The all or nothing attitude is a pervasive impulse among humans. We latch onto false dichotomies to grasp the complexity that surrounds us — natural vs artificial, analog vs digital. But on his debut EP, A Beautiful Start, artist Reid Jenkins diverges from this tendency and joyfully explores the medley of emotions and influences that make us who we are. Drawing from his instrumental background and guided by his fascination with sound design and production, Reid wrote, arranged, orchestrated, and co-produced all the songs, as well as performed many of the parts on the recording. For Reid, the production tells a story as much as the songwriting does: “I like to use real sounds, like recorded violin and guitar because they have a certain resonance as ‘authentic.’ But I also like to contrast these sounds with stuff that is obviously inorganic.” So, for example, he might contrast real horns with a heavily altered tuba sample or a real drum kit with percussion samples from a Casio keyboard.
Born into a family of musicians on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, it’s no exaggeration to say that Reid’s childhood was like The Royal Tenenbaums meets The Carter Family. At six Reid started playing the violin and at fifteen he began attending the Manhattan School of Music where he studied jazz violin so by the time he started at Columbia University, he could effortlessly switch between classical, jazz, and fiddle playing. It’s a valuable improvisational skill that Reid drew upon when he formed Morningsiders with fellow student Magnus Ferguson. The band practically became an overnight success and after a few years of touring post-graduation, it was time for a break from the road, during which Reid learned how to produce, play guitar, and focused on his solo material. The four songs that emerged from that exploratory time that comprise the EP form a snapshot of Reid’s various internal dialogues as well as his polymath abilities.