Biography by Paul Sexton
When they draw the map of authentic Americana, historians may not previously have thought of using marker pins for the cities of Leith, Edinburgh and Dundee. Now they'll have to, to record the rapid rise of Roseanne Reid.
Following a couple of acclaimed EP releases, Trails — the debut album by the Scottish troubadour and eldest daughter of The Proclaimers' Craig Reid — announces the official arrival of a singular new voice in folk-roots music. It was recorded in Brooklyn with an A-team of players expertly corralled by the album's producer and an artist from fine musical stock of his own, Teddy Thompson.
Reid's songs conjure more from less, exuding a quiet confidence and sparse authenticity that recalls some of the genre's leading lights such as Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams, but with a tone that belongs to Roseanne and no one else. No wonder, then, that Americana legend Steve Earle has not only adopted Reid as a personal cause, but makes a guest appearance on the delightful 'Sweet Annie.'
Another track on the album, 'Amy,' has already won prestigious recognition. It triumphed in the Lyrics Only category at the Nashville-based International Song Competition, chosen from 160,000 entries from 130 countries. Reid's resumé also includes a 2015 nomination at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
The album's lead single 'I Love Her So' is a typically clear-eyed statement, highlighting both Roseanne's charmingly low-key vocals and some elegant instrumentation, with more than a hint of southern soulfulness. Throughout Trails, there's an admirable and irresistible live feel which reflects the way the album was recorded, in just four days, with spontaneous musicality to the fore and not a gimmick in sight.
“Teddy is very sympathetic to this genre, what works and what doesn't, and he's got the experience in both areas,” says Reid of her producer. “He's got such an unbelievable ear for these things. It was amazing to watch how he works. I feel very fortunate to have him on board.”
The fact that Teddy, like Roseanne, has music running through the family blood was only another advantage. “That was possibly part of the appeal of working with Teddy,” she says. “He knows what it's like, and he's made a success of himself in his own right.”
Reid started to lay out her own artistic pathway when she learned guitar at the age of 12. “My mum taught me my first three chords, and it went from there,” she says. “It was a very smooth transition from the initial thinking of 'This is cool and I enjoy doing it' to 'This is what I want to dedicate myself to.'
“The huge plus point to my dad doing what he does is that I've learned first hand what's involved with the more business side, and the day-to-day runnings of it. It's incredible, his work ethic, so that's been a great thing to see.”
Reid's attitude to having fame in the family is perfectly well-adjusted. “To an extent, it'll always precede me, being in the same line of work, but we're very different songwriters and people,” she says decisively. “I don't make it any secret of it, because I want to be honest about every part of what I do. But hopefully I can start to step out of the shadows with this album.”
Born in Leith, Roseanne grew up in Edinburgh, her home for more than 20 years until her recent relocation to Dundee to move in with her wife. “I did a couple of high school talent shows with my little brother and one of my friends,” she says of her first steps in performance. “That gave me a taste for it and after that, I started out on the folk circuit in Edinburgh, and Leith Folk Club were really good to me. I hadn't had any real experience and they gave me a support slot. I combined that with doing regular open mic nights.”
Her tastes were shaped by early purchases on cassette and CD, although her earliest album memory is of the time her mum and dad bought her a T. Rex greatest hits collection. As she entered her teens, her attention moved to the acoustic, firstly via Bob Dylan and then to the lesser-celebrated Peter, Paul & Mary.
“I kept going to these shops and I couldn't get any of their albums, so whenever my dad was on tour in America, that's what he would bring me back. Then it was a natural progression to other acoustic acts.”
Chief among those, and an inspiration to this day, was Martha Wainwright. “My mum had a couple of tickets to see Rufus Wainwright at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and she was supporting him. It was just like lightning, it was instantaneous. She came on and she looked incredible. She started playing and it was like nothing I had ever heard. I knew very quickly from then on in that I was interested in doing this.”
As for Steve Earle's enthusiastic support, that goes back to 2014 and Roseanne's first visit to his songwriting workshop Camp Copperhead, held in New York's Catskill Mountains. On open mic night, she overcame her nervousness to perform 'Amy' in front of him and all of the aspiring writers present. “It was terrifying, but it was a lovely reception,” she says. Earle not only had encouraging words, but invited her back in subsequent years.
With the sessions for the album due to start, she decided to go for broke with her song 'Sweet Annie,' which she'd written some four years earlier. “I only asked him when I was in the process of organising the recording with Teddy. I just thought that song would sound really nice as a duet. I emailed him and he said yes. Steve's been one of my biggest supporters, which is incredible.”
Now the stage is set, for an artist whose integrity shines through in every song. “It comes from a very personal and genuine place, that's how I’ve always done it,” she says. “Writing honestly just comes naturally to me. I don't know how to do it any other way.”