Exclusive Interview with Reverend Doctor
The incredible spirit and musical style of Reverend Doctor is powerfully captivating. We caught up with the talented LA artist to learn more about his latest moves…
Thank you for sharing some time with our readers today, what have you been up to in 2019?
Thanks for having me! I’ve been up to quite a bit. I moved to LA this past year from Minneapolis and things could not be more different! It’s Halloween and it was 95 degrees this week while my friends in the midwest are having their second snow of the season.
In the last year I’ve been 4 different tours we titled Build it Up after my debut single. We were on the road 4.5 months and played 100 shows as of this interview as far north as Edmonton Canada, as far east as Cleveland, as far south as Albuquerque. I’ve even played shows in Seattle and sunny southern California.
I released my second single titled “Dance Warrior” in August and I’m currently working on laying down a few more songs to round out my debut EP as Reverend Doctor.
Who have been your greatest musical influences?
Recently, Anderson .Paak and Gallant. Anderson dropped “Ventura” and it was one of those moments you get sad and happy as an artist: sad you’ll never get to write that album but so grateful that it’s in the world. Gallant is keeping soul alive for me. He’s an incredibly talented vocalist, songwriter, performer, check him out if you love yourself some sexy time music.
But as a child of black parents raised in the 60s and 70s I grew up on a healthy diet of Soul music, particularly Motown. Ohio Players, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, etc.
Growing up in the midwest, my family and I were a bit of an island musically and culturally (one of only a handful of black families in town), so I was also influenced by things other kids were listening to. I had healthy doses of things like the Gin Blossoms, Hootie, Nirvana, Barenaked Ladies, N*Sync, Metallica. I have no regrets.
How do you keep motivated in the writing and creating process?
For me, it’s making sure to keep the pressure as low as possible and to have a lot of plates spinning. My first single, “Build it Up” was written in an afternoon. There were some tweaks of the verses here or there, but it came out pretty much a whole song. “Dance Warrior” was a riff I wrote when I first started playing guitar 15 years ago. Finally the cadence fit a mood I was in and the lyrics and the melody clicked and I had a song.
I know artists that can take every idea to a conclusion before they move on to their next song or they write a whole bunch of little songs that they then flesh out. I work in a combination of both spaces: a bunch of ideas that never really need to become anything.
I just make sure I have fun and to keep “the editor” in my brain as far away from my songs as long as I can during the process. Overthinking is my enemy.
Where do you seek inspiration as a songwriter?
I have a single goal when I write and that is to help make myself and the people that hear my music feel just a little bit better. Strangely, I don’t do this with escapism—It’s really popular to write about clubs, trends, memes, etc. especially for a pop songwriter. I’m much more engaged in pressing into those things that are upsetting me. It also makes me want to press into those things I want to celebrate—like my sisters as black women persevering in this world, or my identity as an American. For me, celebration is inextricably tied to suffering. Joy is a complex thing. I think the mystery of joy is found in the words of Maya Angelou: “I know why the caged bird sings”. Sometimes finding a song is more about what it can do for you; how it can align your heart and mind, rather than the pretty things that inspire you to sing.
With such a busy schedule, how do you find the time to have fun, cut lose and enjoy life?
THERE IS ONLY WORK.
Kidding. Sort of. In a weird way, traveling, meeting people, writing songs, performing, recording; these are the ways I unwind. I found this out when I was working other jobs and did music and all of the janitorial work around it and found it decompressed me. I confess to being almost singular in this pursuit since quitting my day job and moving out to LA. But it doesn’t get exhausting, I just run out of hours in the day and resources to invest.
I suppose I play a lot of video games. Do you own a Nintendo Switch? It’s like if joy took shape and had two thumb sticks.
I’ve also gotten to dip my pinky toe into the print and commercial industry here as an actor. That’s not a sentence I thought I would ever say, but I got to do a commercial for Warby Parker. If you’ve seen it, you can’t miss my ‘fro.
When we follow our dreams in life, there are sacrifices. What do you find to be the greatest sacrifices and the greatest gifts of your career so far?
Relationships have been the biggest sacrifice. There are a lot of people that are close to me like family in the midwest (I was born in Kansas City, MO, raised in Ames, IA) that I want to spend the rest of my life with. But a career in music is hard if not impossible there. You can Insta-creep on your fam all you want, but nothing is like being there for the birth of their baby, or to give them a hug when they need one. Or when I need one.
One of the greatest gifts has been to go into communities you would expect to be the last places to be open-minded, and then watch as they open their arms and embrace a tall black man in an Afro, sequined jacket, and shiny shoes with uncomfortable stories about growing up black in Iowa. It reaffirms to me that there is a path back to unity and community with each other. The gift is that it gives me hope. It’s that hope keeps me driving this crazy path that I’ve made for myself.
Follow-up sacrifice: Nintendo Switch time. I’m on like my 5th Zelda play-through.
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End of Interview