HARD ROCK KID

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2018
JAN/FEB

 

Reece Malone of Longview is a 13-year-old guitarist with a soul much older than his body, and talent that rivals musicians who have been in the industry for decades. He has played with several famous, award-winning artists and recently booked Madison Square Garden as his next major gig.

Reece was seven when he first picked up a guitar. He grew up around a music-loving family and played as a child with various instruments, but it wasn’t until age seven when he started playing seriously. Unbeknownst to both Reece and his parents, it would only be three more years until he was playing at a professional level.

At age seven Reece heard Van Halen on the radio. He decided to pick up a guitar, and started playing the song he heard. Reece’s parents could hardly believe it.

“Very quickly we realized he was playing by ear,” said Reece’s mother, Jamie Malone. “If he hears it, he can play it.”

Jamie and her husband decided to put Reece in music lessons at Mundt Music in Tyler, to nurture his passion for guitar. In his lessons, it would take him about an hour or two to learn three or four new songs, whereas it would take others the same amount of time to learn just one.

When it became clear that Reece was running the lessons and needed something more rigorous, Reece’s father began taking him to jam sessions in Dallas so that he could watch how other musicians play, and get some experience performing. At one venue, there was a house band that enabled any musician to come up and play blues music with them. One of the band members was a Grammy award-winning musician, and Reece got up to play with him. He was eight years old. After the performance, the bartender slid Reece a root beer. 

Reece continued to progress quickly. By third grade, he decided he wanted to perform at his school talent show. While the other kids were tumbling or lip-synching, Reece played guitar. He was a bit too small for the guitar strap, so he had to sit to play, but when he did, he blew the crowd away with a medley of songs ranging from Smoke on the Water to his own, original compositions. By the end of the performance a school official approached Jamie and asked if Reece could play at the High School talent show too.

Jamie and her husband realized that Reece’s hobby was something they needed to nurture. They decided to hook Reece up with their family friend, Lance Lopez, a Texas blues guitarist. Lance became a mentor to Reece, helping him learn new songs and guiding him toward performance by allowing Reece to play with him at live jam sessions. 

“Things started to move very quickly,” Jamie said. “We said, ‘Okay, he’s 10, but he’s playing like an adult. He needs music theory and the education behind the music.”

So Jamie and her husband put Reece in lessons with a coach in Longview, who teaches Reece how to read music instead of just listening to it and playing by ear. 

For awhile, Reece was a solo act, but it wasn’t long until he soon became a part of a band, and it all started with kids his own age who had talent similar to his own.

The band, Salvation from Sundown, was appropriately named in honor of one of Lance Lopez’s songs and album. Lance was a mentor for Reece for such a long time and quickly became the band’s mentor and producer as well.

Salvation from Sundown came together a few years ago, over a Christmas party. Reece’s parents went to a charity event, where they had the option to bid on Lance Lopez’s band and another band to play a private event. The Malones won the bid, and decided to host a Christmas party for charity, where they would have the bands perform. By this time, Reece was picking up steam in the music world. He had just spent the summer playing and winning the T Bone Walker Junior Showcase in Longview, so Jamie and her husband decided they would allow him to open for the bands. They got to work contacting some of the other kids from the junior showcase, and asked if they would like to play at the charity event. Once they had enough people interested, they got everyone together to rehearse for the event. It wasn’t long after practicing together a few times that everyone realized these kids were extremely talented as a group. 

After watching them perform at the Christmas party, people couldn’t stop talking about Salvation from Sundown. These kids were shaking up the music industry and turning what everyone thought they knew about the young generation on its head.

“Our kids don’t play today’s music,” Jamie said. “They play Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and the Allman Brothers. They play old school stuff and put their own twist on it.”

Although it is rare to have kids of such a young age play the Dallas International Guitar Festival, the band was invited to play in the 10 under 20 group. 

Jamie said the band was doing well, but it was difficult for them all to get together and practice. One of the kids lived in Louisiana, another was from Dallas, and so the original band was short-lived. But Reece and the band’s blues singer, Kelsi Kee, stayed together and have been together since. Even though there were trials with the band, the Malones knew they were on to something and decided to put some adults behind Kelsi and Reece. But the hardest part of assembling the new band members was that many of the adults just couldn’t keep up. “One of the main problems was that our kids wanted to do stuff like the Allman Brothers and difficult songs, and many of the adults couldn’t do it,” Jamie said.

“Even though the musicians in our family don’t play professionally, 

music is a part of who we are,”Jamie said. “Most parents aren’t taking their kids to a Journey concert at the age of four, but my kids knew every word to every song.”

Lance decided to help out and said that he would step in to play bass whenever he wasn’t touring, and put a drummer behind the kids. So the band was reborn and continues to play. 

When asked whether or not she had any hesitations about Reece being a musician, Jamie said she just wants him to follow his heart and do what makes him happy.

Reece’s love of music runs deep. Whether he’s a prodigy or just a kid with relentless passion and determination doesn’t matter, because Reece is an anomaly. Most kids who play aren’t at the level he’s at, and many have no idea what they are passionate about or want to be when they grow up. Reece has known practically all his life that he wanted to be a musician. “He practices every day,” Jamie said. “He’s the kid who gets up in the morning and flies to get ready while everybody else is like halfway awake and still trying to get ready, so that he can jump in there with his guitar and start practicing.”

Today, Reece typically plays at The Back Porch in Kilgore and Lone Star Ice House in Longview, but most often you can catch him playing at various music festivals. The Dallas International Guitar Festival is a favorite, as Reece’s dad has been taking him there since he could walk. 

“Many are saying that the guitar is dying,” Jamie said. “But this is what people are saying back – 'Watch these kids. No it’s not'.”

Jamie spoke about a time where Reece was invited on stage during the festival, selected out of a group of around 50 adult guitarists to play with Brad Whitford, who played guitar in Aerosmith, and Derek St. Holmes, who played guitar with Ted Nugent. The event was totally unplanned. Derek selected Reece out of the artist pit mid-performance and as Reece walked on stage, he took off his guitar and placed it around Reece, who picked up the song and began playing immediately while Derek adjusted the guitar strap for him. Reece said it is still one of his favorite memories.

The Dallas International Guitar Festival has a special place in the Malone family’s heart for this reason and many others, so it was only natural that they were approached to take over the kid’s stage at the festival. But Jamie immediately eradicated the name, saying that it was misleading and wouldn’t be taken seriously. The new name is now “Young Guns,” which is appropriate for these bulletproof, talented and confident musicians, who just happen to also be kids. 

Reece has a lot to look forward to. His star is only just beginning to shine and more opportunities keep coming his way thanks to his family, mentors, and his own relentless passion. In March, Reece will be performing at Madison Square Garden in New York City for thousands of people as a solo act. Booking Madison Square Garden at the age of 13 is an accomplishment in itself, but it’s not the only one. Reece and the musicians of his generation are collectively keeping classic blues and rock music alive. 

“I just feel like he is on the path he’s supposed to be on,” Jamie said. “We are just trying to keep up and nurture it.”

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