Eli “Paperboy” Reed ready to deliver soulful sound

Eli "Paperboy" Reed

While many of his peers were heading off to college, Eli Reed headed to the juke joints of Mississippi.

Having grown up in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston, Reed had developed an affinity for American
music — blues, soul, country, gospel. A three-cassette set of classic Ray Charles sealed the deal.
That’s typical of many “children of the baby boom,” he said in a recent interview from his home in New
York City. “The music our parents loved is the foundation of American music today.”
What drew Reed to the music was “the hard core emotionalism” and love songs tapped into his own teenage
Eli “Paperboy” Reed and The True Loves will be one of the Saturday night headliners at the Black Swamp
Arts Festival with a set at 8 p.m. Sept. 10.
Reed started playing music, first on harmonica and then guitar, tenor saxophone and keyboards. His true
talent was as a singer.
He jammed with friends in his high school band room, but didn’t really have a band. Reed did some busking
in Harvard Square in nearby Cambridge.
After high school he moved to Mississippi where he nurtured his love of the blues and picked up his
Reed played in clubs and hung out with Terry “Big T” Williams, Sam Carr and Wesley “Junebug” Jefferson.

He liked to wear an old cap that belonged to his grandfather, and the blues elders in Clarksdale, Miss.,
took that as a cue and dubbed the teenager “Paperboy.”
Though the hat is gone, the name has stuck.
He ended up heading north to attend the University of Chicago. The lure of the Windy City’s fertile music
scene short-circuited his academic career.
He tracked down Mitty Collier who had a hit with Chess. Now a minister, she recruited Reed to play
keyboards at her church.
“I decided it was time to make a go of it because I felt I would never be able to forgive myself if I
He gravitated toward soul music. While he still loves the blues, he questioned how much credibility he’d
have. But soul music is a form of pop. “It has the elements I was able to work with and make it my own.”

The core though remains from all the music he’d absorbed — “I try to write from an emotional standpoint.”

Over winter break about six years ago, he recorded his first session, a set of covers.
That enabled him to start working, and then he started writing his own originals.
On the strength of the sales of his first two recordings he was picked up by Capitol Records.
Having a major label behind him gave him the kind of international promotion and distribution that let
him establish a foothold not only in the U.S., but also in Europe, especially Spain.
“It hasn’t been quick,” he said of his career path.
He’s spent the last six years touring extensively. Most recently in support of his major label debut
“Come and Get It.” He said the songs germinate from phrases “I hear in common parlance.”
He doesn’t try to trick the tunes up, “you just have to take it as it comes.”
Those songs take on a new cast when they get aired out on stage, Reed said. The tempo shifts, solos are
“There are so many ways songs can change,” Reed said. “That’s why people enjoy hearing us live because
they don’t know how the song will be treated.”

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