As a musician and producer, Cincinnati native Donnie Reis is no stranger to working on Nashville hits. However, he wasn’t prepared for the instant buzz generated by his latest project War Hippies, opening for Travis Tritt at Hobart Arena in Troy on Thursday.
Reis’ first collaboration with bandmate Scooter Brown was a version of “O, Holy Night,” which was posted to social media in December 2021. That lead to a record deal and War Hippies’ debut single, “Killin’ It,” which came out in June 2022. The group’s self-titled debut album followed in October.
One unique aspect of War Hippies is Reis and Brown are both combat veterans and staunch supporters of American servicemen and women. Reis served in the U.S. Army from 2001 to 2009 and was stationed in Iraq in 2004 and 2005. Brown was in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years and three months and also spent time in Iraq.
Reis started playing violin at the age of 10. His credits include the Charlie Daniels Band, Lee Greenwood and Foreigner. He has worked on more than two dozen Billboard Top 10 songs. Reiss, who lived in Tipp City for a period in the 2010s, is owner and executive producer of Twelve 3 South Recording in Nashville.
Brown is a successful bandleader in his own right with the Scooter Brown Band. He was named one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” by Rolling Stone in 2017. The Colorado native, now based in Nashville, has toured with Travis Tritt, the Marshall Tucker Band and Whiskey Myers. He is founder and board member for Base Camp 40, which provides support and brotherhood to military veterans.
Reis recently answered some questions about working with Brown, who he refers to by his given name of Scott.
Question: What’s going on today?
Answer: We’re home today. We just got back from Florida. We’re in the studio tomorrow and Wednesday and then we hit the road Thursday and head to Georgia. It’s always a scramble when you pick up a tour. When we went on tour with Travis Tritt in October of last year, we had to get the record done before that. It’s always about trying to meet the deadline and get everything done in conjunction with whatever big things you’re doing. It’s always a balance but it’s a lot of fun.
Q: Did you anticipate being this busy on the road when this first started?
A: No, when we first started, we had no idea what this was going to do. We just put a video of ‘O, Holy Night’ out on social media for Christmas and the response was overwhelming. It just blew up. This is the first time since 2005 that Scott has not had a show on the books for the Scooter Brown Band. We’re literally booked rock solid. You hope things like this happen, but we just did the work and it’s worked out pretty awesome. You always try to put out the best music you can and you don’t do things for accolades but they’re nice when you get them. It’s really nice to have your art received this way. To see the trajectory and the future potential of what this can do is pretty awesome.
Q: How long have you been in Nashville?
A: Well, I’ve been in and out of Nashville for about 15 years. I moved down here fulltime in 2016. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. I went to Fairfield High School. My wife, Kristy, went to Tipp City High School. We lived in Tipp City for about seven years after I got back from the military. She had the cupcake shop, Sweet By Kristy. I built her that shop. Her mom owns the toy store up there, Cairns Toys so we have deep ties to that community. My family still had our house in Tipp City and I had an apartment down here so we had two homes for a while. I was living here, and they were living there. Then we sold the house in Tipp City and Kristy and Melissa moved down here in 2018. It’s been about five years since they pulled the trigger and finally got down here.
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Credit: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Q: The album just came out in October, what are you guys working on in the studio?
A: We have all these songs laying around, so the agenda is to put 20 more out this summer. We’ve already got 15 of them recorded. It is the serendipitous nature of having the studio and all of these opportunities we’ve had. We’re self-contained and it’s very streamlined so we’re able to get things done fast and efficiently. Not only that but the quality is on par with what else is out there and that’s the hard part. We have reputations so we totally have to bring it. Scott and I have a vast, vast history. Scott has written number ones for other people. I’ve had about six number ones and 26 Billboard Top Tens. We’re not kids. This isn’t our first rodeo, so we have to put out things to a certain level of quality and a certain standard.
Q: What has surprised you most about the War Hippies experience?
A: The response to the music. ‘American Songwriter’ magazine picked ‘Make It Out Alive’ one of the top 24 songs of all genres from 2022. We were on a list with Bonnie Raitt and John Legend. It’s like, ‘Holy cow!’ Getting the critical acclaim has been amazing and the overwhelming response from people at live shows is unbelievable. I’ve been involved in a lot of things, but this has been incredible. On the business side, I’ve seen the growth with our sponsors. Everybody that’s coming on board to help with this has been incredible. I just got a letter of intent from the CEO from The Country Network. We got approved for 10 episodes for the first season of our reality show. We have a lot of stuff going on. It’s really been amazing.
Q: What does it mean to be back out on the road opening for Travis Tritt?
A: Travis is really helping us out by taking us out on the road with him. He’s a patriot and a general. That guy is such a huge supporter of the troops. He’s a huge supporter of our country. He’s a God, country and family kind of guy and that really aligns with who we are. We really complement each other and it’s an awesome thing. I’m really excited to be at Hobart Arena. I’m excited to be back home. We’re actually going to have a day off so we can spend some time with some friends and family. I know I’m going to see a lot of familiar faces. It’s going to be really nice to come home and say high to everybody.
Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or email@example.com.
HOW TO GO
Who: The War Hippies with Travis Tritt
Where: Hobart Arena, 255 Adams St., Troy
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 30; doors open at 6:30 p.m.
More info: 937-339-2911 or hobartarena.com
Artist info: warhippies.com
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