LIVING A DREAM: Reed brothers rockin’ their way up music ladder as C2TBR
Published 1:40 pm Thursday, November 16, 2017
Brothers Kelly and Kody Reed hadn’t planned a career in music. Yes, they both love music and as highschoolers had fantasized of being rock stars while jamming in the bedroom of their McCormack’s Church Road home or performing in school talent shows.
But their career paths were on a different road in 2013, with Kelly completing his business degree from the University of Kentucky and Kody finishing up his studies in psychology at UK.
They would soon learn, however, that their life plans were about to make a complete 180 and that those rock star ambitions weren’t such a fantasy after all, as people started to take notice of their music and their careers suddenly took off.
“This wasn’t our first plan, but it’s our better plan,” Kody said. “It was always our hope in high school (music career) and I think, once you go to college, you get caught up in that. We just weren’t playing as much anymore and we sort of lost sight of it. We never stopped playing, but it was just like, ‘I’ve got a college degree. You’ve got a college degree. We’re doing that thing now.’ And then all of a sudden it just kind of hit us again, BOOM! in our face.”
Kelly admits he had loftier dreams of rock stardom in high school than Kody.
“Me, personally, I’ve been dreaming about it since I’ve been playing guitar. We’d always dreamed about it and I’d really dreamed about it, but like Kody said, once we got in college different things were coming at us and we kind of slacked,” said Kelly. “That’s (college) actually when we started playing for a lot of different people at the same time, tailgates, house parties and parties and about the end of college it started to pick up. Actually, I had graduated and I was doing sales for about seven or eight months. Kody was about to graduate. Once it started going, it just went.”
“It kind of just happened through fate and it’s so cool.”
Kody said that after weighing their career options, they just couldn’t pass on playing music.
“Our lives were going other ways and then it brought it back with a vengeance. We’re like, ‘I guess this is what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re doing this.’ And we picked it up and ran with it.”
And the Reed brothers haven’t looked back, officially becoming a band called C2 & The Brothers Reed (C2TBR) in 2013. Kody focused his energy on the drums, Kelly played guitar and Cameron Clark, who they met through a mutual friend at UK, came on as bassist and lead singer for the rock and soul band. Clark is where the C2 came from in the name. All three were also songwriters and they collaborated on their music.
“We were together for maybe five months before we put out our first album,” said Kody. “There were just three of us at that time. Now we’ve got a keyboard/organ player (James Weishar, also a UK grad). He wasn’t in the band yet. The singer we met had some music that he’d been working on and we had some music that we’d been working on and we put that together and worked on it all together and put out a 10-song album.”
There is also a “silent” fifth member of the band. A male half-mannequin known as “Paul” is the mascot for the band and is at the front of the stage at every show.
“He’s been with us since the beginning,” Kelly said. “He is our manager, our producer and he gets all the chicks. He is the face of the band. Every time we go to a show girls want to touch him and take a picture with him.”
“We don’t have an explanation for him,” said Kody. “We played a big show in Cincinnati years ago and just brought him on a whim and named him Paul and for four years he’s been on stage for every show.”
While happy making music, C2TBR learned very quickly that life as a rock band was neither an easy nor glamorous life.
“We slept on a lot of floors and made not much money,” Kelly said. “You’ve definitely got to believe in it and go all out because it can be like a wave going up and down. It can be a hard life. We’re lucky in that our trajectory up has been pretty good.”
“There’s a lot of super talented bands who are doing nothing and a lot of people with no talent that are really big. It (music business) is unpredictable. You just never know what’s going to happen,” Kody interjected. “What’s guaranteed is that for the first little while you’re not going to make any damn money and you’re going to work a lot. It’s perseverence. You have to work through that stuff.”
It’s during those hard days on the road, and having no money, that one really appreciates family.
“They (Kelly and Kody’s parents Bruce and Gayle Reed) have been beyond supportive,” said Kody. “We’ve been very lucky that our lead singer and keyboards parents are super supportive, too. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without family. In the beginning, you’re not making any money and you’re driving six hours to make $25. It’s crazy.”
And the places C2TBR played their early gigs? Well, let’s just say they were not Rupp Arena.
“Our first gig was like in a sushi bar,” Kelly said with a laugh.
“And we played little bar gigs in Lexington and western Kentucky,” Kody chimed in.
“Then through those it kind of spread to different areas like Cincinnati,” said Kelly.
And then …
“Then we had a gig in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where we met somebody who knew somebody and that’s where we met our first agent and that really got us on the road touring,” said Kody. “Since then we’ve had other agents, and we’ve done it independently. We’ve got an agency out of Califorinia now and they do all of our booking for us.”
