In 2002 I was attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee obtaining a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. I moved back home after studying audio engineering and production at Indiana University for two years. During my time in Indiana my father moved his recording studio to a space in Downtown Milwaukee. Throughout my entire childhood he had ran his studio out of a soundproof room my uncle helped build in our basement. So in between studying and working at the YMCA and WTMJ Radio, I took all of the random equipment that he wasn't using and set it up in that same vacant room. I was so bored at college, I would come home and make beats and write to them. I remember the rush of adrenaline recording and stacking my voice. I used a program called Studio Vision Pro which only allowed up to 8 audio tracks and the rest was midi triggering samplers and synth modules. At one point I was using a Fostex reel to reel tape machine for additional tracks.
Whatever piece of equipment I could find, it didn't matter to me. I found a way to use it. Some notable pieces worth mentioning for any of you audio nerds was a Linn Drum Machine, EMU Emulator III (shown on the left) and a Roland Jv2080.
I wrote, produced and mixed an entire album through a Yamaha Promix 01 onto DAT tapes. I called the album Urgent Message because, well honestly I felt like I had something important and urgent to say. I wanted to share hope that could travel through music and reach listener’s hearts. I was hearing all this mainstream music and how deceiving and misleading it was. I figured I could provide a positive message to counteract that. I wanted to use my passion and gift of creativity to weave this message into what I considered quality music. (Listening back I realize I had a lot to learn!)
I remember getting 1,000 CD’s pressed by Discmakers. They showed up at the front door. I was so excited. Then my next thought was, “Who’s going to buy all these?!” Crazy enough I started performing at coffee shops and community centers and churches and one thing led to another and I ended up ordering a second batch of 1,000!
Around that same time I met an incredibly talented guitar player named Sam Ageloff at UWM. We were randomly partnered together in an advertising class and became close friends. We worked so well together we decided to collaborate on some songs and I brought him out to play at coffee shops and random events with me. I was writing songs specifically for the shows I was booked to perform at.
The feedback to those songs was so good we decided to record them at my dad's studio downtown Milwaukee. We called the album "One Down" (thinking we would make more lol.) While Urgent Message was mostly hip hop, these songs were multi-genre (I was listening to a lot of Switchfoot and Stevie Wonder at the time). Which looking back it's incredible to see how all of these years later I've finally embraced my multi-genre niche and I'm running with it, it's always who I've been. .
Listening back I'm somewhat embarrassed (real talk). I thought I knew a lot back then and was very passionate about communicating things I hadn't fully learned yet. I had a lot of energy and at times it felt a bit over the top like I was trying way too hard to prove myself. Maybe because I was! I remember Toby Mac telling me that albums are like polaroid snap shots, and when you look back at old photos sometimes you think "What was I thinking!?" These albums are where I was at at those points in my life, just like every single album I've released after them.
You can download both of these albums by signing up at patreon.com/brianreith .
I'm sharing this with you not only to promote my Patreon campaign (shameless plug), but to encourage you to START WHERE YOU ARE (OR CONTINUE). It was so important for me to just START making music right where I was and not wait until I had a bigger reason. I had no idea where I was headed back then. I was really struggling with direction, and the process was (and still is) very challenging and has to be taken one step at a time. But each step that I took led to another step, and another. I didn't make an album because I wanted to get signed by a label. I created music because it was a gift and a passion. And that foundation has helped me keep building brick by brick, progress not perfection. I've embraced that living awake/present in the moment and embracing the process is way more realistic and fulfilling than being consumed and driven by some misunderstood unguaranteed outcome.
If you can't sign up for Patreon you can download a song from "One Down" here