Solana Beach musician leads a colorful life

Solana Beach musician leads a colorful life
Reid Moriarty and Angela Neve perform one of the original songs from their recently released CD, “Purple Party.” Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

SOLANA BEACH — Reid Moriarty has done quite a bit in 20 years.

Like a typical kid he enjoyed baseball, swimming and hiking as a youngster.

He began playing keyboards when he was about 10.

A few years later Moriarty was the front man for The Kingsmen, a four-man band that played small gigs at local coffeehouses and released a CD of cover hits in 2008.

Three years later they found themselves onstage at the Birch North Park Theater as the opening act for Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, whose namesake is the son of country music star Willie Nelson.

(Moriarty said it’s the only time he felt nervous before a performance, but calmed himself when he opted to “take deep breaths and have fun.”)

Moriarty has done sound check jams at Belly Up Tavern in his hometown of Solana Beach and is a junior counselor at Camp Jam, a music therapy camp for young children.

He recently went solo and last month released a CD of original music he co-wrote with Angela Neve, a music therapist and founder of The Music Therapy Center in Encinitas.

He also hosts “Talk Time with Reid Moriarty,” a series of short podcast interviews.

While Moriarty may sound like an extraordinary young man, what makes him more so is that at about age 2 he was diagnosed with autism.

He was introduced to music therapy by a teacher at the Solana Beach Child Development Center.

“He was the poster child for music therapy,” his mother, Andrea, said. “His attention span was like night and day with music. The benefits for him were so obvious.”

Initially music helped Moriarty focus on behavior, academics and self-regulation.

“Music made it fun rather than a grueling schedule of speech and occupational therapy,” she said. “It gave him back his childhood.”

Andrea said her son, whom she adopted at birth with his twin sister, Allie, has seen about 10 therapists in his lifetime. But for the past 13 years he has been working with Neve.

“She’s just masterful,” Andrea said. “She said every kid wants to be in a band so she put together The Kingsmen with Reid and three other clients. And being in the band helped them learn other vital skills, not just music, like being a friend and taking turns.”

“Purple Party,” the CD by Moriarty and Neve, is a collection of six songs about the colors of the rainbow written to help him express himself and appeal to preschoolers in her clinic.

Neve said their songwriting process started with a topic and the two would brainstorm around that.

“For instance, for “Red Song” we came up with a list of all the things that he loves that are red,” Neve said. “Then he started playing the chords to one of his favorite songs, which is ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley.

“We use what he loves as a launching point,” she added. “The lyrics for ‘Orange Piano’ literally were him just saying, ‘Door automatically close.’ He started saying these things and I wrote them down and we incorporated them directly into the song.”

The lyrics may begin as commonplace items and occurrences, but they provide a social statement as well, such as those in “Orange Piano.”

“When I play my piano I see the world in a new light. Everything is orange, happy and bright. Everyone sees the world in a different way — some in bright colors and others in shades of gray. When we stand together our colors begin to show. You and I are becoming a beautiful rainbow.”

“Being Green” stresses the importance of taking care of the environment and is Moriarty’s favorite song on the CD.

“Taking care of the earth and picking up trash is important, and the bridge, the verse and the chorus are really awesome,” Moriarty said.

The Kingsmen are reuniting for a May 9 performance at 2 p.m. at La Costa Coffee Roasting to benefit Banding Together, a music therapy nonprofit.

Moriarty and Neve will be performing at a release party May 16 at the old Del Mar train station and he will appear at the Special Olympics athlete breakfast in Poway on July 24.

Moriarty initially said he has no plans beyond that.

“I don’t have a goal or a dream right now for the future,” he said. “I like to sell CDs and perform for an audience.”

But after giving it some thought, Moriarty begins listing several goals, including performing at Humphreys with Neve wearing special costumes.

“How about wigs, just like Elton John?” he asks. “I wish I could interview Elton John. I’d like to interview lots of people — (Christian music singer) Steve Green, Jodi Benson — remember she was the voice of Ariel in ‘The Little Mermaid’ — or Karyn Henley, Chris Rice, Alison Krauss.”

When Neve mentions Ellen DeGeneres, another thought comes to mind.

“I want to be on ‘The Ellen Show,’” Moriarty said. “What if Ellen played the CD for the audience?”

Email andreamoriarty@mac.com to book a show or an interview or for information about Moriarty’s upcoming shows.

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