Delightfully soulful: that's the first thing which often comes to mind while listening to Reuben Bidez, as the Nashville-based singer croons and strums at his guitar, captivating the audience for a moment, or an eternity. If you've fallen in love with emotional singers like Chris Isaak in the past, then Bidez' music is sure to move you equally. Bidez draws from both folk and the great rock and singer-songwriters of the 1970s to crash his haunting, genre-defying sound. At the heart of it all is his talent for songwriting, and his memorable voice. While Bidez was at Bonnaroo performing, AXS sat down with him for a conversation about his music and everything that makes him tick.
AXS: What drew you into being in the music industry, and what made you want to make music?
Reuben Bidez: I think whenever I’d see a great show I was just so drawn in by it, and I think I just wanted to draw people in too. I think the idea of doing something entertaining or just presenting something great that catches people and holds their attention was really important for me, so that’s what I wanted to do, as well. I think I’ve always been a performer, being the class clown growing up I was always wanting to entertain people. I found that I could entertain people through music, that’s really how it got started I think.
AXS: When crafting your songs, what comes first for you, the music or the lyrics?
R.B.: I’d say it’s different every song. I would say, beyond just lyrics or music, there has to be a spark or over-arching idea, and that’s how I kind of roll with it. For me, I’ve written from both sides. In a perfect world, the melody comes first, because it can get kind of squashed if you don’t make it come first. A lot of people say melody is king, some people say lyric is king. I think I’m a melody first guy, then lyrics second.
AXS: What overall message do you want people to draw from your music?
R.B.: I think I just really want to write real music that makes people feel human, feel emotion. People say my music is emotional, and I would probably take that as a compliment. I think in our culture today, we are so easily self-medicated and try to avoid issues. I feel a lot of music today is an escape from reality, not just music but our culture is so escape from reality oriented in general. I want people listening to my music to be confronted and to confront their feelings and emotions, and to feel pain and feel happiness, and to be in the moment. I try to leave a lot of space in my music, a lot of pauses so the people can kind of reflect. I don’t want to be just background music. Therapy music, maybe. [laughs]
AXS: Is there anyone in the music industry who you look up to and aspire to have a career like theirs?
R.B.: Yeah, I mean, definitely not the ones that burn out. I honestly am really drawn to a lot of the guys who have had long careers, the guys like Tom Petty, even Paul McCartney for that matter, who have been able to continuously reinvent themselves. Guys like David Bowie are so inspiring to me, that he was never defined by a particular genre, that he was able to reinvent himself. Not even reinvent himself, but maybe discover himself more and more, and then reveal that through his music. Those guys that really have that longevity, and didn’t just say stagnant. Some of these bands that are such era bands, they’re great for a moment but then they lose their relevance. I think maybe everybody doesn’t want to lose their relevance, but those are the guys I really look up to.
AXS: Has there been anyone who’s been a guidepost for you on your journey through the music industry?
R.B.: I’ve had great mentors along the way. Growing up in the church world for awhile, I had some great music pastors who were helping me along the way. Not just helping me musically, but helping me be a better person, and understand that music is not just music but the soul and spirit behind it. And then great songwriters, like Matthew Perryman Jones and Thad Cockrell, have been really great to me since I’ve moved to Nashville. They have sat down with me and not just helped me with music, but helped me again with my heart, asked me how are you doing, how’s your family. They’ve been super successful and they’ve written great songs, so I look up to them, and it’s been really cool that I’ve gotten on a level with them that I can open up, and they’ll open up. It helps me avoid some of those potholes along the way that can come.
AXS: When you aren’t playing your own music, who do you enjoy listening to?
R.B.: I really like old music. Anything in the 70s, for the most part, I like. I listen to a lot of George Harrison, he’s a huge influence on my music. I also, as far as modern stuff goes, I still can’t get over the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Raising Sand record, that T Bone Burnett put out, it’s still one of those that I put on and just listen to it. Old music, mo town man, I’ll listen to that. I love a lot of old stuff. I find a lot of the new artists I like have that influence, that old sound.
AXS: What other outlets for your creativity do you have besides playing music?
R.B.: Lately it’s been just music. I love watching baseball a lot, but that’s just a hobby. One of my best friends plays baseball, so I like to follow him and his team. It’s not really being creative, though, I would say. I’ve worked in the restaurant world, kind of a day job, and worked behind the bar. So, creating craft cocktails is a way of being creative. Creating something that people like, and will enjoy it. Certain parts work together well, and you’ve got to bring them all together. Kind of like songwriting, so it’s a reflection of my songwriting process. Alright, this is gonna work, let’s put these together and this together and see how it tastes.
AXS: Last question, if you only get one word to describe your music, what word do you go with.
R.B.: One word? I would say feeling. As in the verb and the noun.