It takes enormous talent to make a splash in the crowded and highly competitive New England folk scene.
In the case of the prodigiously talented teen, Hayley Reardon, it also took a village.
That village consisted of family members and fellow musicians. At 17, Reardon is already a veteran performer who has shared the stage with the likes of Tom Rush, Peter Yarrow and one of her greatest inspirations, Lori McKenna. Her resume goes back to age 12 when she was won the annual Boston Folk Festival Songwriting contest. A couple of years later, in 2012 the Boston Globe named Hayley "Bostonian of the Year" calling her: "a confident, radiant teenage singer/songwriter who is helping to pen the next chapter of the Boston folk scene."
In a recent e-mail exchange, Reardon, who will be appearing this Sunday at Popolo, recognized the support and inspiration of her family and songwriting fraternity. "My parents wouldn't call themselves musical, but I give them plenty of credit. My dad showed me my first few chords on the guitar, and my big sister has always been a singer. I started writing songs as soon as I could successfully switch between two chords, and my parents thought maybe they should take me to see someone who ‘does this for real.' They brought my sister and I to a Lori McKenna show at Club Passim (with Mark Erelli playing!) and I was hooked."
Over time, young Hayley came to be embraced by the same musicians who inspired her.
"One of the most wonderful parts of this whole journey has been being introduced and welcomed into the New England music community," said Reardon. "One thing that I worried about a lot when I was younger was not having my art taken seriously because of my age. I am a kid but have always wanted to be viewed as a songwriter first and a kid second. I feel like I've been raised by an amazing and supportive community of musicians and songwriters who treat me like part of the gang, which has meant the absolute world to me."
That gang included three contributors to Reardon's well-received debut album "Where the Artists Go": popular singer/songwriter Mark Erelli, guitarist Kevin Barry and producer/multi-instrumentalist Lorne Entress who has worked just about everyone associated with the New England roots music scene, including the likes of Catie Curtis, Ronne Earl, Kris Delmhorst, Big Al Anderson, the late, great Dave Carter, and Lori McKenna, just to name a few.
"Working with people like Lorne, Mark and Kevin not only brought my music to life in a way I couldn't have imagined, but made the process memorable and educational in so many ways. Don White has also been a mentor of mine for about five years now. We began working together to study performance, but over the course of the past few years he has taught me so much about not only what it means to be a good performer, but about what it means to be a good person and a true artist."
One important way that Reardon has exhibited that blend of goodness and artistry has been through her work as a peer spokesperson for PACER'S National Bullying Prevention Center.
"Growing up as a songwriter has taught me to not be afraid of writing and speaking out about what it feels like to be a teenager, because I am one, and there is so much to be said about that. Bullying is an issue that belongs to people my age, and I stumbled into it by writing honestly about what I see in my world. And out of that grew a now five-year effort with PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, as well as my ‘Find Your Voice' in-school program, which remains the most fulfilling, inspiring part of this journey so far."
That ongoing journey will take Reardon to Bellows Falls this Sunday for a show that will be particularly special for the 17-year-old.
"I'll have Catherine Bent playing cello and Lorne Entress playing percussion with me at this gig. Lorne is actually filling in for Grant Smith, who is usually with me playing tabla. This is a special show because Lorne produced both my last CD and this most recent EP, and assembled a group of not only wonderfully talented players, but wonderful, genuine people to make a record with. Mark was one of them and truly added so much to the music and the making of my first record. I'm so excited to play a show with both Lorne and Mark (Erelli) ... especially at a place like Polopo! Plus I hear the food is pretty darn good. I couldn't ask for a better way to spend my Sunday."
Hayley Reardon opens for Mark Erelli, Sunday at Popolo 36 The Square in Bellows Falls for info call 802- 460-7676 or go to popolomeanspeople.com. The Music At High Noon series features a concert, full brunch menu, and cash bar. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and the music starts at noon. Tickets are $18 advance, $20 on the day of the show, and $30 for "Best In House" seats.
Dave Madeloni writes a weekly music column for the Arts & Entertainment section. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.