Eli “Paperboy” Reed returns to the spotlight

BMS catches up with the local soul favorite ahead of his homecoming show

, Editor-in-Chief

Its been awhile since Boston has had a choice to enjoy one the city’s finest exports, Eli “Paperboy” Reed. After moving to Brooklyn and finding more success overseas, the Brookline native will return home this week for a special homecoming show on Friday as he gears up for the release of his highly anticipated third studio album.

Reed turned heads with his first album of original material, 2008’s Roll With You. The success landed him a deal with Capitol Records, who released 2010’s Come and Get It! which found the singer touring extensively overseas. A label shakeup shifted him to Warner Bros. Records, who will release his new album Nights Like This in April. While fans still have to wait a few months to get their hands on the new album, which many are predicting will earn Reed more mainstream success, they’ll get the opportunity to hear the new material live on Friday.

Friday’s show at The Sinclair in Cambridge is part of Reed’s “Nights Like This” series, an event he curated and debuted in Brooklyn last fall.

With that in mind, we recently caught up with Reed to discuss the new album, homecoming show and more.

Boston Music Spotlight (BMS): It’s been awhile since you have been back home to Boston for a show. How are things going?

Eli “Paperboy” Reed (ER): Things are starting to pick up steam and I’m very excited to get this new album out. It especially means a lot to me to come back to Boston and play after so long. Playing in Harvard Square has a special significance; When I was starting out I would busk in the center of the square during the spring and summer and make rent that way! I’m looking forward to coming back and showing the new songs to the hometown crowd.

BMS: With your last release, you toured a lot across the globe. Where you surprised at the international appeal and success you found?

ER: It was actually a little bit of a calculated decision. With Roll With You (my first album on Q-Division Records) we sort of had to choose to take a domestic route or an international one and the initial interest was international with great write ups in “Mojo” and other European and UK based magazines. Instead of setting out on a big U.S. tour we basically hit the road in Europe for six months and from there it really blossomed into a career over there for me.

BMS: You have a new album ready to drop. What can you tell us about Nights Like This?

ER: It’s definitely a different kind of record than anything I’ve ever made before, from the songwriting on down. My writing and production partner Ryan Spraker and I tried really think outside the box, from starting a song from a bass line or a drum sample or a weird synth line we just wanted to start from scratch sonically. In a way, I have an advantage with doing that because I know my voice and singing style is really going to bring it all back home for the listeners. This may be a little bit of a surprise to some people but I think it’s going to open me up to a whole new fanbase.

BMS: How was the recording process different this time around?

ER: It was very different! Instead of taking my road-tested band into the studio and just cutting records the way we had been playing, Ryan and I built our tracks from the ground up, often just starting with a bass line or a drum loop. Then we would add live drums as well and sometimes run analog keyboards through little guitar amps to get different sounds. Oftentimes we didn’t know what the actual “part” might be but we would pursue the sound we were looking for and the part would come. Also, there’s no horn section on this record which is a big departure for me. We opted to go with a lot of vocals instead of the horns so you’ll hear a big chorus of vocals, often effected or re-amplified through vintage equipment and that gives the songs a different character. It was really a fun record to make and I think it shows in the finished product.

BMS: “Shock to the System” features Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and The Tantrums. How did this collaboration come about?

ER: Fitz is actually just a co-writer on the song, he’s not singing on it, though I hope we can do a song together in the future. It was just a case of the right people putting us all together. That writing session was actually the first we ever did for this album and it was myself, Ryan, Fitz and producer Dave Bassett. We had never met Fitz or Dave before but we just clicked and after about four hours we had the song done. I sent it to my manager not really knowing what to make of it and he said “yes! this is it!” After that we sort of used it as the template for how we approached the rest of the record and we actually wrote two more songs with Fitz and Dave, both of which are on the record.

BMS: Are there any new tracks that you are particularity proud of or excite for fans to hear?

ER: I love “Two Broken Hearts.” At heart, I’m a ballad singer and there’s nothing better to sink your teeth into as a singer than revenge song, and this song is both of those things. We made the production really huge and orchestral and I think the song really bridges the gap between the old sound and the new one.

BMS: There is a buzz around this release with many saying it has great mainstream potential. Was this something you were conscious of while recording?

ER: Yes and no. I think we consciously knew that we wanted to break out of the niche and experiment, but we weren’t trying to pursue a particular goal of a mainstream sound. I think we achieved that because we were able to produce the record ourselves and so our particular slant on pop music is a little different than what people might be used to which I think gives us an advantage.

BMS: You got a big show on Friday at The Sinclair. Explain how the “Nights Like This” series came about?

ER: It was an idea that came to me over the course of a few months. I wanted people to experience an Eli “Paperboy” Reed show as more than just a show that you showed up to and left after the show was over. I wanted it to feel like an event. So we decided to bring in some DJs, some vendors selling some cool stuff and tried it out for the first time at Union Pool in Brooklyn in November. We sold out both nights in a row and people stuck around the whole night, loved the vendors and DJs and from there we knew we really had something.

BMS: What can fans expect at the show?

ER: Excitement! That’s my stock answer to that question. We are actually going to be playing the whole record from front to back and it’s not out until April 29. So, this will be the only chance people have to hear these songs before then. We’ll also have local hat shop Goorin Brothers doing a popup shop, The Sinclair will be selling red velvet cupcakes, we’ll have vinyl on hand to sell from Warner Brothers, Ruby Rose Fox is performing and Soulelujah will be on the turntables! To paraphrase John Belushi, that’s a lot of entertainment for $15.

BMS: Of course, the show falls on Valentine’s Day. With that in mind, if you had to curate a Valentine’s Day compilation/playlist, what would be on it?

ER: Oh man, just about everything I listen to would end up on that list. I would suggest everybody listen to Sam Cooke’s “Live at the Harlem Square Club” album. It’s perfect for any day but it’s definitely one for the lovers.

Eli “Paperboy” Reed will perform at The Sinclair in Cambridge on Friday, February 14.  Tickets for the shoe are available through Ticketmaster for $15.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Eli “Paperboy” Reed returns to the spotlight | BLUE BLOG!

Leave a Reply