C2TBR, which has released two albums, the latest Weigh Station Tour: Exit B, has not signed with a record label as yet. After hearing stories from other bands, the Reeds and their bandmates have opted to record independently for now.
“Record labels are really monetary help more than anything,” Kody said. “They give you money to go on tour, record an album and to promote. We don’t necessarily need that right now. We can pay for our own album, pay for our own tour.”
“Plus, we don’t want to get a raw deal,” he added. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll give you $100,000 and we want $150,000 back and we want 20 percent of your merchandise sales and 15 percent of your CD sales,’ and the next thing you know you’re broke and they’re richer.”
Kelly said the nature of the music industry has changed from when bands sought a record label deal from the start.
“It really has changed from the way it use to be. Like Kody said, they just help pay for recording and paying tours,” said Kelly.
Touring has given C2TBR a new perspective on playing live. The Reeds and their bandmates have always performed original music, but have learned that playing cover songs is just part of the music business.
“I guess the nature of the business is that, when you first start, you play bar gigs so you have to play a lot of times four hour shows and when you first start, you don’t have four hours worth of originals so you have to play covers,” said Kody. “And when you’re playing in a bar people want to hear songs that they know anyway. And that helps them get into your music. When we first started, we weren’t a cover band by any means, but we put covers in to keep people interested and make up the time.”
Things are looking up for the Lexington-based band these days as they are touring the country and playing at bigger venues, and with bigger names. Some of the musicians that C2TBR has shared the stage with are Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, Eddie Money, Moon Taxi, Warrant, Dwight Yoakam and Buddy Guy.
“We’re getting better spots. People are starting to hear about us and take notice. They are coming to hear our original music,” said Kelly. “It’s pretty cool the evolution from we’re playing covers to people start knowing our music and start singing to it at concerts.”
“Yeah, you go from bar gigs to 200-300 tickets you sell. People paying $10-$15 to see us,” said Kody. “And people wanting your autographs. That is weird. Why would anyone want my name on a sheet of paper?”
And the band has its fans who follow the group.
“We are starting to see more people traveling and following us around to see us play,” said Kody. “Where were we the other night … Oh, we were in Birmingham and a guy had driven from Virginia to see us.”
“People take off work to come see us play,” added Kelly. “It’s so fun to see the evolution. It’s just us. People drive hours to hear us play.”
Included among those traveling fans are Kelly and Kody’s mom and dad and their kindergarten teacher, Carol Maples.
“You should see her get wild up in front of the stage sometimes,” Kelly said of his mom. “It’s a very cool, awesome thing. And then dad gets into it, too. But they’ve always been supportive. They always let us play music at home and didn’t say anything except maybe, ‘It’s midnight, we want to go to bed.’”
As for Maples, she has the Reeds in awe.
“Carol Maples and her husband have driven eight and nine hours to a show,” Kody said. “And they stand up front and Carol head bangs. My kindergarten teacher is head banging.”
“My kindergarten teacher, who taught me how to read, is now our biggest fan. And she’s up here loving our music!” Kelly said. “It’s cool.”
Bruce and Gayle Reed and Maples won’t have to travel far Friday night to see C2TBR, as the band comes home to play at The Burl in Lexington at 9 p.m. They will be playing alongside the Vegabonds and Bryan Minks and the Kentucky Sons.
“Guys are always asking dad, ‘When are the boys going to be around? When are the boys going to be around?’” said Kelly. We’re gone so much so we wanted to get the word out that we’re here.”
“It’s a lot of fun being home,” said Kody. “We’re always surprised at who shows up to see us. Your best friend from high school doesn’t, but everybody else does.”
For former friends expecting to see the clean-cut Reed brothers take the stage Friday, you are in for a surprise, as they haven’t visited a barber in a while.
“Some people come in now and they were used to seeing us back when we played sports. Now we’ve got hair down to our knees (below shoulders). They don’t even recognize us,” Kelly said. “ We’ve been growing it since we started playing. Use to I was looking all slicked up and nice and now I look like I just came off the street.”
“It is a nice little disguise, though,” added Kody. “I can walk right by people and they don’t know who I am. The hair adds to the show, too.”
Even with the pitfalls of the rock and roll, or soul in C2TBR’s case, business, never have the Reeds thought about reconsidering their career path.
“No, I love being out here,” said Kelly. “You are constantly flying by the seat of your pants, but I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”
“Four years ago when we first started, if you’d told us you’re going to be playing major festivals, and selling hundreds of tickets and people are going to be singing your songs, we wouldn’t have believed it,” Kody said. “We would have wanted that, but wouldn’t have expected it to come about so quickly. It’s a different career but we love it.”