I had the opportunity to chat with Reese Burke, a local singer-songwriter who is charming the ears off of folks in Calhoun and Cleburne Counties with her silky, soulish voice and heartfelt lyrics. Whether it’s a cover song by Taylor Swift or Harry Styles, or an original tune such as her stirring “Searching,” Reese Burke puts on an inspiring show. Read on to learn more about this “sweet-16” year-old rising star in the following Q&A.
Q: When did you begin performing as a soloist?
A: I played my first gig by myself about 2 years ago. Before that, I played with my dad, got the hang of it, and decided that’s what I wanted to do.
Q: Did anyone in your family inspire you musically? Did your dad teach you the guitar?
A: He didn’t teach me–I taught myself. But watching him growing up made me want to, and I was always curious about it, so that made me want to learn. He sings and plays guitar and does gig, the same thing as I do now. He plays country (music).
Q: How did you get into songwriting? What songwriters have inspired your melodies or tunes?
A: I was in 7th grade and was really inspired by artists like Billy Eilish and Harry Stiles, and one day I just wanted to write something of my own. I was just messing around in my room, and would play melodies and sing along with them, but had never sat down with the intention to write a song until then. It was called “Sad Is a Waste of Time.” I put it on Soundcloud, and people at my school played it a lot and actually liked it!
Q: How many songs have you written?
A: Probably like at least 100.
Q: What kind of subjects do you like to cover in your songs?
A: I use it [songwriting] as a way to cope with stuff. If something happens, either if it’s happy or sad, or any life event, I usually sit down and write a song about it, and it makes me feel better and shows me my own feelings about it.
A lot of them are probably love songs, but I write about other things, too. I’ll start writing songs, and I’ll look at them as a collection. I think about what an album would look like, and I think, this would be so sad. I need to include something more upbeat! But that’s the thing with songwriting. When you’re overwhelmed with emotion, you want to write something and usually, that’s sadness–[the thing] that’s overwhelming. It took me a long time to be secure [in my songwriting]. I wrote for a long time and said, “This is okay.” But I didn’t tell anyone about it. It’s just for me. But recently, I’m writing with the intention of eventually publishing them. I’m a lot more confident.
Q: Who are your biggest musical influences?
A: [Hearing] Billy Eilish was the first time where I was like, oh, I want to do that! I like Taylor Swift, too. Stevie Nicks, her lyricism. A lot of my influence comes from classic rock. Lynard Skynard is a big influence, their songwriting, style of music, and the way it flows.
When I was little, my room was nerdy, like Star Wars and Harry Potter, but it was also Beatles-themed. It was the Beatles, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Johnny Cash, and Elvis. I used to dress up like Michael Jackson when I was little. I remember the first time I sang in front of people was with my Papa (Grandfather), who took me to the Huddle House. I used to sing on the tables or next to the jukebox, and I used to sing Johnny Cash and Elvis for everyone. I didn’t even know then that it was showing my interest in music [at a young age].
Q: How did you pick up the guitar, and do you play any other instruments?
A: I was with my Papa and he had just bought a guitar, and my dad already had a guitar, but I had not touched it. I just didn’t know where to start. So he was sitting there watching videos, trying to learn, and he does music, too, and used to be in a band. I remembered my dad used to have his chords pulled up on a phone, and I remembered what it [the app] was called. And I just sat down, picked a song, and learned the chords to it. It was something I always wanted to do, but didn’t know where to start. Once I did, I knew I was not going to be able to stop.
Before that, I played piano though, lessons when I was little, but then I started learning chords on it and started improvising. I wrote my first song(s) on piano, but I write most of them on guitar now. It is so hard to write an upbeat song on the piano. It’s near impossible unless you are beating that thing to death!
Q: Where do you perform most often and do you have any upcoming shows?
A: Usually I would perform at a bar in Heflin called Damn Yankees. Tonight I’m playing at the Peerless Saloon in Anniston. And I’ve done a lot of stuff in Anniston for the Noble Street scene. I played Neewolah on Noble, the 4th Friday, the Anniston Farmer’s Market. I’ve done a lot for Heflin, too, for the city, and the Chamber of Commerce has had me play a few times.
Q: I noticed you sang the National Anthem at the Cleburne County Fair. What was that like?
A: One thing about the National Anthem, it is so hard! And it’s the one time where I get so nervous. I don’t hate doing it, but it’s so nerve-wracking. It’s so much easier to sit up on a stage and sing than to do that. The first time I sang it was in Middle School, and I remember feeling like I had to prove myself. After the first time I sang it, I went with a vocal coach for a bit, and that’s one of the first things we worked on. We took it a step down because if you start it too high, it’s hard. The last time I sang it was for the Noble Street Fest in Anniston.
Q: Do you have any plans to record some of your songs?
A: I have a future goal to record. I have demos of some of my songs now recorded on my phone for listening. I like to listen to my songs in the car to imagine what they would sound like to someone else to figure out if the song is engaging or not. I do have a Facebook Page where there are some videos of my songs that can be heard.
Q: Lastly, do you have a good “gig story” to share?
A: Oh wow, there’s so many stories, it’s hard to pick one. One time I was at a gig in Lineville with a drummer named Jake, and people were throwing money at us. And I looked down and saw a 100 dollar bill. I said to Jake, “Look, there’s a $100 bill,” and he said, “No way!” We were so excited. That night we made $450 in tips.
Reese Burke will be performing tonight, January 6 beginning at 8pm at the Peerless Saloon and Grille on 10th Street in Anniston, Alabama. You can check out more about her on her Facebook Page and keep apprised of her future shows.