Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Memphis Music Spotlight : J.D. Reager Rocks {for Love}

In anticipation of the Rock for Love benefit concert this weekend, I am grateful to have some key people to the event answer questions about organizing the benefit and about their views of Memphis. Today, co-creator of Rock for Love and multi-talented musician, J.D. Reager, shares his thoughts below.

Memphis is a city of immense struggle and unrealized potential, which makes it fascinating to me. You could not pay me to live anywhere else.
~ J.D. Reager

Tell us about your initial and present involvement with the Church Health Center.
Initially, I became aware of the Church Health Center when my good friend and former bandmate Marvin Stockwell took a job there in the PR department, really, at the time he was the PR department. Anyway, through the course of talking about his work there, we got to talking about what a shame it was that nobody was doing a "rock show" type benefit for the CHC. And so, after much gnashing of teeth over what we would actually call it, we decided to stage year 1 of Rock for Love, not really thinking that it would take off and become the institution it has. I'm not afraid to say that my wife Jenn and I received our health coverage through the CHC's Memphis Plan for a few years, until we could afford proper health insurance, and that it more or less saved our asses. Also, Jenn currently works for the CHC in development (fundraising).

I have read that Marvin Stockwell wanted to give back to the CHC for the care they gave him and many others. What exactly pushed the idea into reality? Was there anything that made you think you had to do this like it was sort of meant to be?
Long story short - it was just such a good idea, that we couldn't talk ourselves out of it.

How easy or difficult was it to get people on board in the initial year: musicians, sponsors, volunteers, attendees?
It actually wasn't that hard - in year 1 we just did one show, and on a much smaller scale, but still ended up having nearly 300 people show up and raising about $7 grand for the CHC. Basically, year 1 was so wildly and unexpectedly successful, that we figured we should make it an annual event.

As the benefit is growing in recognition, is the event coordination getting any easier in any way or is it trying to work harder to stay ahead of last year?
By year two, Jeff {Hulett} started working with Marv, so we had an extra man on the team, which really helped us as the show grew. I tease Jeff sometimes about being the "new guy" in the mix, but really - he's been as effective at getting results as Marv or I, if not more so. But, that said, we're now coordinating schedules with twice as many bands, multiple venues, and all sorts of added features (silent auction, VIP reception for sponsors/media, etc.) which makes for somewhat of a logistical fiasco. But we get it done.

Was the Hi-Tone a key component to the success of the event? I hate to admit I haven’t seen a show there yet but would love to go just because everyone says it’s a great venue but I’m afraid that might be misstated. From your perspective, could it be the Hi-Tone's reputation as a great venue is gained from such great musicians consistently performing there?
Well, ya know - the Hi-Tone is a great place to see shows, and from a musician's perspective, an even better place to play. The sound is great; everyone there treats you with respect. Also, the pizza is hands down the best in Memphis.

So you have the perfect mix of great venue and great local music {smart groundwork for a benefit concert}, how much of your benefit audience would you guess is actually there just for the music?
I mean, probably most of the folks are there because of the bands/music. If we were just hosting a cocktail mixer at the Hi-Tone with no bands, I'd wager we wouldn't do as well.

Is the audience for an event like this any different than from your regular gigs? If so, how?
There will certainly be some folks there who come because of the Church Health Center, or because they saw us on TV or heard us on the radio and liked the idea of going to a show. One of the benefits for bands to be involved is an opportunity to get your music in front of folks who maybe wouldn't have seen you otherwise.

{You & Memphis }
Tell us about your band and its music.
I play in two bands participating in the show. Two Way Radio is "orchestral indie pop," or so I'm told. My band, J.D. Reager & the Cold Blooded Three, is more of a straight-up rock band. But, it's all pop music.

Tell us a little about what the fans can expect from your performance at the benefit.
We'll definitely leave everything we have on the stage. I'm not a "just stand there" guy. We play like we mean it.

What does it mean to you to be a musician in Memphis? Does being in Memphis have any effect on your music?
Oh, absolutely. Rock, soul, twang, guts, grime. It's just in the water here. It's impossible to live here as a musician and not become a part of it.

As a musician, what are your “Memphis Insider Raves”?
Hmmm-- well, most of my favorite local bands are actually playing Rock for Love this year. The Bulletproof Vests - pure, gutsy, rootsy rock music with guns blazing guitar licks. Snowglobe has always been one of my favorites. And, the Simpletones may be the most woefully underappreciated band in Memphis' history. I don't know if that can be overstated. Non-musically speaking, the restaurant Umai is tremendous.

The CHC and the Rock for Love benefit are 2 things I am sure many will say make them proud of Memphis. What are other things you would say Memphis can be proud of?
Memphis can and should be proud of lots of things- great music and arts, strong culinary scene, cool/unique/weird atmosphere and vibes, and history, history, history - not all of which is "good," per se, but adds a certain character. Memphis is a city of immense struggle and unrealized potential, which makes it fascinating to me. You could not pay me to live anywhere else.

I was just curious after organizing a benefit for my parent’s mission work in Cambodia: Was there ever an issue from anyone about not participating or supporting the fundraiser because it was affiliated with the Church?
Yeah- there's a certain popular, syndicated FM radio duo that refuses to have us on to promote the show. I'm not a religious person, but even I can see what dicks those guys are. Feel free to print this.


Thanks J.D.! J.D. also helps manage the Memphis record label Makeshift Music. You can buy his latest album The Repechage on itunes or at Shangri-La Records Memphis.





Related Links Makeshift Music / J.D. Reager & the Cold-blooded Three / Two Way Radio

Photos from band's website. Banner graphic design by Sophorn.

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