Reeya Banerjee album release show at Argyle Brewing’s Cambridge Tasting Room, 01/27/2022

The Way Up is Reeya Banerjee’s first foray into original music after years of playing classic rock covers in bar bands. Produced by Manhattan-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Folger, the record was officially released on 1/27/22 with a performance of her entire debut album at Argyle Brewing’s Cambridge Tasting Room backed by guitarist James Rubino, drummer Tony Cenicola, bassist Daria Grace and keyboardist Adam Gloc.  Reeya is a writer, musician, and voiceover artist based in New York’s Capital District.

Photo by Leif Zurmuhlen

Reeya Banerjee after the show: “Before tonight my last live performance was December of 2019 at The Elks Club in Beacon, New York in a band covering the entire Some Girls Rolling Stones album! All of a sudden two years goes by and now I’m here with my own music and that kind of blows my mind!

I collaborated on this record with Luke Folger, who is based in NYC. He wrote the music and he and I wrote the lyrics. For years prior to this, I have been doing the bar band cover thing. I am a writer, a columnist, but I did not know how to write lyrics. Luke told me to just write free-flow, stream of consciousness, word vomit, whatever you want to call it — write what you want to say, and I would email it to him and he would turn it into lyrics and they were still communicating my original meaning. It’s a very simpatico, a fruitful creative partnership. And now we have these eight songs, The Way Up!

With this record, I wanted to intentionally do something very different than what is expected of me. With the cover bands, I would have to belt and growl Springsteen or The Stones. I wanted this to be something new and surprising. I didn’t want it to sound like I was being someone else. The album was entirely written during the pandemic. 2018 and 2019 were not great years for me mental health-wise, anxiety-wise. My mother was a big Beatles fan, she’s the one who got me into music. She passed away from cancer when I was 12. She was very clear with my father and me that she did not want us wallowing, she wanted us to carry on and do our thing. And my dad and I realize now that we took that too literally and we never processed the experience of her illness, her death, we never sought professional help. That kind of displaced grief has come back to bite both him and me in the last 10 or so years. I was just unraveling. I left my job to do intensive therapy, a lot of it focused on trauma recovery. My last day on the program was three days before Cuomo shut New York down! I came out of this transformative experience a billion times better than I was, ready to get back to it-then the world shut down. I had all of this like… soup, I’d done all this work on myself, so where do I put it? I decided to put it in music. It’s a purge of all of the emotions I didn’t get to process as a little girl.

It didn’t take long for my musician friends to figure out how to keep making music during the pandemic, even if they couldn’t gig or record. James Rubino and I started picking songs we like and said let’s record them the way we wish they had been recorded, just to kind of keep the juices going, finding a way to be creative during a period of forced stasis. Because we were kind of stir crazy we started doing these covers. It’s an ongoing music collaboration:

As Covid restrictions started to open up I saw musician friends of mine kind of tentatively going back out there, I thought, well I haven’t played live since 2019-I want to do that too! I talked to James and he became our de-facto musical director and helped adapt and arrange the songs from my album to be played live.

I feel like re-inventing the covers with James got my brain ready for the songwriting with Luke. It felt like 2020 was about 10 years long and then 2021 just went like that! I’m glad that I was able to produce something I am proud of in that very strange time warp. We’re already talking about a follow-up record, it’ll be Luke and I and James, I feel like with their powers combined I can do something even better!”

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