Roseanne Reid on being the daughter of a Proclaimer and finding her own sound

Roseanne Reid has just released her debut album
Roseanne Reid has just released her debut album
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You wouldn’t expect it from Roseanne Reid’s cohesive country sound but this Edinburgh-born, Dundee-based singer/songwriter is partial to the occasional helping of camp, cheeseball pop on her Spotify playlist.

“If you were born in the 90s, Vengaboys were the thing,” she says with not entirely straight-faced authority. “I had an enormous crush on the guy that dresses up as a sailor. I cannot tell you what it was about him, but their music is a lot of fun. I have the occasional guilty pleasure, that’s for sure…”

Mostly though, Reid still dines out on the roots music she grew up with. Not so much the indelible songs written by her father, Craig Reid of The Proclaimers, as the cache of classic country, folk and gospel albums she found in her parents’ record collection.

“They’ve still got a ton of stuff on vinyl, so I was exposed to various types of music from a very young age, and that’s what I shaped my own sound on,” she says. “But growing up, we had a dad who goes out and does his job and that was it, really.”

Reid is the only one of her siblings to follow in the family trade, and it was her mum who taught her her first guitar chords on the one acoustic guitar in the household – Reid Sr being more of a piano man. “I had a few piano lessons with my sister when I was really quite young,” says Reid Jr, “but I didn’t take to that at all, it was guitar that was much more appealing to me.”

Within a year or so of picking up guitar, Reid had written her first song. By her mid-teens, she had discovered the works of master lyricists from Bob Dylan to Townes Van Zandt and was composing regularly.

“When I started writing I was quite naïve,” she says. “I loved things like Band Aid and I wanted to change the world. When I got older I wanted to be a bit more intricate with it and explore the human condition and what makes us hurt and fall in love. When I started focussing more on the lyrics, you could see a definite shift to a more grown-up approach.”

She performed Dylan’s I Shall Be Released at her first ever gig, a high school talent show turn with her younger brother and best friend. At 18, the Edinburgh bar circuit beckoned, from support slots at Leith Folk Club to the potentially hostile environment of the open mic night.

“You just don’t know what you are going into,” says Reid. “It can be a really rowdy pub where you can’t hear yourself, let alone other people hear you. But I think everyone should have that tricky path at the beginning where you see what goes down well in some places just would not fly in others. If you can get the guys who are standing at the bar drinking to quieten down, then you’ve pretty much got the room.

“My style of writing is very intimate and vulnerable and that’s exactly what you are when you are up there with a guitar yourself, you’re so vulnerable. But there is something about that total honesty and having nowhere to hide that really appeals to me and generates a really cool energy for me on stage.”

Reid’s music has turned heads all over town. Most thrillingly of all, she now has the ear of one of her early inspirations, the magnificently self-assured singer/songwriter Steve Earle, thanks to her regular attendance at his Camp Copperhead songwriting retreat in the Catskills, where lectures in the morning and workshops in the afternoon lead to an open mic showcase at night.

Her first visit was a 21st birthday present from her family. Earle liked what he heard and subsequently invited Reid back on scholarships and to work there. The song she first wooed him with, Amy, is the opening track of her immersive debut album, Trails, and Earle duets with her on another track, Sweet Annie.

“I still can’t believe it because I’ve been listening to him since I was about ten,” says Reid. “He’s the guy I turn to now if I’ve written something new and I’m just not sure about it. I’ll email the lyrics to him and ask his advice on it. The most inspirational thing I’ve taken from him is to branch out as a songwriter and take yourself out your comfort zone.”

Trails is an accomplished calling card of an album, a debut many years in the making but only four days in the recording. That it sounds so mellow, unhurried and understated is partly down to producer Teddy Thompson – like Reid, the offspring of musicians (Richard and Linda Thompson) who has carved a successful career in his own right.

“There was definitely an affinity there from the start,” says Reid. “We have so many things in common that a lot of the time I couldn’t relate to with my friends growing up – particularly when you’ve got musical parents who have been very successful. I don’t think this is just restricted to music, but when you’ve got that success with your parents, as kids you’ve got a lot to live up to. You’ve got to work that extra bit harder because it’s a tricky thing to navigate.”

And Reid has worked hard, taking her time to gather her own team around her and give her album a chance at the wider exposure that such a beautiful, burnished piece of work deserves.

This summer, she will head out on tour with another child of a successful artist – Steve Earle’s son Justin Townes Earle who, like Reid and Thompson, has inherited the songwriting gene and steered his own path with that precious legacy.

“Our parents will have listened to their influences who shaped them growing up and they’ll probably sound pretty different from those people,” reckons Reid.

“That’s just the evolution of it, the way it develops from generation to generation.” n

Trails is out now on Last Man Records. Roseanne Reid plays Dundee Rep, 1 June (with Horse), Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, 7 June (headline), Oran Mor, Glasgow, 26 June (with Justin Townes Earle) and the Hebcelt festival, Stornoway, 19 July