Although the rules of “proper writing” may prohibit the following statement, there’s simply no other way to say it: Cali Reed is cool. But it’s not the type of cool that makes everyone around her feel not cool, nor does it evoke the phrase “too cool for school.” Instead, Reed, who rocks a shaved side head, spends her time advocating for inclusivity within the world of music, a world, specifically in the production side of things, sees very little female representation.
Reed’s exposure to music began practically at birth. The singer comes from a long line of musical theater performers. “Everyone has been in theater, so lots of musicals growing up” Reed explained with a smile (perhaps a smile of relief). While Reed holds a special place in her heart for her favorite musical Les Miserables and little Cosette’s signature song “Castle On A Cloud,” that life wasn’t meant for the artist. Now an adult, Reed has chosen a slightly altered path from her musical theater ancestors, opting for a form with more of an edge and accessibility.
When asked to describe her sound, Reed took a pause. Asking that question to her is like asking a parent who their favorite child is. Knowing Reed’s background, her reluctance to place herself in a box is understandable; it was how she was raised. Before settling in Las Vegas (where she currently resides), the artist spent her youth traveling along the North-West, moving from city to city, each different environment impacting her personhood.
After a moment, she found the best words to describe her music, never settling on a specific genre. “It’s pretty dynamic from song to song but definitely deep and spacey. Lots of rock and electronic vibes. Some of them are a little bit more poppy and more high energy—I become a bit of a character and more animated and excited.”
Her approach to music also stems from the variety and versatility of the musical artists she listened to growing up. “My first inspiration was Evanescence and then after that Avril Lavigne—She was my idol,” she gushed. She would further go on to add Timberland, Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus to the list and claim Cyrus’ Bangerz as her favorite album. What these artists all have in common is a defined persona and an ability to transcend genre, just like Cali Reed.
A prime example of Reed’s own multiplicity would be the juggling act she performs as a singer, songwriter and producer. Although initially interested solely in singing, she quickly became exposed to music production. “Being in [the studio] you’re exposed to the whole recording and production process. I was just sitting there watching and was like ‘I want to do this’.”
It was later explained that the music world consists of many encounters with the same people, many of whom are producers who in turn introduced Reed to new people. An unnamed teacher brought Reed under their guidance which is how the singer gained her education in music production and could start to produce her own work which would become a staple of her identity. ” I feel like it’s a big part of being an artist, being able to make my own stuff. And it plays a big role in my identity and who I want to be seen as an artist,” (though the singer did reveal she has an ever-so-slight preference for songwriting).
Reed’s talents come together in her latest single “Die Hard.” According to Reed, the song is “about having bad habits and getting stuck with something you can’t seem to let go of and being caught in a loop with it all…The song was written for another artist but it ended up becoming so personal that I was like ‘I think I really need this one’.” Released alongside the single, the song’s music video shows Reed in a room filled with clocks to represent time lost to bad habits. However, she still ends on a hopeful note, smashing the clocks, indicating a break from the badness and the fact there is still time to start again.
Reed also has another identity that intersects nicely with her musical persona: activist. The wearer of multiple hats acknowledges a pitfall in the music production scene (and the music world in general). Speaking from her own experience, Reed described what it was like being a female artist for her at the beginning of her career, saying, “It was very stunning. Even just being a female artist, there are almost no females around most of the time so you’re not really treated the same way or listened to the same way.”
Both seeing and living the female musician experience first hand, Reed knew she could not accept the way things were (and continue to be). Reed hopes that by being candid with her experiences, encouraging more female representation and for more women to share their work amongst each other, she can inspire other women to persevere through (and hopefully end) a very one-sided music industry.
Her sage advice for inspiring women musicians? “It’s not impossible,” she said. “It’s definitely more work but it’s so worth it and you have to believe in yourself and respect yourself in order for others to respect you. They are a lot of things that are sexualized in this industry, so be strong-willed and focus on your art and know you’re here for more than your looks and sexuality. There’s so much of you to bring to the industry.”
Cali Reed is a fresh and welcomed face in the music scene. What makes her so compelling besides her incredible versatilely, is the unapologetic stance she takes. Reed cares for more than just the finished product and because of this she’s become a vocal but needed critic towards industry standards, blurring lines between artist and activist. It is when these two identities meet, her music is at its best. This is also what makes Cali Reed cool.
Listen to “Die Hard” on Spotify.
Follow Cali Reed on Instagram and Twitter.
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