This past April while Cecily, Pam, and I (Krystal) were staying at a hotel in Dallas (we had been there for The Rock & Worship Road Show), we happened to meet a really cool musician by the name of Rusty Reed, who was in town to play a show that night. Rusty saw the three of us hanging by the pool and decided to come out and play some songs for us. And in the process, brighten up our evening with his music and his sweet personality. I mean, if you know anything about us girls you know how much we love live music. So this just felt like the perfect way to end our evening and our trip to Dallas. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Rusty on the phone about his music and his life. We hope you guys enjoy listening in on our conversation. 🙂
TW: Can you tell us a little about your background, where you grew up, how you got into music?
Rusty: Well I grew up in Canton,IL. I’ve always been involved with music in some way, whether it was just listening. I grew up listening to music which was like my main thing, it was what I liked to do besides sports. When I was younger I played a lot of sports.
TW: What sports did you play?
Rusty: I played football, baseball, basketball, I played Frisbee golf, not sure if y’all ever heard of that. It’s not a very physical sport, cause all you do is walk around and throw frisbees in baskets. But it’s a lot of fun. But yeah I grew up Canton,IL, left home when I was 18 and joined the army. That’s kind of where music started for me, cause I never really played an instrument growing up. I was stationed in Hawaii, and I really fell in love with Reggae music, and Hawaiian music. I bought an acoustic guitar out there, which I really didn’t know how to play. I got out of service at 21. I started to play guitar all the time. It’s what I lived and breathed for was playing guitar. Slowly progressed, I kept learning and teaching myself songs. You know that’s the best way, to learn other people’s songs just to get a basis for the chord structure. You know like picking out melodies and trying to learn what you hear and play what you hear, it’s what helps you in adapting to your own style, it helps with building your chops I guess.
TW: What were some of the first songs you learned?
Rusty: Actually I was a big fan of The White Stripes at the time. The first song I think I learned was “I’m Gonna Pack It Up”. It’s off of one of their first albums, I think it’s either De Stijl or one of the other ones, I’m not quite sure which one it was. Real simple song in the key of “D”. I learned that one and then I learned “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley and “Black Bird” by The Beatles. “I Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd, “Stair Way To Heaven”. I think everyone goes through those phases. And then I kept playing guitar, then I went to school for sound. Learned about recording music. Recording studios. Got a job with The Wailers.
TW: You play with Bob Marley’s band, right? How did that come about and what has the experience been like?
Rusty: I didn’t play with them actually. Of course I jammed with them at sound checks, and stuff like that. We always messed around. I ran sound for them. [I was] The stage manager and carried their equipment and stuff around. Of course I played guitar with them a bunch. I played a show with Junior Marvin who was the lead guitar player and he’s the one that took over for Bob when Bob passed away. Me and him actually switched back on guitar and bass for a whole show, for a whole night.
TW: Can you tell us about your band the “Big Creek Collective”?
Rusty: That’s not really a band more than just a collection of ideas. It’s one of those things that’s a revolving door of players, whoever is around, if we put a show together than they’ll be the ones that play. I don’t have a particular line up right now. It’s me and a collection of my thoughts. It’s just easier that way because I’ve been in plenty of bands, you try to organize something and keep everything together and you can lose a little bit of your freedom and creativity. Waste your energy trying to control something. Not so much control, but you know for me, it always helps to have the ability to say “okay, I’m going to pick up today and pack a suitcase and go out west for a month”. I do that quite a bit. I actually just got back yesterday from Florida. I was there for a week.
TW: Oh really? Cool! What were you doing in Florida? Playing music?
Rusty: I was actually just vacationing, it’s pretty cold up here. I just took a week to unwind. I did play some music you know. I bought a nylon string guitar, sat on the beach for a few days and played some guitar.
TW: When you played for us in Dallas we were so impressed with the way you just made songs up on the spot and how they were actually really good. Not many songwriters can do that. How do you come up with songs on the spot? And do you usually tend to write that way?
Rusty: No I don’t really write. I think that might be a characteristic of the way I play is that I never write anything down. If it’s recorded maybe I can repeat it. Or maybe I’ll remember some of it. But usually it’s just spontaneity. It’s what fuels my creativity. Once I start trying to pick a song and give it it’s little boundaries and borders it has to stay within, the song is dead to me. I can’t play it anymore. It just loses it’s feeling to me. So in leaving the creative form in a song, basically freeing and not binding it to any written form or you know tablet I guess. You know I’ll take a hook that I can create little paths from, then I’ll go this direction this day, then the next day maybe it’ll mean something completely different.
TW: What inspires your writing?
Rusty: Life. Love. Hate, I really don’t hate too much, but you know. Happiness. Sorrow. The sun rising, the sun setting. I mean everything. The sun not shining, the sun shining. It just depends you know. It could be the way that somebody looked at me, it could the fact that somebody didn’t look at me. Life is full of opportunities when it comes to creative outlook and expression.
TW: Do you write the lyrics first or the music? Which comes easier to you?
Rusty: Well it just depends. But it’s usually music. I’ll usually be sitting down with the guitar, just kind of fiddling around, and I’ll hear something and I’ll be like “I like that”, and looping it over and over again, maybe like kind of free styling over it, just making up stuff. And that’s usually how it starts. It usually starts with a chord progression or maybe sometimes, I’ll have a little lick I’m playing and I’ll be like “that’s kind of cool”. Pick out a melody and just start singing gibberish over it until I hear a couple words and I think “hey these words could fit together”.
TW: Which one of your songs are the most personal to you and why?
Rusty: Hmm, there is one song that I kind of wrote, I mean I guess I played it, it’s my song. But it’s called, “I’ll Be The One” or “”I’ll Be The Light”. My niece has Cerebral Palsy. You know, she was over at the house and she’s really young, I think she’s two 1/2 now. And this is probably a year and a half ago, she was probably 7 months old. She has a lot of problems just sitting up and she still can’t talk and you know I just kind of felt bad for her. Some of the lyrics went “I”ll be the clock on the wall when you run out of time. I”ll be the light when it just refuses to shine”. It really hit me because I want to be there for her but sometimes I can’t because I travel so much, and it felt really good to be able to portray my emotions in a creative form.
TW: What made you want to play music? What made you want to do it as a career?
Rusty: Well I guess it’s changed through out the years. When I was younger I liked to party a little bit I guess. It kind of went hand and hand with the party atmosphere. Everybody’s having a good time, laughing, and you know maybe drinking, whatever they’re doing. And I was into that, I like to be around people. I’m kind of sociable person so it just kind of made it easier to be accepted into a large group of people, if you can play an instrument, sing a song, or make people laugh.
TW: What music or books have you been into lately?
Rusty: I’m actually reading a great book right now called “The Lies My Teacher Told Me”. It’s a great book. It’s starts off by talking about Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson. And what not a lot of people know is that Woodrow Wilson was very racist, and he segregated the White House, and there were only certain jobs he would let colored people do. Then it goes on to say, it talks about Helen Keller. If you ask somebody about Helen Keller all they really know about her is that she was blind and deaf, but what they don’t tell you is that later in life she moved for the socialist party. She was all about women’s rights and maybe even communism. I can’t quite remember but I know she was definitely a socialist. It starts with that, and then the next chapter is Christopher Columbus. And it talks about how Christopher Columbus was basically a murderer and we celebrate him. It goes on talking about how Christopher Columbus basically claimed a new world whereas the Indians where already here. There was nothing to claim and we just took it. It’s by James W. Loewen. He’s basically gone through and examined 18 history text books. Yeah definitely check that out.
TW: What records would you recommend?
Rusty: Well I’m a big Bob Dylan fan, if you can’t tell in the way I play and sing a little bit maybe. I like Bob Dylan. I really love Bob Marley, anything Bob Marley’s done has been great. I’m a fan of The Wood Brothers, they’re incredible, great songwriting. The guy’s got a killer voice when he sings, Oliver Wood . It’s Oliver Wood and Chris Wood. And Chris Wood is the bass player for Medeski Martin Wood. Just kind of a jazz, free form type band. They’ve got bass, organ, and drums I believe. Really, really good stuff. G Love and Special Sauce. Brett Dennen. John Lennon and anything the Beatles have done. And then The Beatles solo, I love that stuff. George Harrison’s last album “Brainwashed”, I’ve been listening to that quite a bit lately. It was actually finished by his son because George passed away before finishing it. I don’t know what all his son did, maybe finishing making it and recording some guitar parts. His son is actually the one that just did the The Beatles Rock Band. He’s the one that went into that and got everyone together and got everything going. I think his name is Donny Harrison.
