Going back and forward with the soulful Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed
The studios at KRCL have little signs on the wall asking the staff to keep the rooms neat and tidy. After all, it’s a good way to be considerate to your co-workers. But what a mess. Brad Wheeler was getting ready to air his early evening show and there was stuff scattered all over the room.
The mess was kind of Eli "Paperboy" Reed’s fault. His guitar was on the floor. There were a couple of turntables hogging up a lot of space. Most noticeable, though, were the stacks of 45-rpm records lumped all over the place.
"I like to play records," Reed said. "I don’t get to DJ too often when I’m on the road."
That makes sense. His band, which has a new album out on Warner Bros. called "Nights Like This," just spent two months in Europe promoting the record and followed that up with a residency at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. It’s kind of hard to sit down in one place and play records for two hours, as he was going to do this day at KRCL, when you’re constantly shuttling from gig to gig.
So that’s why there were so many records everywhere. Reed and local DJ Sam Stinson were guests on Wheeler’s show "Little Bit Louder Now" and would be playing seldom-heard titles from those stacks of soul, R&B and funk singles for Utah’s radio listeners.
But this wasn’t your typical radio fare. Not many stations have playlists featuring acts like Jimmy Preacher Ellis, or BJ and the Profits, or Charley Simmons and His Royal Imperials. What is it about these half-century-old songs that still gets people excited?
"The combination of blues and gospel and country music and R&B. All those things coming together. The fieriness of church singing. The constructs of pop music. Three-minute songs. It just came together to create something that was really inspiring and really powerful," Reed said. "Those are the kinds of records that you go back to."
But "going back" to the music doesn’t mean it can’t move forward. Reed’s new album is a change in direction from his previous efforts. "Soul music can reach everybody, you just have to put it in the right context," he said. "I don’t want to be a niche artist. I want to make records for everybody, you know?"
After the two had finished playing obscure soul singles, Reed picked the guitar up off the floor and played a handful of songs. Two of them are included on his new record, and the stripped-down versions showcased the singer’s strong — and distinct — vocal style.
After Wednesday’s appearance on KRCL, Reed and Stinson are DJing at The Spot in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 8. On Sunday, Reed will be at Bar X to perform a solo live show featuring songs from the new album, along with other material.
"Every now and again I like to do shows like this where I can just like, ‘OK, you know what, I’ve got to remember that I’ve got to play this and sing it and I’ve got to do it my own self,’ " he said.
One of the things Reed says he likes about performing casually like this is that it is much easier to improvise, change the way songs are performed and choose material he normally can’t play when performing with a full band.
"I play music that I love, whether it’s the records that I’m playing or the songs that I’m singing. It’s who I am. I love it."
Eli “Paperboy” Reed
Singer-songwriter Eli “Paperboy” Reed will spin records at The Spot, 870 S. Main Salt Lake City, on Friday, Aug. 8, with music from 9 p.m.-1 a.m.
On Sunday, Reed will be at Bar X, 155 E. 200 South in Salt Lake City, where he will perform a solo live show featuring songs from his new album, “Nights Like This,” along with other material. The show starts at 9 p.m. and will feature shorter DJ sets from Sam Stinson and Reed.