Jonny Reid sings and plays guitar in Perth pubs and clubs most nights of the week, but it is only now with the release of his debut album that WA audiences will be able to glimpse into the soul of this Irish-expat, as well as his journey.
“There’s songs about travel and experiences from Ireland to Australia,” Reid says. “Songs about falling in love and wicked exes. There’s even a song about killing a barman!”
More on that later, but it helps to know that even as he has loved and adopted Perth as his new home, his hometown of Portaferry – a small town on North-East Coast of Ireland – is never far away from his heart. It’s a sentiment captured in a song named after the little seaside hamlet. Due to the pandemic, Reid’s not been able to visit for two years.
An idyllic childhood roaming the coastal landscape meant that Reid didn’t wholeheartedly fall in love with music until he was a teenager – but when he did, it hit him big. Some close friends formed a band and needed a bass player and Reid, with no previous instrumental experience, jumped right in. And thrived…
“I was just sort of learning as I went,” he recalls. “Even at 14 we were all listening to classic rock’n’roll. From AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, Free, Springsteen…
“At around 17 we were playing the pubs around our hometown then up to Belfast and the big cities as we got a bit older.”
Local inspiration had come from the likes of his childhood friend Ryan McMullan, as well as singer/songwriter Foy Vance (signed to Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man label), whom Reid describes as “Ireland’s hidden gem.” At this he time decided to join another friend who was returning to Australia for a working holiday.
“He loved Perth,” Reid recalls. “The weather, and knowing that we come from a smaller country town back home, it wasn’t the mad rush of Sydney or Melbourne. There’s a nice pulse and the balance between beach and city life would suit us… and he was so right.”
Initially, the plan was “… to come out for a year, sing some songs and work a bit and have a laugh and a drink and travel, but then I came here and fell in love with the place.”
Reid has now been in Perth for almost seven years. Having quickly landed work in the cover scene he has become an in-demand performer, juggling multiple venues in any given week.
In that time Reid’s original music has been bubbling away underneath. “I’ve never stopped writing,” he says. “Even though I haven’t released music during my time in Australia – which is too long not to release music – I’ve never stopped planning to make this work.”
Which brings us to Reid’s debut album, Another Life. Getting to the album proper required him to sift through some 200 voice memos, clips and demos, not to mention a further 80 songs in various stages of completion. “We’re talking about six or seven years of ideas and songs,” he notes.
The songs describe the life experience hinted at in our introduction. The title track, Another Life reflects on themes of longing. “For a person, or a longing for a place,” Reid says. “It falls into that thing where I’m in Perth and it is a completely different way of life, being 10,000 miles away from family and the home that I’m from and was all I ever knew. There’s a description of a woman and another life, but there’s also another life that I’ve gotten in Australia. You can take it either way.”
The aforementioned “song about killing a barman,” is appropriately titled A Bullet In Your Head – “I had a little vision one night,” he explains “I was in a bar where I had a Sopranos moment that was a bit mafia, but thankfully it was only in my head and not something that would give me a criminal record.”
Jonny Reid now looks into the year ahead knowing that he will have an album out at home and around the world. For the singer/songwriter, it’s yet another new beginning.
“I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead,” he says, “but I am very excited.”