Reed Foehl grew up in Massachusetts, following his beloved Boston Bruins and listening to his parents’ records — quickly developing a passion, especially, for Neil Young.
“I could listen to Harvest over and over again,” Foehl says. “Just top to bottom, it’s a beautiful record. For my 16th birthday, I had Harvest shirts made. Everybody put them on.”
Foehl mixed all that ’70s Americana with a little jammy Boulder flavor when the singer-songwriter arrived here just over 30 years ago. The Samples and Leftover Salmon were taking off, and Foehl’s band at the time — Acoustic Junction — got a record deal and spent the ’90s, well, just a few feet off the ground.
An interaction with an industrious music lover led to Foehl finally finding success, as a solo artist, not just by touring relentlessly (opening for everyone from Dave Matthews to Taj Mahal) but by placing his songs in loads of movies and television shows.
“I made a solo record–my first solo record, called Spark. It sort of had a cinematic feel. This fan sent it into the secretary at Warner Brothers and bothered the secretary. Eventually it got into the hands of these supervisors and, like, every song on that record was licensed. And then twice.”
Making money from something other than playing shows, or pushing an album, was a game-changer for Foehl.
“I was, like, ‘Whoa, this is a whole ‘nother world. There’s money upfront. It was Dawson’s Creek — those shows — and then there was one in a feature film. I’m still making money to this day from the 2001 movie. I was, like, ‘I can just keep writing and creating and not tour as much.’ There are so many expenses with touring, and so much suffering, and just the band stuff — logistics and relationships, and it’s always a soap opera.”
Foehl — who moved back to New England a few years ago — has essentially been solo ever since, but he performs his John Prine-meets-Fruit Bats alt-folk with a band here and there, and Band of Heathens has played on his last few albums, all recorded at the group’s studio in Austin, Texas.
“They have a studio called the Finishing School, and they’re just phenomenal,” Foehl says. “I do all my work before [entering the studio]—my arrangements, the songs, the details, and I really just go to them and let them do whatever they want. I’ve learned to let go and as opposed to analyzing everything and it usually is pretty good. It’s a great experience and the records come out good.”
Foehl’s vibey and heartfelt new album, Wild Wild Love, has a Laurel Canyon feel—and even lyrical references—that nods to his childhood heroes.
“I got old songs showing up like best friends out on the weekend,” he sings in the title track. “Just like ‘Sam Stone’ or ‘Hallelujah,’ they give you what you need.”
Foehl’s parents both sadly passed in the last few decades, and becoming essentially the patriarch of his family has changed things for him, even his songwriting — “probably in ways I don’t really know.”
“To this day, I just want to call my mom,” he says. “I lost my father in 2001, so really early, and my mom about five years ago. It’s life. It’s nothing. I’m lucky to have great friends that are my brothers, and I also have siblings that I still have good relationships with, so that’s really important. My mom used to say to me, ‘You have the best friends,’ and I always thought that that’s all I need in this life, really. I want to be kind and I want to have good friends. That’s very important.”
One of Foehl’s good friends is Boulder singer-songwriter Gregory Alan Isakov, who — like Foehl — has been nominated for a Grammy. Every Christmas season for as long as most people around here can remember, Foehl has opened for Isakov at the historic Gold Hill Inn, in the mountains just above Boulder. The pair is thick as thieves, and occasional songwriting collaborators.
“Greg’s unbelievable with words,” Foehl says. “I’ve seen pieces of paper and he’ll just say, ‘This is what I’m working on.’ And he doesn’t even use it. I’m, like, ‘I would use all of that!’
He’s just one of those agile minds. I do work a little differently, and I try to not cop what he’s doing, but I’m definitely inspired and influenced by it. And I think it’s the same — I think we both take from each other. Sometimes I’ve written [a song] thinking of him and then he’ll help me finish it. That happens a lot. We’re constantly inspired by each other, because we don’t feel like we’re doing the same thing.”
Foehl and his own agile mind will be playing the Roots Music Project in Boulder on Thursday, June 29 with Fort Collins singer-songwriter Kate Farmer, a Jamestown native, opening.
ON THE BILL: Reed Foehl with Kate Farmer. 8 p.m. Thursday, June 29, Boulder Roots Music Project, 4747 Pearl St. Ste V3A, Boulder. Tickets here.