**EDITOR’S NOTE: The Rik Reese Band concert, originally scheduled for the Capitol Theatre Wednesday, March 26, has been postponed until Wednesday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. due to the forecast winter storm. Tickets will be honoured on the new show date. Ticket holders may contact the box office at 506-856-4379 if they have any further questions.**
The music career of Moncton’s Rik Reese has seen its share of highs and lows over the last 10 years.
The highs certainly are numerous for one of the hardest working musicians in Atlantic Canada: in addition to multiple annual performances at Prince Edward Island’s Cavendish Beach Music Festival, Rik also has the good fortune to support some of country music’s biggest names including Toby Keith, Dierks Bentley and Eric Church.
At a time when carving out a career in music is getting increasingly tougher, Rik has built a devoted fan base through seemingly endless touring. This hard work ethic has no doubt allowed his 2009 album Mama Raised A Good Boy, recorded with his former band Neon Highway, to continue garnering impressive amounts of radio airplay right across Canada.
As Rik looks forward to the future, including the making of a new studio record later this year, he takes the stage of Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Wednesday evening to share songs and stories from the first decade of his career.
Rik’s musical roots run deep, starting with his grandfather who was an avid fiddle player. Family gatherings would typically include some kind of music and so it was only natural that Rik would feel inspired to pick up the guitar himself.
Country music wasn’t necessarily his first musical love, however.
“I grew up on hard rock and heavy metal,” he laughs. “Bands like April Wine, Kiss and Triumph were always on my stereo. But then I discovered Dwight Yoakam and was really drawn into the music he was making. Guys like him, Steve Earle and Travis Tritt really opened my eyes to the world of country music.”
A native of Campbellton, Rik found his way to school in Ontario before returning to Metro Moncton for a job opportunity. He replied to a classified ad from a group seeking a vocalist and rhythm guitar player. The group selected the name Neon Highway. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 2003, Rik estimates he performed more than 230 shows, as a part of the group as well as a number of solo shows. Finding those willing to put music before security such as full-time employment became increasingly harder for the group, resulting in numerous line-up changes over the years.
The group had found a relatively stable lineup in the time following the release of their 2009 record. Just as they continued putting more and more mileage on their van and seemingly had many things working in their favour, tragedy struck.
After performing a triumphant show at Prince Edward Island’s Cavendish Beach Music Festival in July 2011, Neon Highway bassist Pete King was killed in a motor vehicle accident. King was only 48 years old.
“Pete loved playing music,” Rik recalls. “We were coming off the ultimate kind of high, opening for Toby Keith and Eric Church at Cavendish and then seven hours later, we lost Pete.”
The group took some time to reflect on their future before ultimately deciding that Pete would be the one who would insist they move forward.
“Pete was the kind of guy who wouldn’t miss a gig for anything. Once upon a time, we had been scheduled to play a show in Springhill, but in light of a major snowstorm that was happening at the time, I had reservations about making the journey down. Pete called me up and said if he had to snowshoe down and play a bass solo for four hours, he was going to do it,” Rik laughs. “That attitude became my guiding light in moving the band forward.”
A little more than one year ago, Rik set the wheels of change are in motion again for Neon Highway. After reflecting upon the numerous line-up changes that the group had seen over the previous decade, Rik decided to drop the Neon Highway name in favour of The Rik Reese Band.
“Pete and I were the last two original Neon Highway members. When you look back upon the Neon Highway family tree, I felt that the group was so far removed from its origins that it just made sense to retire the name. It wasn’t an easy decision. We had nurtured that name and grew our fan base because of it. The move to billing ourselves as the Rik Reese Band isn’t a matter of ego at all. It is simply more fluid for everyone in the band.”
Rik is looking forward to the future, including the making of a still untitled next record, with nothing but excitement. He says that he and the group started with upwards of 46 songs to choose from but have since narrowed that number down to 20. He expects between 12 and 14 songs to make the record’s final cut.
He shares that he has lined up April Wine guitarist Brian Greenway to perform on a few tracks of the upcoming record. Considering that April Wine were one of the bands that indirectly influenced Rik’s career, Greenway’s contributions to the next phase of Rik’s career is a full circle kind of moment for the musician.
The group is aiming for a June release for their next studio effort.
Article published in the March 22, 2014 edition of the Times & Transcript
What: Rik Reese
When: Wednesday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $21 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone at (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca