Johnny Reid has had a busy summer appearing at numerous summer festivals across the country including North Bay Summer in the Park and Ottawa Bluesfest. We recently had a chance to catch up with Johnny before his performance at Manitoulin Country Fest.
SC: Johnny, you and I have been friends since 2000, over 15 years now, and in 2005 we started your Tartan Army Fan Club together, but doing an interview together today is a first. Thanks for taking the time for me before you hit the stage at Manitoulin Countryfest.
JR: No problem, it’s my pleasure.
SC: Every artist has a story about when they decided to pursue music as a career. We know that you sang, wrote songs, and strummed a little guitar at a young age, but, describe the moment that you knew that music was the path for you.
JR: Oh wow, good question. There were many moments. You know, I think every time I stood on stage, even as a wee boy at Overton Primary School and I stood on a wee bleacher and I sang Rantin Rovin Robin which was an old Robert Burns poem that the project was to put it to music. So, ever since that moment I was addicted to that feelin. It’s a strange feelin’ you know? Everybody gets highs, some people get highs from danger, other people are just high on life, but for me, I had a real rush singing for people and seeing how my voice, and not only my voice but what I say, can touch people and maybe make some kind of difference in their life, you know. Still, back then, if you had told me I was going to make a livin’ doing what I love, you know, that might have been a dream for me, but, I always loved to sing, always loved to sing.
SC: What has been the best advice you have been given, career or personal?
JR: Oh, there’s a bunch. ‘Keep your feet on the floor because it’s hard to fall off of the ground’. You know, that’s always a good one. ‘Always be nice to the secretary’. You know, whenever we go into the record labels, management labels or anywhere, they always say, always take time for the people working at the front; which I always do that anyways, but, that was a good bit of advice because I cannot tell you how many times I met somebody who worked at the front desk and then went on to become the VP or sometimes the president of that company.
SC: I’ve seen the way you treat people and I’ve seen you treat the, probably the lowest person in the village, the same as you treated the Queen of England when you met her.
JR: Well, I have to tell you. I don’t think there is any difference between anybody. I think we are all the same. Maybe that has been the secret, Mary-Rae, you know, maybe through the years. I don’t really see people very different than others. It is hard to impress me. I say that humbly but, you know, I don’t really care what kind of car you drive, or where you live, or who you know. That doesn’t impress me. I’m sort of impressed by character and by the spirit, not by what they take but more about what they give, you know.
SC: Well that has stood you in good stead.
SC: You recently shared a stage with your friend, Alan Frew, who you have collaborated with. Name any artist that you haven’t collaborated with that you would like to work with.
JR: Oh there’s hundreds. I mean I am a big fan of music period, so there are hundreds of people. I think probably the biggest…talking about Alan Frew, Alan and I wrote a song called ‘Fire It Up’ which was a big song for me, but equally a big, if not bigger, song for Joe Cocker. You know Joe Cocker was always somebody that I dreamt about singing that song with on stage. I never did get together with him, God bless him, he has passed, but I did have something to do with his last single that he ever sang and he had a lot of success with that song. So, he was one. Tina Turner
SC: Oh, Tina Turner!
JR: Yes, I’d love to sing with Tina Turner, Tom Jones, Wilson Picket, Otis Redding, there are a lot of other guys, obviously some are with us and some are not, but these are legendary performers and entertainers. You know I think that is what I am drawn to is entertainers.
SC: Tell us about singing karaoke in Germany.
JR: Oh, well I walked into a wee pub and I was reading the karaoke book and I saw ‘Fire It Up’ Joe Cocker and I thought, are you kidding me. That’s a Johnny Reid song. But, anyways, I went up and sang it and a guy came up and complimented me on my voice and said you know you sang that really great. You sound just like Joe Cocker. And I did not have the gall to tell him that I actually wrote the song.
SC: Oh, you didn’t eh?
JR: No, no.
SC: Your live show is a spectacle really. How would you describe it to fans who will see you for the first time this summer.
JR: Oh this summer. You know, Mary-Rae, you have known me a long time and it is never about me. It is always about the people who spend money to come see us. So I always want to make sure I give them value, their money’s worth, you know. I always bring a big band with big sound and big energy and a lot of movement. great lights, great sound. I think they can expect what everybody has come to expect of us, which is a lot of love coming off the stage, you know, and somebody that genuinely enjoys what he is doing.
SC: On behalf of your fans, I would like to thank you for singing barefoot in the rain in North Bay.
JR: Oh! (laugh) I didn’t have a choice because it was so wet and so slippy that I thought, you know, I am going to fall down and break my hip or break my wrist or something here. So, I said I think I’m going to take my shoes off here. That is probably the best answer so I make sure I’m safe.
SC: Well, I think it almost went viral that day.
JR: Was it alright? I could probably used a pedicure but you know. (laugh) You get what you get!
SC: Ya, you didn’t know you were going to be showing your feet that night.
JR: No, I did not.
SC: Could you talk about a fan encounter that completely took you by surprise.
JR: Oh jeez, too, too many to be honest. You know that. There have been so many. There was a gentleman, in Saskatchewan that I met, Eugene who was suffering from cancer. He has passed on but he touched my life because he sort of taught me a lesson to take a moment, you know what I mean, live in the moment. My granny taught me that as well. There was a woman in Kitchener who came up to me and had come to hear me sing ‘Thank You’. She had lost her husband and said that before he passed he told her that he was waiting for somebody to write a song that said everything that he had ever wanted to say to her. I think that was a big moment for me, you know, that I had showed his love for her there. Not to get too personal with you, but, I think Wayne was somebody that I found to be a real genuine guy, genuine character, and a good hard working fella, you know what I mean.
SC: He gave me flowers on our 39th wedding anniversary, had them sent to me, and on it he said Thank You. The florist said aren’t you going to say anything else like Happy Anniversary? He said, no, she’ll know what that means.
JR: She’ll know what it means. There you go. That’s amazing
SC: You have been awarded the CCMA Fans Choice Award several times and are nominated again this year. What does that particular award mean to you?
JR: Oh it means the world to me. You know I’ve had the great fortune being recognized a lot by the CCMA’s and it is always a humbling experience. It never gets old. But the Fans Choice is a big one. That’s the one that counts because all the other awards are voted by the industry. As you know, the industry’s can be skewed sometimes only because you want to make sure that you get your horse that’s in the race where he needs to be at that particular time depending on when the record comes out etc. We all know that. We know the politics. But, the Fans Choice Award is voted on by the people who are following the music, listening to the music, being affected by the music. So, it’s always a special treat to win that.
SC: I understand that your wife is dress shopping for the CCMA’s.
JR: She is. She’s searching.
SC: How are you preparing for it?
JR: Oh, I’ve got a couple of old shirts in the back of my cupboard. I’ll blow off the dust. Maybe give them a good iron and I’ll be good. (laugh)
SC: You have been awarded the Slaight Humanitarian Award. What charities or groups are close to your heart right now?
JR: Right now I just became an ambassador for Canadian Wildlife Fund. I am always trying to lean towards children, you know, the helpless basically. I want to give help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless, anything that allows me to use my voice as a platform to raise awareness of, and more importantly sometimes, raise some money for those in need. You name it, I’m in it, as long as the money that is raised is going directly to where it is supposed to go.
SC: Right, and you would research that ahead of time.
SC: You were asked by an interviewer in Great Britain, when were you most scared or frightened. Do you mind sharing your answer with us since it did occur the last time you were at Manitoulin?
JR: That was the scariest moment of my life. Last time I came to Manitoulin your husband was driving the car that took me from Sudbury to here and his face was all bruised. I was in the back seat and said what’s the story, why is your face all bruised. And you said, “well, he’s been having these spells lately where he passes out”. And he’s driving. I think to myself, I need to make sure my seatbelt is on, cause if he has one of these spells it’s going to be my face that that looks like that. That was a scary moment. (side bar: my husband was safe as a driver. I should have worded my answer to Johnny differently. Little did I know that I had caused his scariest moment ever!)
SC: Okay, we need to wrap this up shortly as you have a Meet & Greet to get to. But, you haven’t toured an album since your 2013 Christmas album. Your fans, Tartan Army particularly, would be interested in hearing what has kept you busy the last year and a half.
JR: A lot of things been keeping me busy. I’ve been working hard on a brand new album. I just finished it three days ago. It’s just finished getting mixed and mastered. The brand new album will be coming out on November 13th. We will have a brand new tour. The tickets will go on sale for that shortly. It’s a big announcement. We will tour across the country and I hope to do 50 dates which I’m really excited about.
SC: You will have a single first.
JR: Yes, we have a single coming to radio in the next few days called ‘A Picture of You’. I will sing that tonight. (editors note the single was released August 14 and is available on iTunes)
SC: You will soon take the stage for your second Manitoulin Countryfest appearance and I need to get out front to watch it.
JR: Mary-Rae, thank you darlin. It is always a pleasure.
For more information on Johnny’s upcoming album and tour dates visit www.johnnyreid.com