Glen Reynolds certainly has a lot of momentum behind him these days. He recently released his second solo album, Breakbeat Ice Beneath Me, but this time, he's using the moniker of Grey. While the album is a departure from the Weezer-meets-XTC vibe of his earlier material, it certainly represents where Reynolds is now. He tackles all kinds of genres, from country pop, soul, trip-hop, Britpop, and hip-hop. Yes, hip-hop. And he has some notable credibility to back that foray up.
Last year, Reynolds was featured on the Talib Kweli single, "Push Thru," which also features Kendrick Lamar and Curren$y. Kweli's latest record, Prisoner of Conscious, was finally released this year, and "Push Thru" is one of the key tracks. Reynolds might seem like an odd fit for hip-hop, but if you know a few things about his past, it's not that far of a stretch.
For the longest time, Reynolds was known as the energetic and goofy guitarist from Chomsky who also occasionally fronted Weezer and Oasis cover bands. Chomsky's new wave pop edge showed only one side of Reynolds' oeuvre. He has a deep-rooted love of hip-hop, dating back to the late '80s/early '90s, long before he dropped hard on American and British indie rock.
Plus, Reynolds has always had the kind of musical talent that's quite enviable: he can figure out almost any song from any genre halfway through hearing it. Be it Def Leppard's "Photograph" or the Geto Boys' "Mind's Playing Tricks on Me," if there's a melody, Reynolds can figure it out. That certainly is an asset when playing any kind of music.
Getting to this hip-hop fit has been rather strange and unexpected. When Reynolds released his first solo record, In Between Days, in 2007, there wasn't much traction or attention from longtime Chomsky fans. Living in Stephenville at the time, it was hard to commute to Dallas on a regular basis and practice with his backing band. His band dissolved before he moved back to Dallas the following year, but that's when things got interesting because of In Between Days.
Picnic, from the heralded local act PPT, liked what he heard on Reynolds' debut. So much so that Picnic asked Reynolds to sing on a track called "American Weirdo." That trail led to working with S1, the Texas-born producer who's worked with many of the biggest hip-hop artists of today: Jay-Z, Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Erykah Badu. And through S1 came the "Push Thru" with Kweli.
The title of the Kweli track pretty much sums up the struggle to get the record out. Originally intended for release in 2011, Kweli's Prisoner of Conscious was delayed a few times. When its release date was delayed the second time, Reynolds thought of what he could do in the meantime. "Being a songwriter and a person who's working behind the scenes, it's kinda like being a real estate investor: it's a long-term investment," Reynolds says while sitting in the low-lit Lakewood Landing dive bar. "So you're not going to see a return very quickly, especially when you're waiting for everybody else to get paid before you start getting royalties." Reynolds decided to finish a lot of ideas lying around at his home studio in Lakewood. Balancing the time spent at his day job, he found time to cut the nine tracks on Breakbeat Ice Beneath Me.
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The solitary world of recording and producing solo material is not much different than working with Kweli. There's mystery since the two have never met in person. "I don't have a clue how he is," Reynolds says. "I mean, he seems cool. I've interacted with him via text a few times. But the fact of the matter is, all these songs that we write are done way in advance. Those sit for ages before anyone commits to them." Kweli sends him ideas, Reynolds records stuff and sends it to him. So far, Reynolds' work with S1 has generated a few hundred song ideas that are floating out there, be it on mixtapes or manager's inboxes. "I really don't do it to try to hang out with Pharrell [Williams]," he says. "I'm trying to make music that people enjoy. It's a real pleasure to see people write about/talk about 'Push Thru.' People from around the world love that song."
Reynolds has no delusions of future grandeur. He'll keep working a day job, help produce other artists, and play in Josh Venable's Smiths cover band, Panic, for now. "I'm not really concerned if I make it," he says. "I mean, it's such a small percentage of people that make it that can become a professional songwriter. Despite the success I've had - and I will have more success - I may never make it to where that's all I do."