Dan Reeder is a self-sufficient artist in every aspect of his work. The cover of each one of his albums bears artwork he created himself. He’s built a majority of the instruments you hear. From guitar pickups to microphones, preamps and mixers. He’s built steel string guitars, electric guitars, banjos, drums, basses, cellos, violins, clarinets, and even a saxophone (note from Dan: “I’ll never do that again”). He constructed his own recording computers with fanless power supplies and solid-state drives to keep them quiet -- and before those were around, stored the computer in an old refrigerator. Each note you hear was carefully crafted and individually manifested -- the melodies, the harmonies, the instrumentation, the recording and mixing process (with the exception of a few minor mastering adjustments).
Reeder is an anomaly in more ways than one. Born in 1954 Lafayette, Louisiana, he moved to California at six, where he would eventually study art. He began his creative career at Chapman College, eventually progressing to California State Fullerton, where he met his wife. When her visa expired, Reeder, with just one semester left of university, decided to move to Nuremberg, Germany. Even though his intentions were to finish out his degree in California after a six month stay, Nuremberg won Reeder over and he never returned to school. Since his move over 30 years ago, Reeder has lived a full life as an esteemed visual artist. He got married and raised three children. He has won various visual art awards, participated in numerous exhibitions, led art seminars, and took on a visiting professorship at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste (aka, Germany’s Academy of Fine Arts). He published an overview of his work in 2012, Art Pussies Fear This Book. In between all of his artistic accolades, sometime in the early 2000’s, Reeder sent a burned CD to John Prine. Prine listened -- and signed Reeder to his label, Oh Boy Records.
To date, Oh Boy has released all three of Reeder’s records: Dan Reeder (2004), Sweetheart (2005), and This New Century (2009). The albums garnered glowing reviews; publications like No Depression deemed him “brilliant,” and NPR’s Fresh Air compared Reeder to Prine himself. The New Yorker’s Ben Greenman coined him as “one of the foremost outsider artists in modern folk”. He’s been featured on the Emmy award-winning show Weeds (“Work Song”). Nobody wants to be you via Oh Boy on November 10, 2017.
And while Nobody wants to be you is the precursor to his full-length (set for a 2018 release), the five-song EP isn’t lacking in tenacity. Distributed by Thirty Tigers and produced by Reeder himself, the album holds true to his distinct style: slightly quirky, painstakingly honest, and undeniably witty. But compared to its predecessors, his latest work delivers a brighter, more energized tone, full of what Reeder calls “easy piano”. This can arguably be heard on the album’s first single, “Kung fu is my fighting style”, a rock-n-roll, piano-driven ballad with a uniquely-distorted electric guitar solo, which happens to be the only guitar on the entire album. On the other hand, the opening and title track, “Nobody wants to be you” is much more soothing. The bluntness of the lyrics are softened by Reeder’s crooning; yet, even with multi-layered harmonies, his voice maintains its iconic “wisp.” While the album varies from the folk groundwork laid in the past, Reeder’s musical intelligence is as present as ever. When you listen to Nobody wants to be you, you’re hearing more than an album. You’re hearing every piece of a self-made artist and his multi-faceted skill set -- from the soulful, smoky vocal overlay to a singular, meticulous guitar sound, but best of all, you’re hearing the ingenuity that is Dan Reeder.