Up Top since April 2013
For musician and sometimes model JR Reyne, living in Los Angeles has been a long-held dream. Having spent time shuttling between his hometown of Melbourne, New York, and doing a nine-month stint in Toronto, he arrived in Los Angeles for good earlier this year.
It’s a gloomy early-summer morning when I catch up with JR at Venice mainstay Intelligentsia for iced coffees and chats. He seems fully at home in the laid back charm of his new neighbourhood.
“It’s still pretty much how I thought it would be. People are welcoming, really welcoming, because nobody’s from here. Everyone’s been in that situation before – they’ve come here, they haven’t had many friends, they’ve needed help buying a car, they’ve needed help finding a place.”
For JR, the love affair started four years ago, when he and his bandmates at the time were brought over by their record label to find a producer for their record. “I was playing in a band called Rushcutter and I fell in love with the place, it was just for me.” The band spent time in Los Angeles, Nashville and New York, and with each stop on the itinerary, JR seemed to fall deeper and deeper for the Land of the Free. “The turning point was we just got such a positive reception for our music and I realised, I had to move here.” His bandmates, however, weren’t as keen so, when the band broke up, JR scooped up his savings and came over for a trial run, doing the back and forth thing and finally making it official earlier this year.
It’s somewhat of a risky move given that back home he’d built up a solid following and recognition. He certainly recognises that he could have a fulfilling career in Australia, but is determined to push himself. “If you want to be in show business,” he says emphatically, “this is Mecca, whether you like it or not. I mean, LA isn’t necessarily my ideal place to live, but you kind of have to spend a bit of time here if you even slightly want to be taken seriously.”
He also seems to have taken on board the lessons of his father, James Reyne, who headed to the States in the 90s after making it big at home, but couldn’t quite crack the US market. “It’s definitely for me a conscious thing, do it before you do [become too big] in Australia. This is the time to do it.”
Since arriving, he’s had his fingers in all kinds of pies. Playing shows and writing, both in Los Angeles and Austin, and rehearsing with fellow Aussie Frally Hynes’ new band, getting ready to tour over the summer. He’s also launched his EP Surrounded by the City and is now gearing up for the filming of the video for new single “Heart & Soul”. Alongside his musical ventures, he’s been moonlighting as a model, most notably shooting for the 2012 Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund winner The Elder Statesman as well as designing cover artwork for Laurel Canyon duo Sea At Last.
Indeed, it’s this kind of man of many hats approach that JR recommends for anyone heading to the US permanently. “In this day and age, no matter what you’re doing, you need a bit of an entrepreneurial brain and I don’t think you can rely on one thing. I’ve seen friends that have solely focused on acting turn into absolute wrecks because they’ve got nothing else to fall back on.”
And perhaps this is where that old cliché of the Aussie go-getter comes in to play. We got to talking about the success that many Australians find in the US and for JR, it’s all about the work ethic. “You’ve had to bust your nut in some way just to get a visa, and if you’ve worked that hard to get here, you’re not going to throw in the towel.”
Being good Angelenos, our conversation eventually turned to traffic as JR talked about how the good old road can take over your life in this town – “I’ve really noticed that sometimes being half an hour late to a meeting is really normal, whereas in New York you’d be out. I’ve given two and half hours honestly, just to get to Beverly Hills and sometimes I’m still late. Punt Road still has nothing on Santa Monica Boulevard at 4.30 in the afternoon.”
Having said this though, JR is the only person I’ve met so far in LA who regularly takes the bus. By choice. “It has such a bad reputation. But where I live there’s a bus that goes pretty much straight to West Hollywood. I thought, I’ll cop a dollar fifty, I’m going to give this a crack. It was that different part of Los Angeles that I’ve never seen. You meet interesting people, you talk. I like it and instead of me just being stuck in traffic, I can watch Netflix, I can write emails. It’s actually not that bad, it’s productive time. I think I’ve converted a few people to it.”
Even though he’s only been here a short time, JR seems to have figured out his pros and cons. While he misses his dogs, his mum and his family, social media has helped him bridge the divide. I ask what he doesn’t miss about Australia - "I don’t miss winter. I don’t miss skyrocketing prices.”
But like all of us over here, it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. “The most difficult for me moving over here is on one hand it’s great starting afresh and I love that nobody knows who the fuck I am or what I really do. But it also sucks.”
I think perhaps it was just dawning on JR how big the move he’d made is. “Yes, [America] is filled with opportunity, it is crazy, it is constant, but I don’t think people realise how difficult it is to – I think you really have to be prepared. Because the reality and the dream are totally different things.”