Singer-songwriter Reid Lee has scaled many mountains in his life.  As a teen in a small town in Texas, he came out. Later on, he dedicated his life to opera and earned a degree from UCLA’s prestigious music school program. Upon graduating from college, on a whim he moved to New York and landed the lead in an Off-Broadway show.


Shadowing these powerful moments has always been a restless search for validation. One night, over a few beers his usually stoic father addressed this internal dynamic head on. He told Reid point blankly that he didn’t need anyone’s approval anymore. The following year his father passed away, and those words rang true with stark clarity. It was time for Reid look within and share his artistic gifts. And that’s just what Reid does on his debut album, Broken Arrows, an elegant collection of emotive pop.  


“The title is about boldly taking chances, regardless of the outcome. For years, I fooled myself into believing I felt complete performing other people’s music.  Now, it is time for step forward and speak up with my own words,” Reid shares.


Prior to Broken Arrows, Reid toured professionally, sung background vocals on multiple cast albums, and established himself as a triple threat, a gifted singer, dancer, and actor.  Along the way, he has performed with such icons as Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Holiday, Leann Rimes, Linda Ronstadt, and Sara Bareilles. He has also earned a BA with a double major in Music and Theatre from UCLA.


Reid’s sublime musicality is inextricably linked to his life journey. His birthplace of Corpus Christi, Texas, his foundational training in opera at UCLA, and his adopted and spiritual home of Los Angeles have all imbued his work with a kaleidoscopic artistic and personal perspective. Reid takes inspiration from country, jazz, classical, opera, soul, and the warm intimacy of the Laurel Canyon 1970s singer-songwriter tradition.


Reid’s story begins with his grandfather’s love of country music like Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. It was said that his grandfather was so touched with music that while he was in the military during World War II, his supervisors sparred him any dangerous assignments to safeguard his gifts and boost the troops' morale. When Reid was in his twenties, this family lore began to resonate with him as he fought his own battles. 


Reid set out on his own course singing in church choirs and later formally studying opera, every step of the way polishing his prodigious talents.  Reid was headed on a path to be an interpreter of song much like his idol Ella Fitzgerald and other classic vocalists. After his father’s passing, however, he wrote a poem and shared it with his friends and family at the funeral. That poem hit people heavily—Reid especially. It made him realize his pure heartfelt expression was worthy of his boundless talents as a singer and a performer.


Broken Arrows is a 10-song collection (plus a slow and stately acoustic version of an album track) of separate stories that frame the tapestry of Reid’s life in a manner that’s broadly relatable.


“My goal is to connect with people’s hearts.” He continues: “If someone is struggling with being bullied, I want them to know they can survive and move on. If they’re feeling so broken hearted that it hurts to breathe, I want my music to help them face the day,” Reid says.


Standouts on Broken Arrows include the sweetly soulful opener “Arrowheads,” the urgently anthemic “To The Limit” replete with heavenly vocal harmonies, and the majestic classically tinged “Lady Macbeth.” On “Arrowheads” Reid sings some of his grandfather’s story and recalls the minor miracle of being a young boy discovering arrowheads while on an outdoor trip with his grandfather. The artifacts were actually purchased at a nearby gift shop by his grandpa for Reid to discover. The story is poignantly metaphorical of the musical gifts his grandfather passed on to him. “To The Limit” is a stirring message to fans and listeners. “That’s the last song I wrote for the album. I realized there was a some melancholy on the album and wanted to be sure to bring people light and joy,” Reid says. On “Lady Macbeth” Reid showcases his classical and opera roots with a theatrical and ambitiously arranged breakup epic. The song is cinematic and cathartic, conjuring that feeling of finally walking away from a toxic relationship dynamic.


There are no misfires on Broken Arrows—each track hits with exquisite melodies and bold vulnerability. But life is rife with moments of misdirection, reflection, and redirection. Looking back on his path to his milestone debut album, Reid says: “I didn’t have the right words to express myself until now.  What my dad said that fateful night was a turning point, and I didn’t know he was right until I set out to see what I could do with my voice as a writing artist. Now, I feel like I’m finally living my truth.”


Photographer: Greg Zabilski