Like many others around the world, Reynold’s was constantly checking the news amidst the pandemic, feeling helpless in the face of the plague.
Yet, when the singer came across small acts of hope and giving across the nation, she was immediately drawn to her piano, writing “What Faith Is.” Not only is the track a way for Reynold’s herself to cope with the anxiety that comes from tragedy, but it is also an offering, her own way of giving back and providing comfort in times of distress.
Piecing together clips of resilience — mostly videos shot in the singer’s hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin — Reynold’s produced her own music video for the track. Even in times of immense adversity, “What Faith Is” provides a sweet few minutes of solace that can put a smile on anyone’s face. With inspiring lyrics, soft vocals and an acoustic sound, Reynold’s first solo release since her self-titled EP in 2012 provides a type of relief that often can only be found in music.
In addition to the emotional comfort the single brings, Reynold’s also found a way to give back in a concrete and material way. With a tune inspired by the goodness of others, Reynold’s provides her own act of selflessness in a decision to give all proceeds from the track to The Loveland Foundation, an organization that provides therapy to Black women and girls. The songwriter is dedicated to the creation of a better world through music and kindness.
With experience working with major industry players, such as Michael Jade and Rory Andrew, Reynold’s pure Americana sound leads her to thriving in the music industry, her success never negating her humility and devotion to generosity.
Here at Music Mecca, we got the chance to catch up with the artist about her latest track, inspirations, and much more.
So where did you grow up, and what got you into playing and writing music?
I grew up in Wisconsin. My family is extremely musical. A lot of Friday/Saturday nights were spent listening to my dad’s family band, Baba, in bars/barn dances. They played a lot of the music I was raised on – Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, The Beatles, Bonnie Raitt, John Hiatt etc. I was in orchestras, choirs, piano competitions – music was all around and it was my “normal.” My grandpa was a Frank Sinatra impersonator and my grandma was once a concert pianist and taught piano lessons. My mom sang in the church choir and in the car – she had a beautiful voice. My aunt is a songwriter and she encouraged me to pick up the pen and put it down in the piano.
I started getting more into it when my parents got divorced – songwriting became a refuge. I really made a full-on habit of writing songs when I was 14 – most were inspired by crushes that I had, a first kiss, breakups, longing. I’d even write songs about my friends’ relationships. I became known for this – a lot of my girlfriends would seek me out to help put music to their feelings. Normal teenage stuff, right?
Do you have a specific atmosphere or pastime that aides in your songwriting process, or does it happen more sporadically?
I don’t really have one specific method for writing. I know I’m chasing something good when I’m in a flow-state – that goes for co-writes and for writing on my own. I’m becoming like my grandma Rosie, humming as I cook, shopping for groceries, going for a walk – it’s subconsciously done and sometimes it brings me an idea. Lately, I’ll admit, writing has happened more sporadically. I think my headspace has been a bit all over the place with everything going on in world lately. I’m finding it a little more difficult than usual to be inspired. When that happens, I put the pen down and just go out and live my life. Because experiences are what give me ideas and those ideas become songs.
So you recently released your newest single and music video, “What Faith Is”. Do you recall any specific moment that struck you within the pandemic that spurned the writing of this song?
Oh, yes. It was the beginning of the pandemic – March 15.
In LA, talks of stay-at-home orders were going around. Like a lot of people, I was hanging on every next news article. It became a main source of anxiety. Gathering information, reading all of the emerging data – all of it became fear-inducing spirals. The PPE shortages really capped it off. And then I started seeing little pockets of rural communities, specifically Waupaca, WI, suddenly step up and take matters into their own hands. An online community emerged. Mostly strangers. They would have Zoom meetings and began a coordinated effort to source materials and make masks for their local hospitals and communities. They would use bins at a church parking lot to drop off elastic, fabric – all of the necessary materials for people to grab supplies and start making masks. People even started taking elastic from their fitted sheets at home to keep up with the demand. Really, there’s so much more to this story, but it hit me. They were hope. And that’s when I sat on the floor and wrote “What Faith Is.”
You have a touching music video for the song involving those aiding in the pandemic along with you playing your song. Can you talk about your vision for the video and how it came together?
I had a vision for the music video immediately after writing the song. I wanted to create a time capsule to share the story of the mask makers, the frontline workers, neighbors, those working at assisted living centers – the power of everyone coming together in their own way all over the country in these gutting times. Recording this song and collaborating with all of these heroes felt like something I could contribute to add a little hope to the world. Videos and photos were collected through various friends, family, acquaintances and then edited together by Jay Wescott.
Is this a song fans can expect to see it on an EP or LP, or is it a standalone single for now?
It’s a standalone single for now. It just felt like a timely message to share.
I’m seeing where this is your first solo release since your debut EP in 2012. What have you been doing creatively in that time?
I have been doing a lot of writing for my other projects – including a new duo project I’ve been hatching over quarantine. I’ve also been writing for other artists, writing/recording for film/TV, and arranging original works for a round of symphony concerts in the Midwest.
So I see where you also co-wrote a song for Little Big Town on their Billboard-topping 2020 album. Can you talk about how this came to be?
A couple years back, I had just moved to LA with my co-writer, Trevor Jarvis. We got together with our old friend Michael Jade at a diner. We decided to get together and write a song. We ended up writing “Next To You” and before we knew it, Mike’s team pitched the song and it ended up being recorded by LBT. It’s such a special song. Grateful to have written it with some of my best friends.
Do you feel the pandemic has helped or hurt your creative process? (or perhaps neither)
Depends on the week! The pandemic definitely created a lot of hurdles. Bouts of inspiration, bouts of depression, constant processing. It’s been really difficult to feel like I’m sitting on my hands, but I know I’m not alone. It’s helped to stay connected to community. We’re all going through it.
Have you picked up any new hobbies throughout it or tapped into other creative endeavors?
I did a cross-country road trip back to Wisconsin for the summer. This pandemic feels sort of like a forced sabbatical in some ways. I’m in a cabin, I’ve set up a little home studio, reading a lot of books such as The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown. I’ve been doing Zoom co-writes, hiking in the woods, swimming in lakes, reconnecting with family and fly fishing down the Oconto river. It’s a silver lining– ’cause there’s really nothing like a Wisconsin summer.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m a good golfer.
What might fans expect from Hillary Reynolds to close out the year?
I’ve got a lot of music in my back pocket. It’ll see the sun when the timing is right. In the meantime, I think we all just need to get through November. When you write it all down on paper, it’s hard to believe everything we’ve already been through this year. Still got a ways to go, but I believe we’ll find a way through it. We’re more resilient than we know.