Noah Reid on His Teenage Pop-Punk Band, NHL Encounters at ONroute and Memories of Leonard Cohen

"I did write a couple of songs, [including] one called 'Piss Like a Racehorse' that I'm really glad never saw the light of day"
Noah Reid on His Teenage Pop-Punk Band, NHL Encounters at ONroute and Memories of Leonard Cohen
Photo: Dane Clark
When Toronto actor Noah Reid appears on screen, he's often singing. As Patrick Brewer on Schitt's Creek, he had his breakout moment performing an acoustic version of Tina Turner's "The Best," while this year's Outer Range found his rancher character Billy Tillerson frequently crooning slapstick covers a cappella. "Any time you're playing a character, you're seeing the world through their lens and their experience," Reid tells Exclaim! "That extends to how they experience music, how they feel about their voice, who they're singing to, and a ton of other variables."

When he's not acting, Reid makes folk music of his own, but without the theatrically or pretension of his acting roles. "I'm not filtering it through anything," he says of the music on his third solo album, Adjustments (out June 24). "My only intention is to be honest, remember the lyrics and hit the note."

What are you up to?

Right now I'm on Broadway at Studio 54 performing in Tracy Letts's The Minutes. I'm definitely feeling blessed with the quality of work I'm getting to be a part of these days. 

What are your current fixations?

Being in New York, there's so much culture everywhere, and I just love the accidental textures of it: people and buildings, non-stop soundscapes, things left behind on the subway or the sidewalk. It's hard to fixate on one thing for too long. 

Why do you live where you do?

Toronto's always been home to me. I've tried leaving — I just keep coming back. 


What's the last book or movie that blew your mind?

A book of Denis Johnson short stories called The Largesse of the Sea Maiden.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational concert and why?

I saw Leonard Cohen with my dad at the Hummingbird Centre, or whatever it's called now [Meridian Hall]. Someone yelled, "We love you Leonard!" and he crouched into the microphone and said with that golden voice of his, "I'm quite fond of you myself." He was exceptional — that night and in general.

What's been the greatest moment of your career so far?

Recording my first album Songs from a Broken Chair only took two days, but releasing it took almost two years. I think putting that out into the world opened up a whole new portal for me, and it wouldn't exist without [producer] Matthew Barber.

What advice do you wish you'd taken but you didn't take?

Practice with a metronome.


What was the first song you ever wrote?

I used to write these little compositions on the piano when I was like six, and my mom would write them down in a staff paper notebook. There was one called "Nocturne" that I remember being very proud of. Fast forward to Grade 8 and me and a couple buddies had a pop-punk band called Maximum 40, and we never rehearsed or performed, but I did write a couple of songs, [including] one called "Piss Like a Racehorse" that I'm really glad never saw the light of day. 

What do you think of when you think of Canada?

I think of Terry Fox.

What's the meanest thing anyone has ever said about your art?

I have no idea and I hope never to find out.

What was the first album you ever bought with your own money?

I remember listening to my sisters tapes on my green Walkman — Beastie Boys and No Doubt and Sarah McLachlan — but probably my first solo purchase was Red Hot Chili Peppers' Californication on CD. It brought me into the Discman era.


What was your most memorable day job?

I was a VIP parking lot attendant at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in 2007. I sold a lot of VIP parking passes under the table that year. I was never asked back. 

If you weren't playing music, what would you be doing instead?

Sports broadcasting? Maybe open a bar? Something like the old Magpie on Dundas — that place was great. The piano in the corner was almost unplayable. 

How do you spoil yourself?

Sleeping in.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?

I like my sense of humour. I'd be okay with being taller.

What's the best way to listen to music?

As a consumer, I don't think anything beats the vinyl-digital one-two punch. Vinyl for at home, for the warmth of the sound and the ritual of putting a record on and flipping it over, and digital for the on-the-go availability of any song at any time. Though, of course, as an artist, I think the way digital music gets distributed and profited on is criminal.

What do you fear most?

Being a disappointment to the people I love.


If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

I'd love to say something more altruistic, but probably pay off my mortgage?

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?

One time I saw [former NHL player] Gary Roberts at an ONroute, and before I could stop myself I exclaimed, "Gary!" He didn't break stride and said, "Good to see you, bud." I was shook.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?

I'd like to have dinner with all of my grandparents. They've been gone for a while now, and I'd love to hang out with them as an adult.

What is the greatest song of all time?

Right now what's coming to mind is Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom." But that's the amazing thing about music: the greatest song of all time changes depending on the moment!