Caroline Reese and the Drifting Fifth perform in The Sound Room at WEEU, 830 AM in Reading, PA. Set includes “No Snow” at 0:08, “Snake Eyes” at 3:50, and “New Tricks” at 7:44 .
From her Facebook Page:
Caroline Reese grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, where the rust belt meets Amish country. Her mom ran a horse farm and her dad sold antiques, two facts which inform the old-soul tendencies in her songs.
She and her band, the Drifting Fifth, combine elements of country, folk, and indie-rock with Reese’s lyrics that seem to reach far beyond her own life experiences. Their new album, Tenderfoot, released January 6, 2017, deals with vulnerability in life and love. Tenderfoot was recorded at the Headroom Philadelphia (Hopalong) and mixed at Miner Street Recordings (Kurt Vile, War on Drugs, Sharon Van Etten).
Reese wrote her first album, Indian River, in 2010 while she was living in Montana. After returning back to Pennsylvania, she met her electric guitarist and bandmate, Mark Watter, in a college songwriting class, and they collaborated during the recording of Reese’s 2013 album, Slow Code. They formed Caroline Reese & the Drifting Fifth shortly after.
Since then, she and the Drifting Fifth have toured nationally and opened for Grammy nominees and winners including Chris Stapleton and Brandi Carlile. Reese has also opened up for americana stalwarts John Hiatt, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Corb Lund, and the Secret Sisters. The group’s live EP The Electric Year was named Y102’s 2014 Album of the Year and the group was part of Taco Bell’s 2016 Feed the Beat roster.
Caroline Reese is happy to be back in Berks County
Tuesday June 16, 2015 12:01 AM
By Don Botch
After eight years of living in New Jersey to attend boarding school and then Princeton University, singer-songwriter Caroline Reese is happy to be back home.
So happy, in fact, that she has jumped into the local music scene with both feet.
Over the past year, Reese has performed practically anywhere that anyone has asked, seizing every moment, each opportunity, to hone her craft.
For now, she’s just excited to be a part of something local and organic while also keeping one eye trained on the long-term prize.
“I love being a Berks County musician,” she said during a recent interview. “I’ve been away for a long time. I went to boarding school when I was 16, so I have not been really home in eight years, so it really matters to me now to write about my home.
“I feel so rooted here. I didn’t feel rooted in my life, and I didn’t know why, but it was because I was just away.”
It’s a sentiment she expresses in her crowd-pleasing song “Pennsylvania, Again,” which contains references to the Schuylkill River and local landscapes. The video for the song, posted on YouTube, finds Reese at the wheel of her car against a backdrop of Berks County scenery.
“It was inspired by when I was first coming back home,” Reese said. “It felt so good. It matters to me.”
Reese is likely to see many familiar and friendly faces when she kicks off what’s shaping up as a very busy summer by performing hometown shows for the inaugural Berks Country Fest tonight at 6 at the Peanut Bar in downtown Reading and Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Apple Dumpling Festival at Willow Glen Park in Sinking Spring.
Both performances will be solo affairs where Reese intends to break out some promising new songs that figure to appear on an EP she’ll be recording over the next couple of months with her band, the Drifting Fifth, in hopes of attracting label attention.
“I’m going to try to do a bunch of new stuff for those shows,” she said. “Those shows are going to be my testing ground. Hopefully people won’t mind.”
Judging by early reaction to the songs in local bars, they won’t.
One is called “New Tricks,” a tune that checks in under three minutes and takes Reese out of her comfort zone on a couple of fronts.
“Actually, I wrote it and I was really nervous about it,” she said, “because it’s really a country song, and it’s really sort of an adult song.”
The chorus plays on the notion of lying down with dogs and rising up with fleas, a metaphor that’s tame in comparison to a lot of the popular music out there these days but still a bit of a departure for Reese, who describes herself as “very politically correct.”
It’s also a song that requires a dose of attitude – in the vein of her childhood next-door neighbor Taylor Swift or Shania Twain – which has never been Reese’s forte.
“You can’t be sincere and just sing it sweetly,” she said. “You’ve got to really sell it.”
Another song she’s breaking in is called “Snake Eyes,” which also strays from her Americana roots. It’s more a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll song that calls for some gritty, glittery, Killers-esque licks courtesy of Drifting Fifth lead guitarist Mark Watter, whom she credits with her continued involvement in music.
Watter came along at just the right time in Reese’s life. They met at Princeton during a period when she was feeling low and had decided to quit performing.
“I was going to get a real-person job, try to get an internship,” she said. “So I had never played with him before, and I asked him to play at my quote-unquote last gig ever, and we played together and I was like, ‘This is awesome.’ ”
Watter subsequently played on Reese’s 2013 solo LP, “Slow Code,” and it so happened that after college, he was returning to his native Havertown and she was returning to Berks County, so their proximity, combined with the impractical nature of their degrees, has given their musical collaboration a chance to flourish.
“He was in philosophy, I was in anthropology, so we were going to be jobless anyway,” she said with self-deprecating humor, adding through her laughter that drummer John Macko has an English degree, leaving bassist Karl Germanovich as the only band member who left college with any marketable real-world skills.
“He’s an IT guy; he has a great job,” Reese said, adding wryly, “The rhythm section works full time. The divas in the front, we scrape by.”
In between recording the new EP and playing a number of local shows this summer, Reese will be hitting the road with the full band for destinations such as Musikfest in Bethlehem, Elk Creek Cafe in Millheim, Centre County, and a couple of gigs in New York City.
“We do really well in New York,” she said. “The energy’s really good there, and people come out to see us. Aside from Reading, our best shows are in New York.”
Intent on building her audience there, she returns frequently, even if it means playing free shows, such as the one coming up June 27 at the Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village. And speaking of free, Reese has been giving away her music online.
“My natural instinct is to share everything,” she said. “I love putting stuff out there.”
As a result, “Slow Code,” “The Electric Year” (her seven-song debut EP with the Drifting Fifth) and some recent demos are available at carolinereesemusic.bandcamp.com for whatever anybody wants to pay, or for free. While some people have taken full advantage of that, others have ponied up even more than the digital going rate of $1 per song.
“It’s been an experiment in faith a little bit, and everybody told me not to do it,” Reese said. “But we have to get people to listen somehow. The EP that we released a year ago has paid for itself now, so that was like a big win for humankind for me.”
Just 24, Reese is gracious, humble and smart enough to acknowledge and learn from her mistakes, all of which bodes well for her future.
“Bands are like families,” she said. “Oh my gosh, I have learned so much about myself. I think I’ll always be trying to improve, but I was such an intense bandleader a year ago when we started in the Reading area.
“We’d been gigging and doing a little bit of touring, but I was just such a taskmaster, like everything had to be perfect. And I refused to let anybody help me, so I was doing all the driving, doing all the marketing, writing press releases, booking, writing songs, playing shows. So I was a monster to everybody.
“It’s been this personal journey for me of letting people help you. It’s OK to ask for help.”
She finds performing to be therapeutic in other ways, as well.
“One of the reasons I want to be a musician for as long as I can be is because it actually makes me a better person,” she said. “It’s one of the only things I’ve ever done that I feel like I’m actually fulfilling these parts of myself that I find hard to access in my daily life.
“At my day job, I’m not always so happy to see everybody, or so thoughtful or so whatever. If I’m up onstage or about to play a gig, I’m like, everybody in the room, they left their houses, they turned off their TVs and they came out here. I’m so grateful. It just blows my mind.”
Contact Don Botch: 610-371-5055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.