Songwriter Reagan Boggs starting to see the glass more full than empty

Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2016

By Steve Wildsmith stevew@thedailytimes.com

The signs were all there, packaged up like split-second lightbulb moments in the songs on her new album, “Empty Glasses.”

It just took a little longer for life to open up the chink in singer-songwriter Reagan Boggs’ armor and force her to make some drastic changes, she told The Daily Times recently.

“My friend, Jim Patterson, passed away this past summer when he was 41, and I saw him before he died,” said Boggs, who performs Saturday at The Station in Louisville. “He was sitting there eating a cheeseburger, in such pain, and he had wasted away to nothing. Liver and colon cancer had ravaged his body, and when I left his house, I cried for two straight days. I’m one of these people who doesn’t feel anything a lot or show emotion; I suck it up and deal and stay busy and don’t think about things.

“But at that moment, everything just cracked, and all of the things I wouldn’t allow myself to feel just came through at one time. I realized I was miserable and that life was too short. And I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t enjoy my life.”

Slowly but surely, she began to get a grip on those answers. She made some profound personal changes, and in so doing, she began to take stock of the songs on “Empty Glasses” and ones on her previous albums, and she began to understand that the die was cast early on — back when she was growing up with a violent alcoholic who once pulled a gun on her. That was back in Pound, Va., a mining community in the southwest corner of the state where a dying industry combined with the constant state of dread in her household to give her enough material for a lifetime’s worth of songs.

Her parents were both gifted musicians, and her father taught her to play guitar when she was 6; he used to sneak her into area honky-tonks, where the admiring barflies added to the joy she felt performing for classmates. At 17, she recorded her first album, “Somewhere in the Middle.” Around that time, she traveled to Nashville and showcased her abilities at the famous Bluebird Café. From that point forward, music was intertwined with everything she did. Staking out a career in computers, she pursued music on the side, fronting blues, country and rock bands over the years and releasing a stream of solo albums that culminated with “Empty Glasses,” released earlier this year.

“I look back in my songs and I see all this suffering that maybe I didn’t recognize,” she said. “You’ve got to learn to rewire your brain, and it’s possible. I’m hoping I’ll be able to loosen up and not be such an introvert, to enjoy things and not be so hard on myself. I’m early into it, but I’m so excited about it.”

And she said, she’s already looking ahead to the next batch of songs. She’s still writing from the middle of the maelstrom, and she acknowledges that those places — the darkness, the chaos, the bruised hearts and broken lives and walking barefoot over the shattered pieces of lives turned upside down — may always be her wheelhouse. But with her recent life changes, she’s feeling more hopeful than she has in a long time. She’s not looking for pity or sympathy; talking about those things clearly makes her uncomfortable, but singing about them is another matter entirely, and so much of herself is poured into every note and line of “Empty Glasses” that the songs pack a hell of an emotional wallop.

“I hope like hell I can help anyone deal with anything or any of it, and I think the next album will be what I consider a healing album,” she said. “If you listen to a lot of my records, there’s a lot of yearning, longing, confusion — a lot of things I’ve been dealing with over my lifetime that I’m just now learning to understand. I’m hoping this might be the last of those, and going forward that they won’t be so heavy. I’m hoping for more a-ha songs, more ‘Oh, I get it now’ songs.

“The songs I’m writing from the crazy space are what I’m good at, but I’m very much wishful thinking that these other songs will come for me. I’m asking the universe to put them in my head because I want them badly.”

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