Learning Library Segments
Three Good ReasonsPrimary Use of Medium: Entertain through live performances in small venues
Interviewer: Donna Wetegrove
Interview Location This interview takes place with Reggie and Jayne in Reggie's South Austin home. It's a hot August night in the middle of the week. Reggie's birds and dogs can be heard in the background. Performance venue is at Seattle's Best Coffee Shop; Exposition Blvd and North by Northwest Restaurant, Austin, Texas.
Interview Date: 8.6.03
Writer: Jenny Turney
What Type Of Artists Do You See Yourself As?
The fact that they are so varied in their choice of music, this question is difficult to answer. Reggie says, "As far as, the stuff we do together it is a very eclectic mix. There's not really a style. We don't even label it. I know people ask us that a lot--‘What do you usually play?'" He answers, "well you need to see a set list." He goes on to say that they can somewhat label themselves as a "cover type group" but then quickly adds that they do a lot of original work too. He loosely uses the description eclectic, which encompasses anything from Wichita Linemen to Buddy Holly.
Reggie and Bill are writers and guitar players and each have their own style. Reggie calls his style "Cirque du Solei with a mandolin. It is really diverse. We've all played for a long, long time. We've all done all the pony rides, record deals, all that whole stuff and what we are doing now is stuff we always wanted to play and nobody would ever pay us to play it."
Jayne considers herself the lead vocals of the group, perhaps she says with a laugh, "because I'm the loudest and you hear me the most." She says she shares the vocal title though with Reggie. "Neither one of us wanted to be the front person. Plus we all have so many things we want to do." As far as eclectic, I think so, there are so many things, I still like to sing hymns. I just love all the new stuff…I just listen to a lot of different things. It's eclectic."
How Did You Get Here?
Jayne got her start young singing acapela songs in her hometown Church of Christ church. "… definitely me singing in church. My Dad was a jazz guitarist and my mother sang operettas when she was in school and both of my sisters have musical voices, you know, but they don't really sing much anymore." She adds that she just always loved to sing and when she started writing at a very young age it was always very lyrical, a "very tight" form. "I tried to write little stories and stuff like that and again, I always wanted to do it. However, coming from a strict religious background, I was not always encouraged to get into popular music at home."
Physically, she got to Austin after she got married. "My husband and I both were musicians and we got into it. When we came to Texas, which was many years ago, we started playing in a country variety band, which I never did like country one little bit, but I got a much better appreciation for it when I started singing with them."
Reggie also started young and had the opportunity at the age of 10 to be a part of a unique project. "There was a program at the University of Texas called "String Project." They would take children that pass aptitude tests. And if they show aptitudes they would give them a free instrument, free lessons, free theory and orchestra." Many of the kids advanced by the time they graduated and got scholarships to Julliard, according to Reggie.
Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?
For Reggie it was simple, "I was gifted. I had an ear. That's the main thing. A lot of kid's don't realize it today. …Playing music is like a library and that's the deal; you read as many books as you can and you go give lectures on it and it's the same thing with music."
Neither of his parents was musically inclined. He did however, have a brother fourteen years older that was in one of the hottest bands at the time – The Del Reys. Reggie remembers and says, "I was just a kid sitting on the end of the couch watching this guy playing the string base and saying ‘this is cool, there's girls everywhere'." This feeling of awe stuck with Reggie his whole life. His brother's band eventually opened for Buddy` Holly.
As far as modern influences, Reggie mentions Jimi Hendrix. "He turned the whole world upside down for a lot of people our age…. It's like feedback, turn that thing off. It was like maybe we can do something with the feedback." Others he mentions include Jeff Beck and Eric Johnson (Reggie played in his band).
Why Do You Like The Medium?
With a gleam in his eye Reggie tells us it's very easy why he likes music. "I started out in base and that was my main instrument. It's like a basketball player being in his zone or Tiger Woods having a really good game. You just go there. It's so gratifying, it's just so fulfilling."
He explains that in today's world everyone has to work to pay bills and take care of things around their homes, but he adds, "there's few things you do that takes your breath away. Playing music for me, has always been like that cause that saves the mind. You keep finding those licks (a sting of notes that sound good together) you've never heard before, well you've heard them but they weren't crystallized yet."
