“Once I hit that stage, there was no going back,” Reed says. “I knew it was what I wanted to do." He’s been honing his skills ever since, first in North Carolina and now in Los Angeles, where he put together his debut album, “Forget About the Cameras,” a hip-hop/pop fusion of organically grown, energetic beats and smooth, smart rhymes that marks the arrival of a distinctive, versatile voice. Though he hasn’t been in L.A. long, Reed’s already opened for Dilated Peoples and Little Brother, landed a publishing deal and had song placements in the lauded series “Friday Night Lights,” the Oscar-nominated film “The Messenger” and several MTV shows.
He’s hung out at Sundance with revered music-video and film director Mark Pellington, who’s worked with Pearl Jam, U2 and the Foo Fighters and uses one of Reed’s songs in his latest film, “I Melt With You.” Pellington protégé Matt Roe is helming videos for three tracks from Reed’s disc, starting with the dynamic “After The War (featuring superbeautiful).” And lately, Reed’s been hitting the mic as a budding voiceover artist, carving yet another avenue for his prodigious talents. Reed’s strong work ethic and the confidence he built as a young athlete (his father was a Big 10 college football coach; Reed has worked as a tennis pro since high school) spills over to his lyrics. They have an edge, and he says what he thinks, but without offensive verbal assaults or references to guns, violence and abusive sex. He admits a humorous song like “Grading on a Curve,” might raise some eyebrows, but his humor resonates with guys and girls alike and his lyrics make it clear it’s all in good fun.
Unless, of course, the subject is the nemesis of every Tarheels fan: Duke. A couple of years ago Reed, a University of North Carolina graduate and diehard Tarheels booster, spoofed Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” with a hilarious Duke basketball smackdown video that went viral on YouTube, earning half a million hits. That got him an all-expenses-paid visit back home, courtesy of a Chapel Hill club owner who hired him to perform a couple of shows. “I got to see the Tarheels win the national championship in Chapel Hill with all my buddies, all because of this song,” he says.
Not bad for a parody. But he hopes the rep he’s gaining for his serious work will take him even farther. Influenced early on by the Beastie Boys, he also fell in love with Doors, the Beatles, Led Zep, the Stones and other Mt. Rushmore rockers.
In college he began building an audience, and with his former band, Plan B, ignited Raleigh-Durham crowds as large as 5,000. But when their momentum seemed to stall, Reed says, “I had an epiphany. I was like, ‘I gotta make a move.’” He packed up and headed to Los Angeles in 2007, six-song EP in hand, and started making connections. Just to hedge his bets and stay afloat while building his music career, he kept his day job as a tennis pro and picked up a real estate license.
His real estate and coaching work put him in contact with many of L.A.’s biggest power-brokers, some of whom became serious fans and began opening doors. “At first it was somewhat intimidating,” he admits of the competitive L.A. scene. “But then I rocked a couple of shows and it gave me a lot of confidence.” For Reed, that’s a nice perk. But as he declares in “Believe,” the first track on his album, Grounded by the only thing that I can call my own/The music of my life is right here in this song. In the end, you gotta believe in yourself.
The rest falls into place. For Jensen Reed, the stars are aligning right now. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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