Songwriters Renée Reed and Kate Teague join us today for a one-on-one talk from the wilds of Louisiana. On her self-titled album, Lafayette-based Reed explores lovely and spooky corners, singing in English and French of shadows and ghosts. Over in New Orleans, Teague crafts open-hearted songs, her voice hovering over thoughtful arrangements of synths and guitars. For this special installment of In Conversation, they discuss their situations in the American South (see Teague’s essay about moving to New Orleans for more), the influence of their parents, and the joys of home recording.
Kate Teague: You song “Neboj” has been stuck in my head so much. I read that it was about love or finding love, but it’s heartbreaking to me because it almost feels like whatever you’re falling into feels inevitable. It’s heartbreaking in that way; it feels guttural. Could you share a little bit about that song?
Renée Reed: I wrote that about three years ago. The words kinda just fell out of me with the music. I didn’t really think much of what I was saying, but I knew that it was coming straight from emotion. It wasn’t until we finally recorded it that I could actually sit and listen to it and I realized it was just about what I was feeling at the time: falling in love, but kinda being afraid to, but telling myself, “Let go,” and follow my heart in that. It’s kinda vulnerable, you know?
Kate Teague: I also have a hard time talking about lyrics. I don’t think people, in interviews especially, give enough credit to how you’re feeling just creating the melody in of itself, ‘cause that’s half of the song. It totally makes sense that in the moment you were just making it almost subconsciously.
Renée Reed: It’s funny, ‘cause lately I’ve been doing these email interviews and they’ve been asking me those questions and it seems like it’d be the simplest question, but it’s the hardest, you know?
Kate Teague: Yeah, totally. I feel like when people ask me what my influences are, I just make stuff up. Every time, it changes. I don’t think about that so consciously. I know I’m influenced all the time. It’s so hard for me to make a short list. But I saw quickly online somewhere that your two big influences are the Beatles and Kate Bush, is that right?
Renée Reed: [nods]
Kate Teague: Those are two people that I grew up listening to a lot of. My mom was obsessed with Kate Bush and named me after her.
Renée Reed: Really?
Kate Teague: Yeah, and my dad literally wants to be Paul McCartney, like his alter ego.
Renée Reed: That’s so funny.
Kate Teague: I guess my question in regards to that is: were those two influences people that you found on your own or were those influences people that your parents listened to that you felt super inspired by because of that?
Renée Reed: Yeah so, it’s funny that you mention your story with your parents because my dad, he just worships Kate Bush. He had a little shrine to her when I was growing up. So he would play her a lot when I was little. He had this VHS of her music videos and I would watch it all the time and pretend I was her dancing. It was kinda the same with the Beatles. That came a little later. He showed them to me when I was very young and I was just obsessed with them, and still am. When I started playing guitar, that was one of my first goals: to learn all the Beatles songs, you know?
Kate Teague: Yeah, that was a good place to start.
Renée Reed: Geniuses.
Kate Teague: Yeah, for real. In every sense. Talk about structural geniuses. Another question in regards to your family: Do you call it Creole, Cajun, or is it Zydeco? What do you say?
Renée Reed: I would say the thing that’s had the most impact in my close-knit family is Cajun music. My parents both play Cajun music and my grandfathers both did as well. When I was little, my parents had a shop in Lafayette where a lotta people would come and jam on Saturdays. It was a mixture of all these different musicians, Cajun, Creole, Zydeco, and then, a lotta people would come from outta town—from all over the world sometimes. And they would all get together. So I was around that a lot. And especially, my parents had a lotta friends from England and France that were big Cajun music fans.
Kate Teague: That’s one of the things that draws me into your music too, because I think about how regionally a lot of culture is dying [but] Cajun culture is still so alive in so many ways. I think especially now, in music, considering we have it at the tip of our fingers—you can go to Spotify and type in indie songwriters and get a million different ones. You’re just constantly inundated with these different musicians and ultimately, inevitably, are so influenced by that to where we almost to the point that it’s so easy to sound like each other because we have so much access to it and I think the fact that your heritage is so ingrained in what you’re doing it just makes it automatically so unique in a way that a lot of people just don’t have the ability to access. How did your family responded to you finding your voice and sound?
