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Reece Sullivan playing guitar onstage. October 7th, 2023

Meet NewSong finalist Reece Sullivan

Originally from Arkansas, singer-songwriter Reece Sullivan now lives in Lafayette, La., and plays the surrounding states regularly. He’s reinvented himself many times: piano to guitar, classical to art rock, art rock to folk, flat picking to fingerpicking, solely songwriting to performing. In 2022, Reece released a full length album, Arkansas, and a single, The Riverband (Dockside). In 2023, he released a full-length acoustic album, Gethsemane, and a live EP, Live in the City of Gold. He’s putting the finishing touches on a new album, False Summits, which will be released early in 2024 and he has a single, Song for Edward de Vere,” planned for November 2023, the 400th anniversary of the first Shakespearean Folio.  
Reece is a finalist in the 2023 NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition, which will take place on Saturday, November 18, at Citizen Vinyl in downtown Asheville, N.C. Learn more and purchase tickets HERE.

NewSong Music: What sort of music was playing in your house when you were growing up?
Reece: Not much! I had a very limited amount of vinyl that I remember playing such as an album by The Beach Boys, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’ Roll,” and a kid’s song album. Other than that, one of my bigger and more fond memories of music was listening to what cassettes my dad played in his truck. I remember listening to the album An Innocent Man by Billy Joel and Tumbleweed Connection by Elton John. I loved those albums and the memories associated with them of riding with my dad singing along.  
What was your journey to music?

I was classically trained. I started taking piano lessons when I was six; I still remember getting out of the car that day and the lessons, also. Though I did learn a lot like so, it wasn’t until I got an acoustic guitar at age 15 that I truly started learning music theory and playing by ear, which I had beforehand thought of as extremely mysterious. At age 20, I majored in piano performance, but I quit that after a mere year. My professor and I got along really well and would talk a lot about The Beatles and Beethoven, both of whom I greatly love, and he advised me to simply quit college if I knew I really only wanted to write music. Majoring in piano is a very time-consuming degree. I was practicing at least a couple hours a day for five or six days a week, and I felt even that wasn’t enough. It pained me because I was dedicating all that time to learning someone else’s music, however great it may’ve been, instead of working on my own. Thus, my professor’s suggestion that I quit, which I think of to this day as good advice.  
What is the first song you wrote that you were proud of, and why?

I wrote my first song, “All I Wanted,” at my friend Jeff Fox’s house when I was 16. I still think of it a somewhat catchy tune and not all too bad. The lyrics were certainly extremely juvenile, but what can one expect at that age? As far as being satisfied with what I write, it’s a difficult thing. I feel no song is ever really perfect and can almost always be made better. Often it’s hard to figure out how to do that, though! I wrote a lot of stuff in my 20s that certainly showed talent and such, but there was a major shift in my music starting at the end of my 20s. I dedicated myself more fully to lyrics and aspects of the craft that I’d somewhat ignored up until then. When that phase started, I wrote an incredible amount of material; some of the material to arise from the early part of that phase I still enjoy and some of them I still play, but the first song to arrive where I realized I’d improved and that the improvement seemed lasting was a song titled “Suffering & Pain.” That song was released on the album “All For You, Dulcinea.” Though the vocals and production and recording quality on those songs was drastically lacking, I still really like “Suffering & Pain.”
What is your writing process like?
I believe in writing whether one is “in the mood” or not. So I try to generally treat it like an author would while writing a book. I tend to write predominantly on acoustic guitar, but I’ll sometimes write things on piano. Though there are definitely exceptions, I almost always get the music totally to my liking. This includes verses, choruses, bridges, breaks, and phrasing. After that, I write lyrics.  
Share a musical adventure from this summer with us — an experience that really stood out for you.
I had a song place in this year’s ACORN Songwriting Competition, so I flew to Chicago to play the event, which is about an hour east, in the bottom part of Michigan, almost, but not quite, on Lake Michigan. Certainly traveling is one of my favorite things to be doing, no matter where I’m headed or why, though traveling for music is the best. I had also never been to Michigan or Wisconsin, so I took the chance to drive up into Wisconsin on a free day, which, combined with seeing Michigan, makes for 45 states I’ve been to. Louisiana was scorching hot, as it always is in the summer, so it bordered on magical being somewhere as cool and breezy as they are. The ACORN Theater did not disappoint. It’s an amazing, magical place that couldn’t look better, aesthetically. I had a great time playing and met a lot of good folks, one of which I may play some shows with in a few months. Meeting people through music is honestly one of the best parts to touring, and for me, I feel closer to people I meet through music than any of circumstance.