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A Life of Gaffs & Guitars

By Laura Emery, Deputy Editor

Whether he’s climbing poles or climbing the country music charts, 26-year-old Will Reid is as grounded as they come.

“You have to be grounded, or else it’s like being a feather in a fan factory,” says the BARC Electric Cooperative journeyman lineworker and up-and coming country music artist.

For Reid, it’s both gaffs — the spikes on a lineworker’s climbing iron — and guitars that have taken him to new heights.

“The past five or six years have been one thing after another. I expected, right now, to be working for the forestry department. But here I am a journeyman lineman making music.”

MUSIC IN HIS BLOOD

Growing up just outside of Lexington, Va., Reid has been strapping on guitars long before he started strapping on pole-climbing gaffs.

His father, Bill Reid, played in a local bluegrass band. The syncopated rhythm of bluegrass music, with its high energy and fast tempo, stirred a deep love of music in his son.

“I knew all the words to the classic bluegrass songs, even as a toddler. I really enjoyed singing. I have pictures of myself, when I was first learning how to walk, wearing cowboy boots and holding a toy guitar,” Reid says.

As he got older, Reid developed his own sound. There were new layers of complexity to his voice; it was strong and smooth, with just enough twang.

In high school, Reid decided to teach himself how to play the guitar. With the new skillset came new confidence.

His father explains: “His mother, Tammy, and I always knew he sounded really good when he sang, but he didn’t have the self-confidence back then. He’s got the confidence now. He’s bold and proud of his talent.”

Reid’s singing and songwriting took a backseat to his career ambitions of getting a degree in forestry. He attended Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, intending to transfer to Virginia Tech. “After the first year at Dabney, they required us to do a summer internship. I knew some folks working at BARC, our local electric cooperative, so I asked if I could intern there,” Reid says.

After a summer of interning with a crew in the right-of-way department, Reid was offered a full-time position at the cooperative. A year and a half in, he entered the apprenticeship program. Four years later, he proudly earned the title of journeyman.

You can sense the pride in Reid’s voice when he speaks about the work he does. “I enjoy the camaraderie and the pride that we take in doing our job and doing it safely. You can be on storm trouble in other states where you don’t know a soul, and yet, if you’re both linemen, you can talk to each other for days as though you’ve known each other your entire life,” he says.

Reid competed at the Gaff-n-Go Lineworker’s Rodeo, sponsored by the Virginia,Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, three years in a row, starting in 2017.

At the rodeo, lineworkers from up and down the East Coast compete in action-packed events based on traditional tasks and skills.Hundreds of friends, family members and spectators watch with bated breath as lineworkers, like Reid, ply their trade in a competitive yet friendly environment.

In 2019, Reid earned top apprentice honors with a stellar performance across five events, including first place in a written test and third in the pole top rescue.

FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC

After long days of line work, Reid steals away to his garage and lets his voice dance in the quiet evening air. Strumming away on his guitar, his tired eyes close.

For Reid, the lyrics are at the heart of the process; it’s how he connects with his audience. “I was always interested in meaningful lyrics. I wanted my songs to tell a story,” he explains. “I’m extremely picky when I write.”

Sometimes, lyrical magic even happens in his truck while traveling between BARC’s district offices. “‘I Can’t Tell’— I wrote it in 40 minutes between BARC’s two offices traveling by myself in my truck,” he says.

Bluegrass and country—not to mention artists like Vern Gosdin, Charlie Pride and Conway Twitty— influence his music.

NASHVILLE BOUND

It was Feb. 20, 2021. As a small crowd looked on, Reid was in his element, playing his guitar and singing his heart out to a captivated audience in a dimly lit restaurant. He’d been asked to play alongside the man on the stool next to him.

“Me and some friends were hanging out at the Palms, in Lexington, that night. I’d seen Bruce Allen around, knew his name and what he did for a living. He asked me to come up and play a song, and I did,” Reid says.

Bruce Allen: CEO of Jordash Records, based in Nashville, Tenn. An accomplished producer, promoter, writer and performer, Allen has worked alongside the likes of Vince Gill and Randy Travis.

“I was there that evening hosting a live music event. Will’s friend had told me about him earlier in the evening, said I just had to hear this guy sing. So I asked him to get up and perform and he did,” says Allen.

Allen has developed an ear finely tuned to recognizing marketable talent. “I produce a lot of albums, so I get to listen to a lot of artists. When I hear someone with the right sound for radio, I just know. Will came off as a genuine person, a gifted singer and songwriter — and the crowd loved him. They became a fan that night, same as I did. He’s a cooperative lineman and you just would never think this guy could sing the way he does,” says Allen.

Allen explains that for aspiring artists, the allure of fame and fortune often overshadows the amount of hard work and dedication involved in achieving success in the industry.

“I don’t waste my time on people who don’t want to do the hard work that comes with it. Will wants it bad, and he’s willing to work for it. He is humble and grounded; he listens and takes advice — and he’s got the talent and drive to go far and do well.” When the night was over, Allen took to the microphone. “I said to him over the microphone, ‘Will, I’m taking you to Nashville.’ When I say that, I don’t say it lightly,” he says.

Reid remained skeptical, even when physically on his way to Nashville several months later with some other local musicians. “I didn’t really think anything would come from it. But the next morning in Nashville, I started talking to some of the guys … and I was starstruck. I realized it was the real deal,” he says.  “For Bruce Allen to have that kind of faith in me and my music, it meant a lot.”

Reid recalls the exact moment it sunk in that he had a record deal that could take his music to new heights.

“It was three of us guys in the car — Cody Minter, Jess Pritt and I. We were on our way to represent BARC and compete in the 2021 International Lineman’s Rodeo in Kansas. We’d been driving through West Virginia into Kentucky and we stopped at a gas station to fill up,” he explains.

At that gas station, off a winding Kentucky road, Reid first heard his song played on a local radio station. Upon hearing his voice blaring through the vehicle’s speakers, the young men erupted into cheers.

“We all freaked out and started screaming. We were giving high-fives and we couldn’t believe that had just happened. It was such an incredible feeling,” Reid remembers.

RIGHT TURN AT ALBUQUERQUE

It was the first of many magical moments to come for the musically gifted lineworker.

After recording multiple tracks with Allen’s record label, Reid’s first single was chosen well. The catchy song, “Albuquerque,” quickly began to climb the charts.

“I wrote ‘Albuquerque’ in my garage one night. I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to write a song about a cool town that I wanted to try and relate to, something easy to rhyme with. It wasn’t necessarily the easiest to rhyme with, but it worked out,” Reid explains, with a laugh.

Reid’s greatest inspiration has been his mother, Tammy Reid. “She’s really pushed me to go further and think bigger,” he says. “She’s always believed in me.” His fianc , Ashley Woodson, is also a huge source of support. Ashley and Will got engaged at a Cody Johnson concert.

Reid acknowledges the role his faith has played in his musical journey. “God is absolutely the biggest part of this journey for me. I never, in a million years, could have believed I would be given the blessings He has given me.”

With a bright future, this talented lineworker will continue to stay grounded. “I don’t know how to feel sometimes,” he says. “I always used to say that it would be the best feeling in the world to have my music played in Chicago or Dallas. Now, it’s being played in cities all across the country and the world. It’s still so surreal. I just feel so grateful and blessed and hope people take the time to listen to

Reid’s music is available on all streaming platforms, including Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and YouTube. my music.”

Click Here to listen.

 

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