Noah Reid On Schitt’s Creek, His Excellent New Album, And Touring The UK

The Canadian songwriter opens up...

Noah Reid is a multitasker. You probably recognise him from his role as the scene-stealing Patrick Brewer in Schitt’s Creek, where he stole our hearts with a gorgeous acoustic rendition of ‘Simply The Best’. The role was a glimpse into his double life as an actor-slash-singer-songwriter, now three albums deep and about to embark on a tour that will take him across the world.

It’s been a busy couple of years for Reid; after his last tour was cancelled for obvious reasons in early 2020, he put out two albums, did a stint on Broadway in The Minutes and became a father. We caught up with him over Zoom during the calm before the storm, as he prepares to launch his world tour in the UK and Ireland this September. Facing a mammoth undertaking of four months on the road, he’s surprisingly calm, choosing to embrace the excitement of live performance instead of dwelling on the pressures that accompany it. Here, he tells Clash all about his plans for this upcoming run of shows, the magic of live music and the joy of nostalgia.

You’re heading to the UK and Ireland in just over a month to start your tour, how are you feeling?

Nervous! But I’m excited. I haven’t played a live show since last November. I haven’t been on tour since early 2020 so it’s been a long time, but I’m very pumped. A lot of these shows are in cities that I’ve only ever dreamt of playing in, so that’s a very cool thing – to get to travel around the world with some musical pals and play some of your songs.

It’s been something that I really wanted to prioritise, getting over to the UK. I know that there’s a small but very dedicated group of people who have expressed a lot of interest in my coming over and playing, and it’s something that’s been on my radar for a long time.

You’ve called it the ‘Everything’s Fine Tour’ – why did you name it after this specific song?

It’s something that I’ve found myself saying to myself a lot in the last several years – as a way of lying to myself, or occasionally telling myself the truth with that same phrase… It’s going to be alright. I think after the several years that we’ve all had collectively and individually, it’s a sentiment that’s a get-me-over lie and it’s true. And I love little turns of phrase that are complex like that. This one kind of felt like it struck the right tone for what these shows mean to me, and it will be something that I probably say to myself before I go on stage.

Your last album came out a year ago so these shows have been a long time coming. Which songs are you most excited to play in front of an audience?

It was probably a mistake, but I put out two records during a pandemic. That wasn’t exactly the plan. A lot of these songs have never been played live. I kind of fall in and out of love with all of these songs, I’ve spent more time with them than is probably healthy. But for the most part, I love the ‘Adjustments’ record and I’m super proud of the way it came out. There’s some of them are really long, some of them are big sings. Like ‘Rivers Underground’ – I feel like every night will be like, “Here we go, I did this to myself, I have to sing this live and hit the notes!”

But that’s what makes live entertainment worth the price of admission. You get to actually hear somebody do it in real time and space. I know I love going to see my favourite artists and I want to see them engage with their material.

Have you carried over any lessons from your acting career into your life as a musician?

I think in the vein of what we’ve been talking about, convincing yourself that everything is fine and really, you can never fuck it up so bad that it can’t still be a great show. That’s part of the joy of the live experience, actually, when things don’t go as planned. As an audience member, I’ve felt that a thousand times.

Broadway is a word that has a capital ‘B’ on it, it’s a big idea, right? But I was really heartened to find that it was a lot like doing a play just about anywhere. It comes with a lot of other stuff but at its foundations, you’re doing a play. There’s something about that live thing where you get to leave it behind, it’s not forever, it’s just for now. And that temporary quality makes it exciting both for the performer and for the audience.

Which artists have inspired your own performance style?

I’ve seen some of my favourites, like I’ve seen Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen play their live shows later in their lives. Leonard Cohen, he had this kind of crouch into the microphone that I just thought was so cool. Everyone just leaned forward a little bit. When you leave a concert, you want to feel like you were there for something. I’m a sucker for a live show, so it’s a massive privilege to get to play these shows.

Something I picked up on in ‘Adjustments’ is that location plays an important role in your lyrics when it comes to songs like ‘Michigan’, ‘Minneapolis’ and ‘Another Fuckin Condo’. What does it mean to be playing these songs across the world?

