Despite being a full-time attorney, Knoxville singer, songwriter and bandleader Roman Reese says he finds plenty of time for writing songs, but not so much of it for the recording studio. Reese’s last project was 2009’s Listen Before Dialing with his backing band the Cardinal Sins, which came a full four years after his 2005 solo album Gritty City.
Of course, his situation is complicated not only by his own job and family obligations, but by those of his ‘mates in the Cardinal Sins, as well. “At one point, we were ready to record, and my drummer went to China for six months, so that slowed us down,” Reese laughs.
“We’ve got the material, and every day I think man, I’ve got to get to this. We may have double-album set if I’m not careful.”
Reese, who plays Preservation Pub Nov. 26, held forth recently on both his songwriting process, and the prospects for that next album.
On his inspirations: Reese says he relishes writing about social issues, but not so much the politics that surround them. “I don’t do politics,” he says. “I’m not a huge fan. But a lot of my most recent songs have been about social issues. Songs about welfare, a guy on death row. I don’t write a lot of love songs, and if I do write a love song, it’s from a sad perspective. I’m not a sappy love-song writer.”
On his time in the military: Reese served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Military Police Corps when he was deployed in 2004. “I’ve got lots of songs about war because of my time in the military,” he says. “But again, I don’t look at it from a political perspective. I’ve got one song on YouTube, ‘Get Your Pistols and Your Guns,’ about the realities of combat, and it’s got a George McGovern quote in it. But it’s still not really political.
“I’m not a huge fan of Toby Keith-type military songs. I try to present the good and bad of what it’s like. Most soldiers do believe they’re doing the right thing. But they also come home and face lots of problems.”
On being an attorney: Reese says his job provides plenty of fodder for songwriting. “I deal with a lot of people on welfare, and I’m not sure we’re doing it the best way we could be doing it. It’s not about being a Democrat of a Republican. ‘Belly of the Beast’ is a song about welfare and the prison system based on what I’ve seen as an attorney. It’s warm in the belly of the beast tonight… It’s kind of a Tom Waits-y song.
On his elusive next record: “We have a few shows coming up, but nothing too crazy. I have a four-year-old and a demanding job, and my drummer and bass player both tour with a lot of other bands. I want to record as soon as I can, but I don’t want to make any promises yet.”
Roman Reese and the Cardinal Sins will play Preservation Pub Saturday, Nov. 26 at 10 p.m.