Reid Kerr
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Reid Kerr

Band Americana Singer/Songwriter


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The best kept secret in music


"Student songwriter wins hearts of locals with soulful music"

By Linda Bordner
Star-News Correspondent

Holden Beach- A breeze off the Intracoastal Waterway stirs the early evening air at The Holden Beach Provision Company in Holden Beach. Patrons sink back in their seats, turning to better hear the lone musician warming up his acoustic guitar.

For Reid Kerr, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, it doesn't get any better than this. From the time he was 6, the 21-year-old songwriter knew he would be in front of a crowd, making people smile with his music. "I might not ever become famous," he said. "If that happens, it would be great. But the important thing for me is to impact people the way other songwriters did me."

By other songwriters, Mr. Kerr doesn't mean rap icons, hip-hoppers or punk rockers of MTV. Instead, he's referring to the likes of Bob Dylan and James Taylor, who inspired him early on to write songs with melody, words with meaning.

Tina Oshbahr of The Provision Company says she's always glad when the restaurant can get Mr. Kerr, who performs around his class schedule at restaurants, nightclubs and other venues along New Hanover and Brunswick counties. On Thanksgiving weekend, he'll be part of a show to usher in the holiday season at Thalian Hall in downtown. "He's wonderful," Ms. Oshbahr said. "His music is so mellow, a couple of his songs put tears in my eyes."

But melancholy blues is only one shade in Mr. Kerr's palette of original numbers. It's hard for him to categorize his pieces into one particular style. "I go out of category a lot," he says, "from country to jazz, blues and rock 'n' roll to folk." Although listeners enjoy his original compositions, he includes crowd favorites to accommodate customer requests. Recently, he tasted what it's like to inspire future musicians, when a young girl, about 7, in the audience started singing along. "She knew the words, too, not just to new songs, but songs by Dusty Springfield and Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I talked to her parents later. They said she just loves music and catches on quick."

Among his finest moments, he said, was being among the top three finalists recently on the remake of Arthur Smith's classic Carolina Calling public television show. In the audience that night was Eric Carlson, who is not only his mentor, but also his biggest fan. Mr. Carlson, a magistrate in Brunswick County and friend of Mr. Kerr's dad, Jay Kerr, recalls being struck by the depth of talent and poise in one so young. "I've been playing at it for 30 years," Mr. Carlson says of his own guitar and bass music. "It's rewarding, but a bit of an effort for me. But Reid is really a natural talent. What I think makes him so unique is his ear for quality and his appreciation of roots music." He believes that's what infuses Mr. Kerr's work with more complex, interesting song structures. As for stage presence, he adds, "On stage, he's fearless."

Despite not winning top spot on Carolina Calling, Mr. Kerr said the show was a great learning experience for how the system works and who the people are within it, describing Arthur Smith as "a legend." Although Mr. Kerr's music career began young and included a year of formal lessons, he is for the most part, self-taught.

He sang in his church choir and conducted impromptu concerts for anyone willing to listen. By his teen years, he was playing for tips at any restaurant that'd have him. His first paying gig came several years ago at Crabby Oddwaters near the South Carolina line.

Since then, his popularity has grown to the point he earned enough to put himself through UNCW for the past three years. Upon graduation, he hopes the skills he's learned through his communication major will help him make the right connections to play music for a living.

"I feel I owe it to myself to at least try," he said. "There's a lot of good music out there. If another song were never written, it would probably be OK. But to me, music is so important. I feel I have something to say." - Wilmington Star News


Reid Kerr - EP


Feeling a bit camera shy


“I’m always searching for a great song,” says Reid Kerr as he sits modestly in a chair. It’s just before another show, this night in Wilmington, NC, and it’s quite likely great songs will soon be heard. Be it his originals or wide variety of covers, Kerr strips a song to its bones with an acoustic guitar and rich vocals. Comparisons to James Taylor come up often at his shows. However, Kerr seems to also adhere to the solo acoustic traditions of Bob Dylan, John Prine, and even Joni Mitchell. In effect, the 23 year-old regularly puts together a set list which far exceeds his years. “I like to blend a lot of styles, so the audience might hear a Dylan tune next to a jazz standard – or a Gram Parsons country song faded into a Robert Johnson blues piece. Really, the possibilities are endless on a given night,” says Kerr. By keeping each live show fresh, there is also room for Kerr’s original compositions.

With a deep song catalog, one would suspect that Reid Kerr has been playing for quite some time. Indeed, that is the case as he picked up the guitar around age eight and began performing on the North Carolina coast when he was a teenager. Since that time, Kerr has performed regularly throughout North and South Carolina in a wide variety of venues, be it festivals, restaurant/bars, music halls, or private events. Highlights include an appearance on UNC-TV’s Carolina Calling with Arthur Smith, opening for pop/rock hitmaker Edwin McCain, and a showcase on the legendary blues radio show King Biscuit Time in Helena, Arkansas. Kerr remarks, “I’ve had some great opportunities in the past few years. I’m always ready to see what lies down the road and what the next gig might bring. If nothing else, at least I'm going down the road.”