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What I Learned at Bandcamp: Hillary Reynolds Band

Hillary Reynolds Band interview

Hillary Reynolds Band formed at the Berklee College of Music nearly five years ago. The Boston five-piece performs folk Americana and released album, The Miles Before Us, in July 2014. HRB has performed at multiple folk festivals, shared the stage with Norah Jones and members have worked with the likes of Wyclef Jean and Imogen Heap.

 Hillary Reynolds Band is currently on tour but took time to talk to The Spec about its beginnings and plans for the future, read what band members had to say, below…

Tell us a little about yourselves…
Hillary Reynolds (Vocals/Piano): I’m from Wisconsin. I love Colby cheese.

Jeff Hale (Drums/Ukulele): I’m colorblind and fashion inept, but somehow I get tasked with designing merch items and flyers.

Connor Reese (Guitar): I was born and raised in Rockland, N.Y., and I have an unhealthy obsession with Taco Bell.

Chris Mewhinney (Bass): I’m the married one in the band. I also brew terrific beer.

How long have you been making music?
Trevor Jarvis (Cello/Backup Vocals): I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember. I grew up listening to my dad play all sorts of instruments and it was always a big part of family gatherings. I started taking cello lessons around age 7 or 8. Believe it or not, it was totally my idea.

Hillary: Since I can remember, I’ve always been making music. I can remember pretending to be a mermaid in my bathtub, belting “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid and having Christmas sing-a-longs with my dad’s side of the family. My dad and uncle Rod would play guitar with aunt Marci on keys and the rest of us singing our assigned parts. I loved getting “two turtle doves” because that part always sings the most. After all those years, singing “12 days of Christmas” is still a treasured tradition.

Connor: I started playing guitar when I was 12 and have been annoying my neighbors ever since.

Who/what are your influences?
Hillary: Sometimes it’s love, sometimes it’s whiskey.

Connor: Musically, Umphrey’s McGee really has set the bar pretty high for me. I always envy their spontaneity and ability to quote any genre they feel. I tend to bring snippets of that attitude to The HRB when I can. We don’t exactly have 15-minute jam sessions on one song, but there certainly is a jam element present.

Chris: My musical direction is guided by K.I.S.S.. Not the band, they’re horrible. “Keep it simple, stupid.” Nobody likes an overzealous bass player.

What is your favorite song you’ve released and why?
Jeff: “This Love is Ours,” definitely. I’ve always loved that song and I really love how it came out on this record. We’ve recorded it a number of different times, and that’s been advantageous; we experimented with the arrangement, tempo, instrumentation, and everything. But the version on The Miles Before Us is by far the best. It’s gorgeous.

Hillary: I can’t make up my mind on a favorite track because it totally depends on my mood.

Connor: It’s gotta be “Keep On Driving.” That’s the song that sold me on joining the band. It’s just such a perfect mix of technical brilliance and catchy melodies.

Upcoming projects, where do you want to go from here?
Hillary: I want my projects to grow from intention to reality.

Jeff: This band has gotten away from the charity support and awareness raising we used to do so often, and I want to get back to that way of things. I think the desire to have a widely heard voice is only vanity if it isn’t used for the good of other humans somehow.

Chris: I would love for the band to achieve widespread commercial success. Our product is professional and accessible and I don’t see a reason we can’t be very popular.

If you could no longer be a musician, what would you be or do for a living?
Jeff: I would so be a pilot. Itching for time to do ground school and get hours with an instructor. It’s been a dream of mine since spending days at a time in various editions of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Trevor: Other than music, two other passions of mine immediately come to mind. One is writing, probably as a speechwriter or an op-ed columnist. I’ve always loved crafting and fine-tuning language to make a point as clearly as possible. The second, is working at a vineyard or a craft brewery making wine or beer. Maybe one day I can work together with Chris (our bass player who brews his own beer) on that one.

Hillary: I’d be a volunteer at an elephant orphanage in Africa and sing baby elephants to sleep.

Connor: Video Game Designer. Video games are my not-so-secret secret passion.

Chris: I’d love to have a nine-to-five job with opportunities for advancement and a 401k. Maxing out contributions to a Roth IRA must be an amazing feeling.

What musicians or bands do you look up to?
Hillary: Ray LaMontagne, Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek, Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Beatles, Iron & Wine — the list could go on and on.

Connor: Top of the list has gotta be Weird Al. He’s just a brilliant lyricist and is one of the only successful parody artists. Humor is one of the most important parts of music, and when you listen to him, you can’t help but smile.

Chris: I’m a big admirer of the classical bassist Joel Quarrington. His approach to the instrument is among the most beautiful I’ve heard, plus as the principal bassist of the London Symphony Orchestra, he has one of the best jobs in the business.

Why do you make music?
Trevor: Communication. I can’t find a more nuanced, powerful, and passionate way to communicate emotions and ideas. I think music is one of the best chances we have of telling someone exactly how we feel about something.

When you really think about it, that’s an extremely difficult thing to do, and it’s profoundly rewarding when it happens.

Hillary: I’ve been very fortunate to always recognize music as a means for me to truly connect and express how I’m feeling no matter how happy, upset, or vulnerable my mood. In January 2014, I had a realization when I was in Paris at an open mic. I cannot speak French very well, but when getting on stage to perform The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” I immediately felt connected to everyone listening in the audience. I experienced a connectedness of the language of music for those few minutes. We all sang and danced along together. That song became a door opener to friendships with people I never dreamed of having the opportunity to connect with.

To me, music has the power to be a sacred connection and that connection has the power to build a better world.

Chris: Why does a teacher teach? Why does a plumber plumb?

Anything else you’d like readers to know that we haven’t asked you about?
Hillary: The five of us are only good at being ourselves. For better or worse, we intend to keep living that way.

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