion, and Jefferson’s varied guitar work shines throughout the record. Anaïs Mitchel (Young Man In America, The Child Ballads, 2014 BBC Radio 2 award-winner) sings on “Rags and Bones” and “Four Lanes.” Frazey Ford of The Be Good Tanyas appears on “Caroline” and “Steal Away.” Reed co-wrote “Caroline” with Esmé Patterson, founding member of Paper Bird, and he teamed with Gregory Alan Isakov to write “Rodeo Clown.” The choices Reed has made earned him the respect of his industry peers on one hand, and his loved-ones on the other. Today, his son is on the verge of striking out on his own as a young man, and the sadness of losing Reed’s own father has become a celebration of his life. The release of Lost in the West, and a new hunger to return to the road, heralds the beginning of a new chapter for Reed.