How does an Oregon-born, Virginia transplanted high school band-geek turn into a budding young Pop-Rock star virtually overnight? Well, you could move to New York at age 18 and enroll at Columbia College. Then you could start playing your songs every week at 'The Sidewalk Cafe' while developing your craft with other seasoned songwriters like David Poe and Joseph Arthur.
That's what Reni Lane did to start out, and soon found herself working with producer David Pattillo to release her first album. This lead to some touring in Europe and interest from MTV, eventually landing her at Custard Records – Linda Perry's label which is distributed by Motown-Universal.
Reni's hit song "Place For Us" has already been featured in television on Showtime's The L Word and VH1's Secrets of Aspen, and she is now touring coast to coast in support of her latest album Ready. She took a much needed break from life on the road recently to chat with Music Forte about some keys to her early success…
MF: Finding the right chemistry between band mates can often be a difficult task. How did you meet your current band mates?
Reni: I actually met my current band mates a long time ago, when I was 18 and just moved to New York City. They were recording some new songs for their own band (The String Fellow Hawks) and we were introduced and started hanging out. However it wasn't until 2009 once they moved to Los Angeles that we really became closer friends. Around that time I left my old band mates and was looking for a new backing band. My manager's wife Dina suggested the String Fellow Hawks and I thought to myself "why didn't I think of that first?" I feel very lucky to have them on my side as musicians and friends.
MF: In addition to touring around the US, you've toured quite a bit overseas. Where do you feel you've received the best reception?
Reni: I don't know exactly where I receive the best reception but I know with whom. The people who really get me – the music, the lyrics, my goals as an artist and what I'm trying to put out there – are all very positive, hi-energy, motivated people who tend to look on the bright side. It's crazy how I'm the rock 'n roller who's supposed to inspire people but at the end of the show I feel like it's the fans that have inspired me – they're amazing! They certainly raise the bar for me to be an ever-better artist and performer.
MF: Which band/artist would you love to tour with and get to know better?
Reni: We often joke that we'd like to tour with Justin Bieber or The Jonas Brothers because someone told the boys in my band that they look like the drugged-out version of the Jonas Brothers! But to be serious, I'm very lucky to have toured with amazing musicians and musical geniuses like the Arctic Monkeys and most recently this amazing new band Civil Twilight. But my secret wish is to tour with someone with a more outrageous live act…someone with a crazy personality and a more theatrical, hi-energy show, like Lady Gaga or The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I'm a huge David Bowie fan and in my own shows I try to interact with the audience as much as possible, and I feel touring with someone slightly outside my comfort zone or musical preference would be an amazing learning experience.
MF: Your recent release, "Place for Us" was chosen as the theme song for VH1's new show "Secrets of Aspen". Was this the first major breakthrough in your career, and how did you make it happen?
Reni: A lot of my success is owed to other people who took me in, hooked me up, and nurtured my creative soul. One big breakthrough in my career was meeting my "gay dads," as I jokingly call them, David Pattillo and David Poe. They've been through everything I'm doing now before and gave me lots of advice and encouragement as well as teaching me so much about songwriting. Another huge breakthrough was being introduced to Linda Perry and Custard Records. They've been amazing in so many ways – letting me make a non-orthodox alternative pop record, helping to materialize my ridiculous 10 Random Things videos, driving me to the emergency room when I had a crazy kidney infection on Thanksgiving in Los Angeles…. You name the situation and they've pulled through and always believed in me. I wouldn't be where I am now without them.
MF: What have you discovered about the music business that you wish someone told you when you were first starting out?
Reni: Be prepared for a bumpy ride. Mishaps, re-routes, and last-minute changes are totally normal and are not a reason to freak out or get stressed. It's all part of the game and ultimately something that disappoints you in the short run could make your career in the long run. Don't get irate, innovate!
MF: How do you respond to the theory that artists write their greatest songs during times of pain or struggle?
Reni: I think in search of what makes you happy, you will encounter times of pain or struggle – that's life. One of my goals as an artist and person is to spread love. Whether it's through the lyrics or getting people to dance at shows or through making fun of myself in my videos, I really feel the world needs love, that's the whole point of living for me! It inspires me and is something I strive for, but I don't always get it right. And that's where the "times of pain and struggle" comes in. A lot of the songs on my album Ready are about imperfect or failed love, because sometimes that's the closest you get. For instance, take a song like Neil Young's "Old Man" and listen to those lyrics. Neil is searching too! He's not perfect, he's human, and that's what makes him a great artist and a songwriter, and I hope I can be a fraction of what he is.
MF: We saw your video, "10 Random Things". If you ever won a major music award from the Grammy's or VMA's, would you walk to the stage like a robot dressed as David Bowie while brushing your teeth?
Reni: Well if I answered that question I'd be giving away the surprise wouldn't I?
You can learn more about Reni at her website: www.renilane.com