Jayne says, "for me it was always just the best way to express myself...I got the most personally from it." She adds that is does take a lot of work and a lot of work goes into it to make it possible.
Does The Material Dictate The Design Or Does Your Design Idea Dictate How The Material Is Used?
"Most of my playing is not from knowledge or from being taught, it's just stuff I've found" is how Reggie answers this question.
"In my case it's the instrumentation," Reggie explains. He hears things and tries them. If he's not able to play it he won't even bring it before everybody else in the band. "Sometimes you try and spend weeks on it and you finally just say forget that it's not happening…we need a drummer or whatever…." Three Good Reasons, as a collective unit, has accomplished quite a lot considering they don't have percussion. They make up for this absence of sound creating similar sounds with the rhythm of the other instruments.
They recently worked up a song they took from a Shawn Colvin recording. Reggie says, "it's just stunning. I mean, I play it, I want to play it twice a night we just don't do that." It is experiences like this that keep them doing what they do -- gig after gig. "You get the elation from playing…it's not the money, because we don't make a whole lot of money." For them, it's a chance to perform in front of people and have fun. They don't consider themselves "a club band" and tend not to play the hits everybody wants to hear. They however enjoy just playing for friends, fundraisers or whoever happens to show up.
What Brings Your Medium To Life?
"What each of us brings to the table," say both Jayne and Reggie. As the vocal lead, Jayne sings the way she wants to and no one tells her "you have to do it this way or that way." Jayne also mentions that for her she thinks Reggie and Bill bring things to life, "these guys are so inspiring…" Sometimes it's the writing and other times it's the vocals or musical instruments that bring their sound to life. They agree that they just enjoy playing together as a band and have fun the whole time. "We all work regular jobs to pay the bills and everything, but this is where we go to, and that's really sweet," explains Reggie.
What Tools Are Required In Your Process?
Simply put, their tools consist of the tenor bass, tenor guitar, vocals and a detailed PA system. But for a more in depth answer there are some inanimate objects that actually work as tools for their process. Jayne's husband Tim for example, while not a tool, works with their sound equipment and is part of the process of producing sound. "So, he's got all kinds of cool stuff to make us sound great: that enhances I should say. So, that's one of the things that people don't think about a lot when they come to the coffeehouse to see us play and they don't realize that all that equipment is ours. We're real self-contained cause that's the way we want to be. We've again played so long that we've come to the point where we don't want to just rely on the club's system whatever that may or may not be. So, it does make a difference."
Reggie adds that the "racks" that he and Bill work on enhances their overall sound and plays a big role as a tool. Reggie explains that there are EQ's (equalization, which is how you change the sound and color of an instrument, ie, controlling the amount of treble on a bass guitar so it's not too tinny) for each different instrument where usually one might see one pre amp (front end of an amplifier, through which, allows you to change the tones of whatever instrument you are playing) with a stomp (slang phrase for an effects pedal...most are mounted on a board and activated with your feet to turn them on or off. ie., echo, distortion, fuzz all of which enhance the sound). Reggie has a separate pre amp and EQ for each instrument that he plays. He tweaks it exactly the way he wants it. Jayne adds that this is "one of the unique things about our sound, now Reggie has a pretty fine tuned set-up and Bill sticks with one guitar on stage. Reggie's got the acoustic bass, the tenor guitar. The string bass has got to have Bill has a real involved pedal board and uses one acoustic guitar amp. He gets a beautiful sound out of that."
As far as the PA tools, Tim uses many compressors, designed and made by their friends at FMR Audio. This set-up lends a uniqueness that is all theirs.
Do You Consider It Functional Art?
"It's above utilitarian."
For Reggie it serves his purpose. "We do those charities and stuff like that. It's kind of relative to the situation. It's art; it's better than anything. We've done some really cool stuff... we did the Hospice Benefit and a concert at the Governor mansion. We make it functional. If we can help someone and they like us, we'd like to be associated with someone like that. You can have the worst day and then go play and it's so much better."
Please speak About The Connections In Your Work.
"Inspiration comes from everything."
For this group, it's the camaraderie. All agree that they feel this when they come to practice. They enjoy each other's company and have fun. "It's something you look forward to. It's just doing it itself. You bounce off each other. We love each other. There are so many things that make the Three Good Reasons," explains Reggie. All 3 of their life experiences add to the connection and the outcome.
