Conner Reeves: Once More, With Feeling
Singer-songwriter, Conner Reeves first came to the world’s attention in 1997 with his gold-selling debut album, 'Earthbound' scoring five top 30 singles in the UK, culminating in a Brit nomination and international touring with Whitney Houston. After stepping out of the limelight for 22 years, the shy soul singer is back, and working on new music. Speaking to Headliner, the man whose voice will still give your goosebumps goosebumps reflects on his journey, where he’s been, and why he’s only interested in making music that makes people feel something.
“There’s a paper bag I’d be more comfortable wearing; I don’t even need the eye-holes!” jokes Conner Reeves as Headliner sets up the camera for one of the first interviews the soul singer has done in a long while.
It’s been a wild ride for Reeves, whose debut, gold-certified album, Earthbound was released in 1997, leading to a string of top 30 hits, Top Of The Pops performances, international touring with Whitney Houston, and then – silence. Until this year, which saw Earthbound finally appear on streaming services, opening up Reeves’ music to a whole new audience, and igniting the singer’s desire to start working on new material.
Reluctant to have anything to do with the world of celebrity or the ‘look at me’ publicity machine, Reeves recently dipped his toe into the world of social media, posting a few updates showing himself in the studio. It turns out his fans had been patient, immediately encouraging him to release new music.
“I was really touched by it,” says Reeves. “My son and my family kept saying: ‘Have you seen this online?’ I don’t ever look at myself online, but there have been YouTube videos that people have put up. I wouldn’t even know how to put one up! There were loads of comments underneath, and people were saying: where is he now? There was a lot of interest in my coming back out there. It’s a huge change for me because I’ve been in a supporting role for years, and I deliberately stepped out of the spotlight because it was kind of a crazy, rollercoaster ride. Then I became a father, and I wanted to be a proper father, so I wanted to withdraw from things.”
Reeves is not interested in fame, and can’t stand to watch himself on film. He jokes around by asking us to shoot his good side, “well, my less bad side,” he clarifies. A warm host with no airs and graces, it’s hugs all round before Reeves busies himself making Headliner proper coffees, singing away to himself (the runs!) in his Moroccan den of a recording studio/writing room in London, where he uses a Focusrite audio interface, a Rode NT1 microphone and Logic Pro X to capture his recordings.
Dressed in a smart, pinstripe suit jacket, a band T-shirt and aviator style glasses, Reeves’ look wouldn’t be complete without his signature cap (rocking this long before the Shelbys hit our screens). With a soulful singing voice that inexplicably makes listeners want to cry with happiness, Reeves is a London boy through-and-through, dropping his ‘t’s’ when he speaks, and frequently apologising for “going on a bit”.
To his credit, he’s got a lot of gaps to fill in. As a teenager, Reeves was the only one in his family with an interest in music. “I wasn’t allowed to sing in my own house because I've naturally got kind of a deep voice. My favourite artists were Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, so I was really pushing my range. My voice would go because I was pushing it too high. It was a small house and I've got three brothers, and [singing] wasn’t encouraged, shall we say.
"My dad used to say that my bedroom sounded like a vasectomy clinic that had run out of anaesthetic,” he laughs. “There was no precedent in my entire family for music, so for me wanting to be a singer, I might as well have said I wanted to be an astronaut! In fact, I would have got more support.”
To practice, Reeves would venture out of the house, and could often be found singing in local parks at nighttime. “I had to go up the park with the dog late at night,” he nods. “The worse the weather was, the more I’d go, because no-one would be there. I adore my parents, but they just couldn’t understand it.”
Words Alice Gustafson.