TW: When we talked in Dallas, you mentioned you had played for a youth group once, and that they would go to bars and share the love of God. What are your thoughts on Jesus Christ and the church?
Rusty: Well I am not truly a religious person. I believe in God of course, and you know I think the stories I’ve heard of Jesus Christ would be one of someone that was a very honest person. Someone that cared about everyone. He was not biased. He had love for all people, regardless of what they’ve done or what they’re doing. As long as you know that, I think that is the most important thing to know about Him. And If you live your life and you do things right, and you try not to keep anyone else down, then you’re pretty much doing the right thing in my opinion. I believe that church is a great thing, it’s good to be able to organize and keep people together and you know have a social network of people that you can rely on and depend on. And in other ways, when it comes to religion, I sometimes am not too pleased with how they condemn other religions. Religions will condemn other religions. It’s based on personal opinion and personal preference. And you know to look down on somebody, I think is ridiculous. It’s very selfish, and it leaves a lot to be desired. So that’s kind of why I haven’t really conformed to any one religion. I try to study all [religions], I try find out a little about them so I can understand.
TW: You might laugh at this description but from the little time we spent with you, you just seemed like such a free spirit. What’s your philosophy on life? How do you approach life?
Rusty: How do I approach life. Well that’s an interesting question. I approach it with most positive outlook I can. Even if I’m having a bad day I try to take my time to slow down. And I mean I’m not always happy, I don’t think any one person is truly happy 24/7 365. And if they tell you they are, then they’re probably telling you a little bit of a fib. But I try to use empathy in everything I do, and I try to put myself in other peoples shoes. And I never judge, you know I mean I can’t say I never judge, I try not to judge. If I do judge someone and it turns out I was completely wrong, I learn from that. You know if somebody needs something I try to give it to them. I try to help them. You know basically, I’m the kind of person, if I have $20 dollars and you need $25, I’m going to go find $5 dollars for you, and you’re going to be taken care of the best I can. And if it means I don’t eat for a couple days, hey you know I’ll find food somehow.
TW: What has been one the most memorable moments of your career?
Rusty: I have to say meeting Les Paul and going up to his house and seeing where it was that he made so many great songs, and just to spend time with that man was probably the highlight of my life.
TW: What did you learn from him?
Rusty: Maybe a little bit of what I was talking about, how to live your life. Just his personality and his attitude, he was very kind to every one that he met. He never had bad things to say about anybody. He was a night owl, much like myself, so I could call him at 3:00, 4:00 in the morning and he’d answer the phone and have a conversation with me.
TW: Any advice for aspiring artists?
Rusty: Practice, practice, practice and never give up. When you say artists you can mean painters [also]. Love what you do, I think that’s the most important thing. If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, find another way to find happiness. Whether it’s painting with different colors, or play with different chords or notes. Or write with different words, learn a new language, you know I guess that can be universal when you say “language”. So yeah, just keep a positive attitude as much as possible, I think that’s the biggest thing.
TW: So what’s up next for you and your music?
Rusty: Um I don’t know, right now I’m kind of at a cross roads. I no longer tour with The Wailers. I’ve been touring with a band named Public Property, they’re an incredible band. The singer and songwriter, his name is Dave Bess, he’s a good friend of mine. I’m helping them with some management stuff and [I] run sound for them. I kind of took a little vacation or I’d probably be out with them right now. They’re out of Iowa City, Iowa. They’re just great people. That’s kind of what I’m doing right now. I don’t know what’s next, you never know, just keep playing.
TW: (Bonus) Do you usually play for random people you meet during your travels? Or were we just special? 😉
Rusty: Well it’s not something that I seek out. You guys just probably happened to catch me on really good day. I’m not saying it’s unusual, it just happened to be I was just in one of those moods where I felt like playing guitar. You guys were out there and you looked nice, so I thought I’d come out and talk to you and play some music, and see if you wanted to hear some. I had a lot of fun, I remember that night.
TW: Well thanks Rusty for doing this interview with us! We really enjoyed it. 🙂
Rusty: You guys have fun and be careful and enjoy everyday you get.