Renée Reed: I picked up the guitar when I was around 10 years old and through learning all the Beatles songs, I started writing my own. For a while, I think my parents liked what I was doing, like they were proud of it, but they didn’t really understand it too much. They were like “Oh that’s cute, like that’s cool.” But now, as I’ve done it all these years, they’re like “Oh, okay, this is like what you really wanna do. That’s you. That’s who you are.” And I think they’ve come to understand it more. But it’s funny because they’re both musicians and I connect to them in so many ways, but at the same time, we have a little trouble understanding each other completely.
Kate Teague: My parents aren’t musicians, but they’re both heavily into music and 100% the reason I got so into music as a kid was my dad mainly, but my mom too. My dad would always be like, “You need to sing more like Elton John, like try and make your voice more evocative.” And I’m like, “OK,” and then I’d do it. As I got older, I was like, “But I don’t like that. I actually enjoy really sad music, so let me just start doing this.” My parents and relatives and friends will be like “Why aren’t you able to just like belt it out, you know? Just belt it.” And I’m like “‘Cause I don’t want to.” They been such a huge influence in my life and they’re so super supportive, but it’s hard them to understand where I’m coming from sometimes.
Renée Reed: So you were in Oxford, Mississippi. What drove you to move to New Orleans?
Kate Teague: I knew it was my time to leave Oxford, but I didn’t know where I wanted to go next and I actually was planning on moving in with my parents in Mobile, Alabama, because I was feeling really good about music and knew my next step was writing my full-length record. I had a job in Oxford, I loved it, was super passionate about it, but just could not find the time to write. I knew I was ready for a period of “doing close-to-no work and living for free in my parents’ house” and working on that. To be honest with you, I had an aversion to New Orleans for a long time because being close to New Orleans being from Mobile, I feel like I’ve always had a pulse check on it. Maybe it had something to do with it feeling so close to home. It felt like I’d be taking a step backwards or something, but it was better than moving in with my parents, so I moved here. But I don’t know, I think I really fell in love with the culture and the scene when I was able to go out and do things, hear different music and just felt really inspired so I decided to stay, but then it was not too long after that that COVID hit. So yeah, that’s kinda the situation.
Renée Reed: Had you ever visited New Orleans before moving?
Kate Teague: Yeah! Being from Mobile, it’s only two hours from New Orleans. I had family here, you know? I took many trips here, had friends here, so I definitely understood it. I think I just hadn’t pictured myself living here yet. But I mean it’s an incredible place. It’s an amazingly inspiring place.
Renée Reed: Have you made time for creativity? How have you stayed inspired through all the anxiety of this time?
Kate Teague: Learning to self-record has been the most inspiring to me. Which, my version of self-recording is extremely amateur; I’m just doing GarageBand. I was trying to learn Ableton, but it was just frustrating because I was ready to create, and Ableton felt like I had to jump through so many hoops to even start doing that, so I was just like, “Fuck this. I know GarageBand, lemme just start writing there.” Having the ability to build songs from starting with a drum machine has been really different for me. I think that has honestly been the way I’ve felt most inspired. To have been doing a lot of recording, that feels really, really good and has led me to finishing the amount of songs that I want on my record. Basically, I finished a record during COVID, which feels really exciting. I still have to actually record it, but I think that’s the main way I’ve felt inspired.
Renée Reed: Where did your relationship with making music start?
Kate Teague: From a young age I knew I liked performing; that came super naturally. But then, actually writing my own stuff, I think I had a really shitty Yamaha keyboard that didn’t even have a keyboard stand. I sat on the floor and played in middle school and high school. I think, starting in high school, I started coming up with little songs myself that used to be on YouTube. Thank God I took them all off. But yeah, so I think that was really where I got started was playing on my keyboard and making songs there. I didn’t really pick up the guitar until I was a junior or senior in high school. I had a really late start to actually finding my voice because I come from an area where… this is so random, but I remember playing Tom Petty at a spring break party and people were calling me a hippie for playing Tom Petty, because no one listened to music except for rap and country at my high school for the most part. I didn’t know music really well, except for what I could find one my own, which was Led Zeppelin and Radiohead, and then it took me to going to college. It was way later in life that I actually started writing stuff that I felt confident about ‘cause it just took me a long time to really know good music.
I guess one last question I have is how do you feel about Renee Reéd? Is [the album] still feeling true to you? Or are you in a place where you’re ready for the next thing after this?
Renée Reed: Well, we had finished it back in the summertime and so, yes, I was like, “Self-release it and move on,” but then Keeled Scales was like “Let’s put it out.” So much stuff has happened, so it’s made me think of it in another way, a much bigger way. I am very excited [about] it, but also very ready to move forward.