Last year, at age 32, Mike Reeb gambled.
Reeb had been writing songs since his teens, later putting out albums. In 2012, he left his work-a-day regular job to pursue music full-time.
“...It’s because I have a lack of fear, more than anything,” Reeb said of the choice. “I’ve made a lot of decisions musically in the past based on what I can or can’t do, or based on what I was afraid of — what I was thinking might happen if I left my job to try to do music. I was kind of stifled creatively a little in that way.”
Reeb came to a turning point in 2012. He realized the thing he enjoyed doing more than anything the prior 10 years had been creating music, continuing to put out records, performing for people and sharing his art.
“Also just some ideologies in my life had changed, and I’m now just trying to make decisions based on what my hopes and dreams and my talents are, rather than what I’m afraid won’t happen,” he said.
That’s not to say Reeb doesn’t occasionally, in his words, “get completely freaked out.” That can happen when he hasn’t heard back from venues he wants to play, for example, and wonders how the bills are going to get paid. Still, he tries to stay positive and reminds himself there’s merit in his music.
“It’s all a gamble,” Reeb said. “It’s all a risk. Like I said, I believe in the product. And other people have, I guess, kind of said the same. I’m going with that.”
Reeb wants to share his music. On Friday, he’ll do just that at The Electric Brew in downtown Goshen. He performed there when he was in college.
“I’m actually really excited to play the Electric Brew,” he said. “I remember the two times I did play there it was really well-received, and a nice little spot, nice little downtown area.”
Reeb also said he’s played many times over the years with local favorites Goldmine Pickers. His Friday concert at The Brew will be his first Goshen show in about eight years.
Reeb is touring in support of his latest EP, Turn Your Ear (2011) and most recent full-length album, Breaking (2010). Both were recorded at his home studio in Indianapolis, with Reeb playing most of the instruments himself. The four songs on Turn Your Ear are leftovers from the Breaking sessions. Reeb didn’t feel they fit sonically with the latter album.
“They all came roughly from the same era of my songwriting,” Reeb said, though the songs weren’t recorded at the same time.
In one form or another, songs have been part of Reeb’s creative life since his teens.
Reeb started playing drums at age 10, and played snare in the high school marching band. He started playing guitar at 15, and at 17 began trying to write his own songs. He kept writing and performing music throughout college, then started recording albums.
“I think the reason I kept doing it is because I kept feeling passionate about it and kept feeling like I was offering something with my music that was worthwhile,” he said.
As for the influences on that music and songwriting, Reeb’s list is top-shelf — Jeff Tweedy of Wilco/Uncle Tupelo fame, Ray Davies, Gillian Welch and Bob Dylan are included. So is John Steinbeck, who shows up in nobody’s album collection for good reason. Still, the Pulitzer and Nobel prize-winner has inspired Reeb’s music.
“Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors,” Reeb said. “I think something he does so well is depict difficult situations or life lessons in very beautiful ways.”
Reeb said there were a few songs on his first EP based on characters in Steinbeck’s novella “The Red Pony.” The book is about a boy growing up, one facing all the challenges of youth while trying to become a man. Reeb said the boy experiences things that would be hard for anyone to handle at any age.
“But yet Steinbeck writes it in a way that makes those pains of life beautiful and something that we can still learn from,” Reeb said. “That’s a lot of what my music is about. Some of my songs, you might say that they’re pretty sad, and maybe people think that I write sad songs because I’m going around moping. But it’s exactly the opposite.
“I think even in the things that are difficult in our lives, we can find beauty in them. And it’s up to us how to interpret our challenges in life and also our joys.”
If you want to go
Mike Reeb is scheduled to perform at The Electric Brew, 136 S. Main St., Goshen, at 8 p.m. Friday. Admission is free, according to Reeb’s website www.mikereeb.com.