Bret Reilly, rock star
Reilly, Ace of Arts
By Robin Jovanovich
It had been a couple of years since I interviewed Bret Reilly. The last time we met was at Wainwright House, where he was teaching sculpture at a summer camp. He had the kids creating wondrous things. A few years before that I’d interviewed him about the directional sign (showing the distance to a number of wonderful destinations) he and students had made that graced the lawn at Midland Elementary School, where he teaches art. He has been at the school since seeing a notice that the Rye City School District was looking for artists who could teach.
“Do you remember me?” Reilly asked tentatively over the phone this summer.
Remember him? He is unlike any art teacher I ever had in grade school. For starters, he’s cool. He moves like Sean Connery (in his 007 days) and has eyes the size of moonbeams. Ideas flow so freely from his amazing brain that he should hire a full-time assistant who takes shorthand.
He wanted to let me know that he was releasing his first album, “Bluebird”. Turns out our Mr. Reilly was a singer/songwriter in a former life.
In our interview weeks later, I learned that he holds 500 copyrights and a gold record. He has written music for several Farrelly brothers’ films — “There’s Something About Mary”, “Dumb and Dumber”, and “Me, Myself, and Irene”. He has played at the Bowery Ballroom and the Mercury Lounge.
“Bluebird” is his first release since 2000. In explaining the 20-year hiatus, Reilly said it was his young daughters, now 9 and 12, who brought him back to music. “The girls were playing hide-and-seek in my closet and found one of my old Gibson guitars. The stars must have been aligning. I took out the guitar and the songs — a hundred of them — poured out in a matter of months.” He added, “They’re the story of my life — meeting the love of my life, my wife Sarah, sobriety, parenthood, the recent death of my mother.”
One of those songs, “22”, is Grammy-balloted. His new album, “Bluebeard”, is on the Grammy ballot for Americana Album of the Year.
Reilly is glad if you hear a little Johnny Cash and Tom Waits, two of his musical heroes, in his music.
When he’s not composing, Bret Reilly is sculpting (he is represented by Colm Rowan Fine Art in East Hampton), designing furniture, and coming up with ways to expand the art universe for his young students. Staring at a Google Chromebook screen one day this fall he had a lightbulb moment: “I should be teaching my students more art history. I decided to start with Leonardo da Vinci and what it means to be a Renaissance man!”
When Reilly learned that my husband had spent weeks among Queen Elizabeth’s immense collection of da Vinci’s anatomical drawings for a publishing venture, he said he couldn’t wait to introduce him to his DaVinci “scholars”.
<Check out BretReillyVEVO to view video for “22” and his other singles. Visit www.bretreilly.com for more about the man and his music.>