Laura Reed has absolutely no qualms about singing to get out of a parking ticket.
That’s what she attempted recently in downtown Raleigh. After a live performance at the Pour House Music Hall (where she’ll hold an album release concert for her debut “The Awakening” Friday night), she caught a parking enforcement officer ready to ticket her band’s vehicle. Reed immediately got her charm on, introducing herself to the cop and letting him know that she’s a singer. “You sing country?” he asked. She responded by singing some bars of her single “Wake Up,” right there in the middle of the sidewalk.
Even though Reed pulled out quite the impromptu a cappella performance, it was too late. Ol’ dude still gave her a ticket. Oh, well, at least she got to show a potential new fan her vocal skills.
“I’m perfectly willing to sing any chance I get,” says the twentysomething singer, who describes her music as “if you mixed Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse and Sia together, with some Erykah Badu. Because I recognize that it’s a gift and I want to use it in the best possible way, to bring forth some type of positive feeling.”
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Born in Johannesburg to a South African mom and a dad from the Triangle, Reed and the family moved to the Raleigh-Durham area when she was five. “There was a lot of crazy stuff going on in South Africa at the time,” she remembers. “So, we moved here to be closer to his family.” While attending Appalachian State University in Boone, the struggling, then-dreadlocked Reed got together with some local musicians and formed the soulful jam band known as Laura Reed and Deep Pocket.
“Any show we could get, we played it,” she recalls. “We didn’t say no to anything. And, next thing you know, we’re touring and it’s picking up momentum.”
Though the band toured relentlessly for a good two years – releasing both a studio album and a live album during that time – they eventually broke up. “Things just didn’t work out,” she says. “People wanted to go in different directions.”
She took some time off and moved to Atlanta, where she got in the soul/hip-hop scene. During that time, Reed reached out to Nashville producer Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks, Lady Antebellum) about moving in a new direction musically. Worley told her to come down to Music City, where he introduced Reed to Shannon Sanders, of the Grammy-winning production duo Drew and Shannon (John Legend, India.Arie), who eventually produced “Awakening.”
“I thought I’d be there maybe a few months,” she says. “I ended up being there for three years and worked on this album.”
On “Awakening,” Reed felt free to delve into the themes she wanted to bring forth as a singer/songwriter. “There’s a lot of acceptance – some of it is self-acceptance,” she says. “We all battle with that. So, a lot of these songs are very vulnerable, where I’m like, ‘why am I doing this to myself?’ Like, ‘Dragging My Heart’ is a song about sabotaging what you love. And, then, there are other songs like ‘Kindness,’ which is acceptance across the board, that’s more speaking to humanity. That’s a big, underlying theme in the album: acceptance and unity – and love. But acceptance is a big part of it, just outwardly and inwardly. And that was the awakening.”
After seeing cultural developments during trips back home, Reed moved back to the Triangle
“Every time I came, I would go out with my brother and I would see that there was this completely different music scene from when I lived here,” she says. “It’s kind of grown and blossomed a lot. So, I decided that it might be worth trying to come back and actually focus on the Triangle, use this as my base.”
And, hey, she can also sing on the streets whenever she wants around here – so, that’s a plus!