SpanishInquisition_1By George Halas

May arrivals are not just for flowers. Hillary Reynolds will be gracing the Fox Cities with a new album and a musical career in full bloom.

“In May, I’ll be coming back home for a couple of shows,” she said. “On the 14th, I’ll be opening for The Ballroom Thieves at The Vox Concert Series in Marshfield and, on the 17th, I’ll be in Appleton to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of Appleton North High School. It should be a fun night. Cory Chisel is a fellow alum and we’re planning on singing a few tunes together.”

If the opportunity presents, she will almost certainly sit in with Baba Ghanooj, the family band that includes her father, Ric Reynolds on guitar, aunt Marci Beaucoup on keyboards, mandolin and vocals and uncle Fran Rademacher on guitar, mandolin and harmonica.

Ric Reynolds saw it early.

“When she was two, three years old, she would get into the music of whatever Disney movie was out – I remember “The Little Mermaid” in particular – and she would sing all the parts with vibrato,” he recalls. “We didn’t know she had perfect pitch until later.”

“My family,” she said, “has played a major role in my musical background, being my first collaborators in learning the language of music even before I knew how to speak.”

“She got her voice from her mother and her ear from me,” Ric said. “We speak the same language.”

While there are loyal Inquisitors who double as fathers wondering “is that even possible?” it seems that it’s hard-coded in the DNA.

“My dad and his siblings played bar gigs all over Wisconsin, my favorite being the Harbor Bar on the Chain O’ Lakes,” Hillary recalls. “My parents sang in the church choir and my mom had a killer voice. Grandpa Reynolds would sing Frank Sinatra tunes for me and my cousins before bed – he also has killer voice – and Grandma Reynolds was a concert pianist.”

The DNA apparently included strands of moon dust and spice.

“Through nurture and nature, I was born with a soul full of music. Before taking proper lessons for piano at age seven and joining the Lawrence Arts Academy Girl Choir at eight years old, I wrote my first song at recess called, “Man on the Moon,” she continued. “Yes, to this day, I still remember the chorus.  On weekends, I would sing along and choreograph some pretty awesome moves to the Spice Girls with my cousins in my bedroom. We called ourselves the Cousins Club & wrote all of our hits in my *Nsync notebook.”

Reynolds waited until she was much older to begin performing.

“My first gig was when I was 11. I sang “God Only Knows” at my aunt’s wedding,” she said. “My first paid gig was at Copper Rock Cafe as a freshman in high school. That gig taught me that caffeine filled vanilla chai lattes plus nerves do not mix!”

“There’s still an out of tune upright piano living at the downtown location,” she added. “I played that piano a number of times because I didn’t have any sort of rig when I started gigging.”

“After high school, I moved to Boston and went to Berklee College of Music, where I met the great loves of my life – my band.”

The development of the music and the sound have been not always been smooth.

SpanishInquisition_2“My musical career is open. It has taken a few years to feel that way,” she said. “My mom died months before the release of my first full length album, “Since September”, due to breast cancer complications and in the eye of the storm, I found myself in a Brian Wilson spell, spending weeks in my bed, paralyzed by grief, deeply contemplating quitting music. Losing her filled my heart with insurmountable doubt”.

“My therapy became an EP release called “Your Love.” It was through five recorded tracks and my soul’s expression of grief that gave me peace and the ability to move forward with my career,” she said. “It has been a long road to healing – some days still suck, but through my own vulnerability, I’ve been able to cut the bullshit and connect with life because of an experience that has broken my heart open.”

Touring has its benefits as well.

“I’ve toured for the last five summers with my band – again, the loves of my life,” she said. “We’ve played to sold-out crowds across the country and we’ve also played to a toothless one-man crowd at a dive bar in Kentucky. It was definitely one of the creepiest sets I’ve ever played. I have a tour journal that has the highs and lows logged from the road.” 

“The best part about releasing “The Miles Before Us” has been letting the music sink into the hearts of fans and then playing shows to a singing crowd. That connection is so powerful.” 

“When I’m not on the road, I’ve done jingles for everything from Disney to Sony to air conditioners. Recently, I’ve been wrapping up production on a duo project called ‘The Arrow & The Bow’ with a fellow Midwestern soul, Hannah Christianson. Together, we explore the healing and heart opening power of music, meditation, yoga, and travel,” she said. “Our music blends the worlds of folk, pop, and alternative, and our raw lyrics offer an honest expression and insight into the human experience.”

“Two summers ago,” she added, “we toured Ireland & Scotland. A couple of the tracks on the EP were written there.”  

Her creativity and songwriting are on-going.

“My creative process is unpredictable, sometimes a bit manic,” she revealed. “I wrote the track “Pretending I’m in Love” on our way to the first Mile of Music in the car with a guitalele. I started writing it somewhere in Pennsylvania and by the time we got to Indiana, Jeff, my drummer was in the front seat, my guitarist was in the back seat with me strumming along and then the song was finished. 

“Braver Than We Think” was born on my way back from a writing session in Colorado. My cellist and songwriting partner, Trevor, picked me up from the airport and within five minutes of the car ride, I told him I had a song inside me that was going to be written that day. Sure enough, I called my favorite collaborator to come over and help me with the odds and ends, and the song was done. When muse strikes, I listen and create.”

Her collaboration with Chisel recalls a special moment for Ric Reynolds.

“At the first Mile of Music, she opened for Cory Chisel at the Lawrence University Chapel,” he said. “She needed a bass player. It was a father’s dream to share a stage of that stature with his daughter.”

Hillary and the band are still based in Boston.

“I’m glad every time she comes home. She’s so far away. I wish she could get home more and that we could collaborate more,” Ric said. “I know that for her to achieve her career goals, it’s probably not going to happen based out of the Fox Cities.”

“I am very proud,” he added, “of how she has grown from a trained musician into artist. She puts her heart and soul into it. I’d listen to her album even if I did not know whose it was.”

The Inquisition takes great pride in giving Dad the last word.

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