Key to the Highway: Eli “Paperboy” Reed

Interviews Key to the Highway Series

Americana Highways’ Key to the Highway series

Fans always clamor to learn more about their favorite, most beloved musicians and those who travel with them. There’s such an allure to the road, with its serendipity, inevitable surprises, and sometimes unexpected discomforts. This interview series is a set of questions we are asking some of our favorite roots rock Americana artists to get to know more about them and what they’ve learned and experienced on the road. We are sure they have key insights to share and stories to tell. Here’s one from Eli “Paperboy” Reed.

How do you like your coffee or other morning wake-up beverage?

Always black. I’m kind of a coffee snob and while we’re on tour we try to seek out the best coffee shops to get a good cup. My bass player Mike Montgomery is also my tour roommate and he brings an aero press and a hand grinder on the road. If I’m nice enough to him I can sometimes convince him to make me a cup, but sometimes I have to settle for doubling on coffee pods at the comfort inn.

What’s the most interesting or strangest motel/hotel or place you have stayed (while on the road?)

We’ve had a few weird ones over the years. Once stayed at a weird hotel in Gonzales, LA which is right on the Texas border. We got in late, but as we entered the desk clerk yelled “Welcome to Gonzales, LA, the hunting capital of the world!” I asked, “really?” and he said, “no, but everybody’s got guns, and they won’t hesitate to pop a cap in your ass.” Needless to say, we left early the next morning.

The weirdest by far, though, was a former “Holidome” somewhere in Michigan. The Holidome (I found later) was a short lived idea that Holiday Inn had in the 70s to basically have an oval shaped hotel that had a courtyard in the center that was covered by a “dome” (hence the name). All the rooms had doors that entered on to the courtyard which was covered in astro turf and had climbing structures, a pool etc…This idea, though, was quickly abandoned by the parent company and the hotel we stayed in was taken over by an independent operator. Needless to say, it was not kept up very well. We may have been the only guests and we basically thought we were going to get murdered. Google “Holidome” for yourselves.

If one CD is stuck in the player in the van for the entire tour, what do you hope it is?  And why?

That’s a tough one because everyone in my band has different musical tastes. Honestly it would probably be some old school hip hop or something like Wu-Tang or Biggie. I think that would satisfy all of us.

What’s one personal item you must have with you on your road trip?

I mean my phone and laptop are now essentials. I have a shoulder bag that I just keep packed for tour all the time and don’t take anything out of.  One thing that has been in there for almost 15 years now is a John the Conqueror Root that I bought at A. Schwab in Memphis. It’s supposed to be kept out of sight and it goes with you while you’re traveling or in other times that you need good luck and help to “conquer” something. I haven’t gone on a single trip without it.

What is your relationship with food?   How do you handle this on the road, and what’s your favorite dish on the road, (or restaurant, and what do you order there)?

I love food! Honestly, though, eating well, or at least regionally is one of the only ways that you can actually experience the place you’re in when you’re on tour. Most of time you’re in and out of a city in less than 24 hours so you basically only get a chance to eat, sleep and play the show. I love finding great regional specialties from Ethiopian food outside of DC to all the different varieties of Barbecue. I think my favorite dish is the Lamb Raan at Dishoom in London which is also one of my favorite restaurants in the world.

If you could pause your life for a few weeks and spend some time living in a place you only have passed through, which would you choose, and why?

Definitely London. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time there over the years and I love it. Great food, great people, easy to navigate and so diverse. It’s one of the only places in the world that I’d like to live besides New York.

What quote or piece of advice have you gotten from someone on the road that has really stuck with you?

Bo Diddley once said: “Eat whenever you can, as often as you can and as much as you can, because you don’t know when you might eat again!”

Find all things Eli “Paperboy” Reed” here: 

See other Key to the Highway interviews here: (click here for: Todd Snider Elizabeth Cook Tommy Womack Eric Ambel, Dan Baird, Robbie Fulks, Malcolm Holcombe Jon Langford Steve Poltz, Lilly Hiatt  Sarah Shook & the Disarmers ) Sign up for our weekly newsletter here for your Friday reminder for this series and more:

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