For Jayne there was a period of time where she did a lot of writing shortly after her Dad passed away. She and Bill played a song called "My blue dress." She says, "the way he (Bill) played that song. We were so inspired to sing that song. Now it's my favorite one." It is times like this where these three feel a "connection."
Please Summarize Your Entire Process.
"It comes from so many different sources. There is no one magic thing."
One occasion, Reggie came to rehearsal with an opera song. It was in Italian. He had been listening to it and had already gone to work on the guitar parts. Once he played it for the other two, they ended up liking his version better than the original
"If you are true to yourself there are people out there who will pick up on it."
"One of us brings something in and says, ‘listen to this.' As an artist you need to showcase yourself" explains Jayne.
Do You Recommend What You Do As A Career Choice? … Why?
"Never discount something you love so much that you want to do."
Jayne says, "as a career choice it would definitely work." However, she says, "it's one of those things where you need to be careful what you wish for, because it's an extremely crazy business…a thankless business." Her explanation is that when you're on stage and your feel great and sing great, it's the most wonderful thing in the world, but you need to remember that you're only on stage for about an hour then reality sinks in. "Reality in this business is really harsh and it takes all of your time. So, as far as a family, that's next to impossible to do. I think it takes a certain kind of person and you have to be strong and ready for it. Some people can do it, but it's not for everybody."
From what Reggie has experienced if you feel like you can do it, then by all means go forward and something good might just come of it. "To me it's like acting. The chance of you being that kid in "Seven" you know is pretty slim. I don't know how many children showed up for that role and they've all got those eyes."
Reggie points out that here in Austin, there's a mental health foundation (SIMS Foundation) that deals with artists getting through these types of situations. It's a tough industry to break into. For instance, he says, "it can be a mental crash." In the meantime he suggests that you don't let life pass you by. Jayne adds that this business is "based on superficial things—looks, who you know…sorry but that is very, very small in the realm of what's important. You have to make some hard choice and it takes such a high level of self confidence."
Reggie feels he's been very fortunate. He's been involved in 4 major acts and record deals. "I'm at peace with it and feel very fortunate to have been there. I was very lucky that go to this level. It was just the shake of the cards, or the group I decided to go with."
This luck takes dedication and practice, but one never knows how it's going to turn out. For instance he says, "you're sitting there in Warner Brothers in NY, going "yeah, baby, yeah. But, it doesn't always work out like that. You'd better get the free deli tray while it's there, use the long distance because it's free and get some postcards, some T-shirts and records, cause that's what it's all about. It's over in 12 minutes. And you're old news."
"You know the record labels today, they put you out there, throw it against the wall. If it doesn't stick, you're gone."
"You don't make money for many, many years. I don't care how many records you have. People don't realize that and need to."
What Tips Might You Have For Someone New To The Medium? … How Best To Develop Their Interest?
"Just practice and have faith in yourself. Play and enjoy it. Play first and try to market it second. If they see you're having fun, you're going to do a good job."
"Because you love it and you're going to do it in a manner that enhances your life. Do it well because you're doing it the way you like it, the way you want to do it." Again, Jayne emphasizes that if you want to be huge, you will have to take the right path and give into the concessions and be willing to compromise.
They recycle songs, but instruments aren't as easily recycled due to how much they are used. Reggie does mention that some groups give used instruments to schools.
"Ours is kind of a one on one kind of thing. We've got the grass roots kind of thing. We've got our website and we hand out lots of cards and we always let people know that we are available for private parties."
Their marketing strategy is low-key, based on "good old-fashioned" networking.
Where Do You See Your Creativity Evolving?
"Again this is one situation where I can just kick back and enjoy it," Reggie says as he leans back in his chair. "We're not chasing the carrot, we've had the carrot and it's not as tasty, and it's getting skinnier than it used to be." He compares his current situation to winning the lottery. It's exactly where he wants to be at this time in his life.
"This is the coolest thing I've done. I just would never want to stop what we're doing."
Three Good Reasons Favorite Resource List: (Soon To Be Added … Check Back!)
Reggie Witty, Jayne Wooten, Bill Webb
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