- 21 Oct 20
The musician and 'Schitt's Creek' star sat down with Hot Press to talk about recording his latest album, performing (pre-coronavirus), and his hometown.
Noah Reid and I are reminiscing about a specifically Canadian dessert – butter tarts. “'Butter tart' is a strangely hard thing to say, but an easy thing to consume,” jokes the Canadian singer-songwriter and actor. Reid played a role on a television show called Schitt’s Creek, and the main shooting location – about forty-five minutes outside our mutual hometown of Toronto, Canada – houses the best butter tarts in the province.
“The last day we were shooting in Goodwood, I stocked up. I got a 12-pack and took them home to my parents, and I don't think they lasted the day.”
Nor would they, from my personal experience.
With Schitt’s Creek properly finished (and with the Covid-19 pandemic halting both the music and the film industry indefinitely), Reid has had some serious time on his hands. He cut a 25-show tour of North America short when lockdown began. “I was about 8 shows in,” he says. “We were headed from Chicago to Boston. I knew a few musicians who continued to tour for a couple weeks, but we didn't want to be endangering people, so we called it off and headed home.
“And I've been in my basement ever since,” he continues, wryly. “For several months.”
The last time I saw Reid perform was in Gravenhurst, Ontario, where he played a support slot at a show with Ireland’s own Maria Doyle Kennedy. Reid has nothing but good things to say about Doyle Kennedy, it turns out. “Really, she’s such a wonderful person. Just a brilliant actor and musician. Talk about a role model for how to do two things at once.”
Born and raised in Toronto, Reid’s formative performing experiences happened at a specialised arts school in the West end of the city. “It really had an impact on my ability to take myself seriously, and find my own creative path,” he recalls. “I mean, look at this pandemic as a great example of how creativity – be it film, dance, or music, are getting us through. I think that kind of specialised funding for arts schools is so important.
“Not everyone is built the same, and for creatives, sometimes the public school system just doesn't cater to those strengths.”
Although Reid has been an actor and musician for most of his life, his first album, Songs From A Broken Chair, was made when he considered music a side-hobby. “I hadn't thought about putting any effort into a musical career,” he admits.
But when Schitt’s Creek showrunner and writer Dan Levy found out Reid was also a talented singer-songwriter, Levy enlisted him to arrange Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’ for his character to sing on the show. The cover went – ever-so-slightly – viral.
“It lends itself nicely to that acoustic, softer take,” Reid laughs. “I definitely noticed, after that, people started to find Songs From A Broken Chair. I was amazed. It certainly lit a fire under me.”
Songs From A Broken Chair was recorded over two days at Toronto’s The Woodshed Studios. “It was very quick and dirty,” he recalls. “But I kind of love the feel of that – it was sort of ramshackle.”
By contrast, Reid took his time with his sophomore record, Gemini. Produced by fellow Canadian Matthew Barber, the album is about Reid confronting his dualities. Its namesake is Reid’s zodiac sign, but also the old name for the Canadian Screen Awards (Canada’s BAFTAs). “Gemini wasn't written during a pandemic, but a lot of the songs are about love and connection, versus isolation and doubt,” Reid says. “That's the game we've all been playing in this pandemic. Your close relationships are probably closer than ever, and your alone time and doubts about yourself and the world are at an all-time high as well. So, how do you carry both things simultaneously?”
Warm and lived-in, Gemini sees Reid writing in a stream-of-consciousness style reminiscent of the 70s-era songwriters he reveres. “For me, it sort of starts at Bob Dylan, moves to Tom Waits, into Paul Simon and Springsteen and Nina Simone and Elton John,” he laughs. “All of those artists played their own instruments, wrote from their own perspectives, kept reinventing and reinterpreting their own work.
“That is really compelling to me, and something I'm hoping to continue to engage with over the course of my creative life. Albums are like swatches of your life, and your personality.
“Gemini certainly is that for me – it's this split between acting and music, or being both American and Canadian.” Reid’s mother is from Los Angeles, and Reid spent many Christmases there as a child.
Strange, then, that a song on the record called ‘Hate This Town’ is dedicated to L.A.
“I was going down to shoot a pilot, and when I put my bag down in my hotel room, I was flooded with this bad feeling. I wrote that song because I needed to put that feeling somewhere, so I could get on with my job,” Reid says.
“I love that tune, and I particularly love playing it on tour in Los Angeles, because nobody understands the feeling of hating L.A. like people living in Los Angeles,” he laughs. “Everyone has had that moment, and a lot of people stay long enough to outlast that feeling.”
Reid has made his peace with L.A. – and even developed an affinity for it – but Toronto will always be home. That much, at least, is apparent in the video for his single ‘Got You’, which acts as a pandemic-age love letter to the city.
“My wife and her sister would always come up with these line dances at parties we used to have,” he says, full of nostalgia. "I thought it would be a nice thing to have everyone dancing. It was totally strange to be out in Toronto when there was nobody around, but it just felt like we needed something bright. If nothing else, it certainly gave us a reason to focus on joy.”
- Noah Reid’s sophomore album, ‘Gemini,’ and its current single, ‘Honesty’, are both available now in Ireland.