For J. Patrick Reed, the grass has always been “bluer” when he’s picking and singing onstage. But after years of performing before an audience, he feels it’s time to carry his music to the next level.
Reed’s most recent foray into the world of recording was last October when he released “I’ll Carry On,” a single he wrote about the feelings he has experienced while raising his 2-year-old son, Harp. Although he is primarily a bluegrass performer, Reed reached deep into his soul to write this alternative folk song.
“It’s my favorite song and the closest to my heart and, in my opinion, it’s the closest I’ve ever come to writing a really good song,” said Reed, an Alabama Power real estate specialist in Land Acquisition, Corporate Headquarters. “It’s about raising a kid, being married and living life, and the joy and angst that comes along with it. It’s about sitting up at night worrying about what tomorrow will bring and getting through all the things that weigh your mind down.”
The single is almost all Reed. Along with writing the lyrics and music, Reed laid down the tracks, allowing him to sing while playing the guitar, bass and drums.
Working in the studio was not new to Reed. In 2016, he debuted on the recording scene with the EP “About Time.”
“The reason I chose that title was twofold,” said Reed, who wrote all six songs. “When my wife, Katie, and I found out we were having our first child, I felt it was about time to pursue a life goal, which was to produce and put out to the masses my own creation. Secondly, I funded the EP out of my own pocket. That meant getting as many people as possible into the studio at once so we could record the album in the shortest amount of time possible to cut costs.”
The plan worked. Reed and the other musicians made the EP in about four hours.
Reed sings lead on three of the tracks – one of which he wrote for Katie when he proposed to her. The couple met in spring 2006 while gutting houses in New Orleans damaged by Hurricane Katrina and returned a year later to the same spot, where he proposed by singing the song to her.
The EP features Reed playing guitar and banjo on three instrumental tracks.
“One of the instrumentals was inspired by my grandfather. I wrote it for him because he allowed me to borrow my first banjo,” Reed said.
Music was always part of Reed’s life while growing up in Winfield. His dad is the fiddle player in a country band; his sister sings and plays the piano; and his brother plays guitar.
“Music was interwoven into our family,” Reed said. “Music was always around me. It came naturally, and I never had to work at it. While other kids were playing sports, I found my niche in what I was good at, and that was music.”
Reed said drums first caught his attention. He played in the school band from sixth through 12th grades.
Although he was trained on percussion instruments, Reed taught himself to play the guitar and banjo. He picked up the guitar in the seventh grade by watching and listening to others and copying their techniques.
“I would sneak into my brother’s room and play his guitar, knowing good and well that my dad would provide me with one if I wanted it,” Reed said. “But I felt like playing the guitar was something only I knew I could do, and I wanted to keep it a secret until I was good enough to share it with people.”
After mastering the guitar, in the ninth grade Reed turned to banjo, an instrument he found fascinating.
“The banjo is one of those things that calls you to it,” Reed said. “It’s very complex to play and sounds like no other instrument. I thought if I can play the banjo, I can do almost anything.”
Meanwhile, Reed continued his focus on percussion instruments and played the drums in the University of North Alabama marching band. There, he received a double major in communications and entertainment media production. His plan was to work behind the scenes as a music producer.
But after graduation, Reed decided to switch directions. When he was offered a chance in 2006 to work at Alabama Power, he jumped at it.
“This company has always put food on my table,” said Reed, whose dad, Rickey Reed, works at Alabama Power as a Land Acquisition coordinator. “I’m a child of the company. Alabama Power is close to my heart, so when I saw an opportunity to work here, it obviously made good sense.”
But music is still an integral part of Reed’s life. He formed a bluegrass band 10 years ago and is the frontman and manager. Because all four members lived in Montgomery at the time, they named the group the Goat Hill String Band.
“The Capitol building sits on what is called Goat Hill,” Reed said. “Before the Capitol was built, goats grazed on that hill, so they nicknamed it Goat Hill. We just took the name and ran with it.”
Reed said his band has a unique sound. They play pop songs by the BeeGees, the Allman Brothers, Michael Jackson and others, and “cover them with bluegrass instrumentation.”
“Taking songs and adding bluegrass instrumentation is humorous, but it’s also an intriguing thing that keeps people’s interest,” Reed said. “We’ve had a lot of people tell us, ‘We just hang around and listen to see what you will do next.’”
The band usually plays at least once a month in and around Birmingham and Montgomery — mostly at weddings, festivals and private parties. They play regular gigs at Brennan’s Irish Pub in Birmingham and Acme Feed and Seed, an eclectic “funkytonk” in Nashville.
With a repertoire of 75 to 100 songs, taking requests from the crowd is rarely a problem, Reed said. They play everything from standard bluegrass tunes to pop music ranging from the 1950s and ‘60s to the present.
When he’s not performing onstage, Reed often leads the music or plays in the praise band at his church, a place where he feels at home.
“Music has always been my outlet,” said Reed, who has sung solos at church since he was a boy. “I like giving back to people. I feel like I have something within me that needs to come out and, if it makes people happy, I’m glad to give it to them. What brings me joy is seeing other people happy.”
Reed said although it’s fun to entertain audiences, he has no aspirations of becoming a “rock star.”
“I’m happy having a steady income and a full-time job at Alabama Power, while playing music on the weekends. It’s the best of both worlds,” he said.
This story originally appeared in Alabama Power’s Powergrams.