I’m excited to experience new places and see what that brings out in terms of new songwriting and storytelling. As a new dad, being away, I think it will be challenging but it will probably bring some kind of other context to life on the road.

Every time I walk around my neighbourhood and see another pit of construction I say to myself, another fuckin’ condo. It just seems to be continually true here and that feels really specific to Toronto but I’m sure there are people in other cities that go: “I know that, they tore down that building that I loved…” As human beings, we become attached to locations and memories and all of that. Like that Beatles song [‘In My Life’], “There are places I remember…”

I think that when I write songs I often need a bit of a foothold of some place that meant something to me, or where something occurred to me or where I was alone for a moment so I had time to write something down.

You’ve been an actor from a very young age. Did music come to you later in life?

I did musicals when I was a kid because I could sing and I liked attention, I guess. I think I was much more performative as a kid than I am now, in a weird way. As I grew older I wanted to separate the music and the acting stuff a little bit. Acting felt more interesting to me when it was spoken and thought as opposed to when it was sung and thought, or presented.

I think some of my real early songs were probably in theatre school when I was in Montreal, at the National Theatre School of Canada. It felt like for the first time in a while, that was a thing that I could keep for myself, as a thing that I could do and I could control when acting work wasn’t coming or relationships weren’t going well or whatever it was.

And that became my first record. I spent two days in the studio making that with my good friend Matthew Barber and a band of musical friends. I think in those two days I felt more creative gratification than I had felt in my adult life at that point. But it took me two years to release the record and nobody listened to it, and it took a song on a TV show for anybody to find it. But when that moment came along I knew that music was going to be more of a part of my professional life because I wanted it to be.

Do you think you would have taken the same journey with your music without that moment on Schitt’s Creek?

I highly doubt it. I think I would have been writing music and making music anyway. It was just in me to do. Dan [Levy, creator and star of Schitt’s Creek] had come to my release party for ‘Songs From A Broken Chair’ before we shot season four and I knew he had seen something that he could use, and I knew that I could help him deliver that. He trusted me with that and I appreciated that and I wanted to do it right. And we got something that I think felt special for a lot of people. But it definitely brought an audience to my music. I think my music would have happened either way but it might have happened in total obscurity!

What music have you been listening to lately?

I’m forever nostalgic and I listen to more old music than new music. We have a record player here and we spin the same records all the time. I’ll just put on something like a Gordon Lightfoot record on in the morning for my son and I. Or maybe some Motown or something with some energy.

So you’re starting your son’s musical education very early?

Yes, absolutely! I feel like that’s important.

You know what, this is what I’ve been listening to. I recently got an old car that has a tape deck and I went on the hunt for a bunch of cassette tapes and found, just, a treasure trove of cassettes that were all $2-5 dollars, or something. There are things like an old George Harrison record, Tom Petty, Traveling Wilburys, Tracy Chapman and Whitney Houston, all these kind of throwback records I found. Rolling Stones’ ‘Let It Bleed’. This kind of stuff, I just turn it right up and have a blast. I don’t need to know the words.

Everyone’s all about vinyl right now, but I have a collection of about 150 CDs at home and I’ve just bought some secondhand CD shelves to display them. They’re my pride and joy.

Good for you! And you know what? You hang onto those for another 10 years and everyone’s going to be like: “Oh my God, CDs, the quality! It’s perfect! The scratches!” We have a tonne of CDs up at my cottage and a five-CD changer. It’s pretty awesome. There’s something about the physical album and putting it on, whatever the form is. It’s such a thing that we miss in music nowadays.

There’s a real sense of community there too. We have a monthly CD and record fair in my city where we can spend an afternoon browsing for cheap music.

I’m really heartened that that kind of thing happens. Increasingly, we need those moments to come together and rally around and be like, ‘Wow, I think this is important and I can see that other people do too’. That’s the kind of stuff that makes it feel like life is meaningful.

Catch Noah Reid at the following shows:

18 Edinburgh The Queens Hall
19 Manchester Gorilla
20 London Islington Assembly Hall

Words: Vicky Greer

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