Everyone remembers their first real kiss. Not everyone writes a song about the experience.
Emily Reid did. Grade 7 was the year. “Permanent Smile” is the song that came from that short-lived, pre-teen love. Singing the song into her PC computer microphone led to endless ribbing from her two older brothers. “It’s a wonder I pursued music at all,” she laughs. “They were so relentless!”
It’s doubtful her siblings are laughing now. In 2014, Reid released her first EP, Drifter, which eventually secured a publishing deal with BMG Nashville. One of the early songs she wrote as a published writer, “If I Wanted Wine,” caught the ear of Shannon McNevan, Senior Director of A&R – Country for Universal Music Group Canada (who’s worked with James Barker Band, The Reklaws, Jade and Eagleson) – ultimately leading to a major label deal with Universal.
Then, in April of 2021, Reid landed her first No.1 Billboard single as part of the writing team (along with Matt McVaney and Travis Wood) for “Boys” —a song Dean Brody recorded with Mickey Guyton, and took to the top spot on the Canadian country charts as well. The song addresses the different ways men (versus boys) handle relationships.
“It was crazy,” explains Reid. “I had a session with Matt and Travis, and we were actually writing songs for my next record. We were struggling, and they both turned to me and said, ‘Emily, what would you write about?’ And I replied, ‘Boys, obviously!’
“It was a big swing of a song,” she continues. “After we finished writing and recording it, I thought it would be better sung by a guy. I told my manager, and he asked if it would be OK if he pitched it to Dean Brody. The song went to radio, then to No.1. Then, they got Mickey Guyton to feature on it. Watching her career rise, and just to be a tiny part of that, was super-cool. I was also the only female writer on that [Dean Brody] album, and that made me extra-proud.”
Long before this big hit happened, and after that first kiss occurred, Reid, 27, started writing poems on scraps of construction paper during her formative years growing up in Victoria, B.C. She hid these folded-up creative outbursts in her bookcase for safekeeping, away from the prying and taunting eyes of her brothers. Her dad found them, though, and encouraged her to keep writing. Piano lessons followed. Reid never loved this formal training; she preferred to play her own chords and sing her own songs.
“It’s been the one thing in my life I always knew I loved,” Reid says about writing songs. “It always felt like a gift; in a family of non- musical people, that is how I felt and expressed my feelings.”
From B.C. to Nashville, with a pit stop in Toronto, Reid eventually settled back West in L.A., where she now lives with her husband. The millennial songwriter has travelled thousands of miles – literally and musically – in her relatively short career as a professional musician. Reid, who describes her music as “bold, energetic, and indie-fun-cool,” has learned something from every city where she’s planted roots and eventually found a tribe of collaborators.
“The one big lesson I’ve learned is that you just have to be you, and figure out what makes you special – instead of trying to emulate what makes someone else special, or trying to conform to what you think people want you to be,” she says. “Also, accept your weaknesses. That’s the beauty of co-writing: Your weakness may be their strength. You’re not supposed to be good at all of it; that’s what makes the process so beautiful. Find your truth. and bring that every day.”
“Sometimes I just pinch myself when I’m in a room with my friends, and we’re writing a song that potentially could make us some money,” she says. “I think, ‘This is the coolest job anyone could have.’”