Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed
There is a new contender to the crown of soul singing – with the pipes of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett combined, the baby-faced Boston native, Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed is here to rock your world and pitch the woo at your lady friends. “I grew up with a lot of music in my house,” Eli says of his early schooling in the classics of soul. “So many different kinds, blues, gospel, country, r’n’b. It was taken for granted, it was just always there, you know?” he shrugs. “So I just started singing along, but I guess I never really thought about how I should or shouldn’t do it, it was just like ‘If Jackie Wilson sings it that way, then I’ll sing it that way too’,” he grins.
Eli got the ‘Paperboy’ nickname from a friend simply because he was always wearing a flatcap and it stuck, but hey, all good blues-men need a catchy handle. Indeed, Eli really has the voice of a hard-living old blues man, which is surprising to see coming out of a 26-year-old white kid. His latest album, and first major label release, Come And Get It is actually quite amazing; it’s lush, rockin’, and full of sex-charged good times. It is an old fashioned, red-blooded rhythm and blues record that manages to sound fresh, doing something new rather than sounding pointlessly retro and static.
Which is because Reed doesn’t set out to write soul music.
“I think I’m moving forward, really,” he says of his music. “The thing that struck me about soul music initially was the emotional quality of the music. I think that most, if not all, of my contemporaries are coming to soul music from a hip hop/funk standpoint – break beats and all that stuff – but that’s not where I came from at all. I came from being interested in great songs and also really emotional singing.
“Really, what I feel like I am doing is pop, more than it is funk or soul or whatever. It’s a lot broader.”
It ,ay also be the most soulful pop music you’ll come across, with full string arrangements, a banging horn section complete with baritone sax, sassy backing vocals, the full spread. Tracks like Name Calling and Come And Get It sound like the Jackson 5 with Otis out front; you simply want to put them on and dance. “I wanted to really build the arrangement around the songs and not the other way around,” Reed says. “It’s exciting to have that lushness, the strings and backing vocals. I think it’s great and it makes the record sound great.”
The album’s last track, Explosion, is a soul-r’n’b-dance tour de force, like James Brown at his fiercest, but don’t tell Reed that. “Everybody says that sound like James Brown, I don’t see that, it doesn’t sound like James Brown at all,” he counters the compliment. “He would have never played that fast. It sounds like the MC5, that’s what I’m thinking,” he laughs.
Out in Australia for Bluesfest, Reed will be fitting in a few sideshows. “This time out we are carrying a little bit of a smaller group,” he explains. “Just an organ, two guitars, myself and the other guitar player, bass and drums, and we all sing, so there is four-part harmonies.
“It’s exciting to be able to tour with a smaller group,” he admits. “It’s less inhibiting than touring with the larger group because we can change the set on the fly, but we sound just as big and just as powerful.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to play some new stuff and change the set up; solo, it’s going to be fun. It makes the live show all the more appealing when we can take those full, lush, arrangements and reshape them for a smaller unit.
“I just think it is an exciting show and we get the audience really involved, we are all in this together working towards all having a good time.”
ELI PAPERBOY REED will be knockin’ ‘em out with his rhythm and blues revue at The East Brunswick Club Wednesday April 27. He also plays BLUESFEST in Byron Bay from April 21-26 – info from bluesfest.com.au. Come And Get It is out now.