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Inventive Musician Brings Reggae Flair

The Coffeehouse enjoyed Stephen Reynolds' signature reggae style and spiritual lyrics on Friday.

hosted musician Stephen Reynolds on Friday, who wears his Rasta colored shoelaces to nearly every show. Reynolds has a distinctly reggae musical style that is popular with the audience. He said he plays his guitar like it is three separate instruments: a bass, drum and lead.

“I go in and out of the off beat reggae style within each song, and I think that change within the song is my trademark. Sublime did it with their music, changing in one song from a punk beat to a hip hop beat to a reggae beat,” Reynolds explained. “That style just came spontaneously to me over the years. I play not only the melody, but the bass and percussion, and that creates a more full sound.”

Reynold's rhythms are catchy and energetic, coupling with his smooth voice to deliver an engaging performance. His set on Friday included covers of Marley's Could You Be Loved and Dylan's Girl From the North Country, as well as Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Though he has a distinct style now, his music was not always so finely tuned. His dad purchased a red electric guitar for him when he was young and made him promise to keep it up. Guitar theory was not Reynold's strong point during his lessons, but he found that learning music by ear was helpful.

When he writes songs now, Reynolds tries take a fresh approach to the guitar.

“I try to forget everything I know about the instrument and approach it like a child would for the first time. That innocence is the only way I know how to write truly new music."

He said he usually enjoys the songwriting process more than playing live, but that view is changing. Reynolds wants his music to affect his listeners and knows people like original sounds.

“People don't come out to hear average music," he said. "Music at the very least should take us places emotionally and spiritually. I accept that challenge."

The main message in Reynolds' music is of a spiritual nature. He wants to differ from popular Christian music, and he succeeds.

“My music does not deny that we are all suffering and we are works in progress, so I always acknowledge the dark side of my faith alongside the light,” Reynolds explained.

Having hiked the entire 2160-mile Appalachian Trail alone in six months after college, Reynolds' music is also influenced by his love for the environment. The Appalachian Trail was not his only excursion in his life; he has also lived in West Africa and India.

“I lived in West Africa for a year with the US Peace Corps teaching children to read, and that has shaped my concern for those in need back here in the states,” Reynolds said. “I traveled for nine months in India studying meditation, and that experience has continue to place me on a contemplative path. From all three of these trips, I can say that I learned the only thing I love more than music is silence.”

Aside from his experiences, he is also influenced by other artists such as Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Marley, Dave Matthews, The Black Crowes and The Pixies.

Reynolds records his music at home with a simple loop pedal with great results, saying that a good producer is hard to find.

He sells his recordings at shows, and readers can visit www.myspace.com/stephenreynoldsmusic.

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