Paul McDonald and Nikki Reed may not best be known for their beautifully crafted indie folk tunes just yet. Considering the fact that McDonald rose to fame through his stint on American Idol and Reed has been a Hollywood mainstay for the past decade plus (Lords of Dogtown, Thirteen, Twilight), the couple now have their first EP available and are currently striving toward putting out a full length this summer. Substream sat down with Reed and McDonald in their hotel while taking a quick break from the madness that is SXSW.
Substream Magazine: First things first, how has your SXSW experience been so far?
Paul McDonald: I love SXSW so when we get the opportunity to come down and do the duo…she’s never been before.
SM: It’s a mess!
Nikki Reed: (Laughs) it’s a cluster F. My first night walking on the street I was being caravanned to the next venue and some guy hocks a loogie on my shoe and someone else through a glass bottle on the ground and it busted everywhere and I was like “This is it. I wish I had a hovercraft right now.”
SM: Walk us through when you two discovered that not only your voices work well together but that it was something you wanted to pursue.
NR: I didn’t know that I could sing. I just sang by myself and my mom always told me I had a great voice. That was kind of my only relationship with singing, just that I loved to do it by myself. I never sang in public or pursued it as a career independently but then I met Paul and he sings 24 hours a day every day so I found myself humming along to what he did. Probably about six months after we were together, he said “I really want you to pursue this with me. I think we should give it a shot”. I was horrified like there was no way I could ever work up the courage to do something like this and look at us now, a year later.
PM: It was a gradual process for sure because when we first started doing it, it was more for fun around the house. Someone on her team, like the first thing we played, was like “This is amazing, you sound good together, you should put out a song”. We decided to do it last minute and we had great feedback from it and it led to more and more stuff. We ended up putting out this EP and it’s had a great response. Now we’re putting out a new record.
NR: I guess in that respect it’s been gradual but mentally for me, the first show I ever played was for 5,000 people. I asked someone to bring me a chair because I thought I was going to faint. That’s intimidating! I’ve been in front of people for a long time now but it’s a whole different relationship with your audience.
SM: Did Paul kind of come alongside you then and give you some tricks as far as performing?
NR: Well, no because Paul is such a natural performer. Paul does this thing because you can’t really explain or define it. He was born to perform or entertain. It skipped a generation because his parents are both really shy but his grandmother, when you meet her you realize where Paul came from. There’s just this sense of liveliness and charisma.
PM: She plays the piano, she’s from Alabama and she’s just this little old lady.
NR: Paul was just born from this so just from watching him I’ve picked up some pointers. I’ve been doing this meditation work that has really helped when I go on stage.
SM: I read that being with Paul has really spurred you on into some new creative areas. Aside from what you just touched on, what else has Paul inspired you in? Same question for you Paul.
PM: She’s a really great lyricist and she writes a whole lot differently than I do so it was fun. She’s taught me a lot about writing on her end. Its fun collaborating with people but collaborating with your wife is a whole different monster. She’s helped me out with a bunch of stuff. I’ve always been the front man of a band so I didn’t really have to learn to harmonize with anyone. With us, we have to make our two voices into one voice. She has perfect pitch, which I don’t.
NR: I got told that and I’m holding onto it. Another musician in our band the other day said “Nikki, you have perfect pitch memory” and I was kind of like “Wow, that’s the greatest compliment and I’m going to hold onto that so I can have something” (laughs).
SM: So no apprehensions on working with your spouse at all?
NR: It was just so organic, it was just around the house. I was like washing dishes and folding laundry (laughs). I think above anything that Paul has taught me creatively, because the list goes on and on, musically, I’m just a newborn. In terms of the contribution on his side, I just really feel like it’s about the message behind this for me. At the risk of sounding cliché, we have one life and your one moment to try something. It’s not about being the best singer on the planet. I look at everyone playing before and after us and think “Oh my God, they’re so good” but Paul gets me out of that space because it’s not about being as good as those people, its about how it makes me feel and what other people feel when they hear it.
Paul McDonald and Nikki Reed
By Jameson Ketchum