January 6, 2011
ATLANTA – When he's not attending class or studying in the law library, third-year Georgia State law student Matt Reed is, well, kind of a rock star.
Reed mounts the stage at the 10 High Club in Atlanta's Virginia-Highland neighborhood every weekend and unleashes song after song of face-melting hard rock as the guitarist for the band Metalsome, best known for its live-band karaoke gigs. By day, aspiring attorney; by night, guitar god.
Metalsome has had something of a cult following since it started doing karaoke nights – Metalsome Mondays – at the 10 High in 2003. The popular event has since taken over Friday and Saturday nights at the club as well. In fact, before he joined the group, Reed was among its admirers. "I used to worship the band," Reed says. "I was just floored that a band, off the top of their heads, would know 300 songs and be able to play them so well."
With a degree in classical guitar performance from the University of Georgia and years of garage rock-band shredding under his belt, the Georgia native had the chops to win an open audition for Metalsome in 2006 when one of its guitarists moved away. The following year, Reed took a brief hiatus to play with a heavy metal band on its European tour, an undertaking he describes as "disastrous." He returned to the states disillusioned by the life of the touring rock musician and began to explore other avenues, which ultimately led him to law school at GSU in the fall of 2009.
Entertainment law would seem to be a logical focus for a musician, but Reed enrolled at GSU looking for something different. He has been drawn to issues of international human rights and social welfare – or, more broadly and colloquially, "public interest do-gooder stuff," he says.
Reed's participation in the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) legal services clinic, which provides legal assistance to the families of low-income children receiving health services through Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, reinforced his interest in pro bono work; an externship he did with Georgia Lawyers for the Arts merged his cultural background with pro bono projects.
At GSU Law, these interdisciplinary opportunities have come with ample support and encouragement. "There's a vibe of the law school that I appreciate, that it always seems like an open door," Reed says.
During his law school career, he's also gained confidence in a personality trait that is often at odds with the stereotypical musician's temperament: levelheadedness.
All the while, Reed has continued to moonlight with Metalsome. He confesses that backing karaoke singers of questionable talent as they tackle the canon of rock and metal classics can get tiresome, but the high level of musicianship among the band members keeps it fun – and challenging.
"I'm on stage four hours; it's basically the best opportunity for a musician to grow. You're performing in front of people and feeding off each other," Reed says. "That's the best part; I've had the opportunity to play with some really awesome guys who know the ropes."
The audience keeps it interesting, too: over the years the band has witnessed two onstage marriage proposals (both were accepted); a newly wedded bride and groom still in their wedding regalia; drop-in appearances by musicians like rapper André 3000, singer-songwriter Butch Walker, drummer Matt Sorum and various members of Incubus, Skid Row and the Isley Brothers, among others; and, of course, countless barroom scuffles.
This spring, after graduation, Reed plans to move out to Los Angeles. He'll take the California bar exam and start gigging around town, and he hopes to be able to strike a balance between law – preferably a pro bono practice of some sort – and music. But Reed has been balancing law and music for years already. When he enrolled at GSU, he cut the "Monday" out of Metalsome Mondays; he only plays weekends at the 10 High these days.
"My first year of law school it really kicked in – I'm not gonna do every gig. Since then, I've had a sub to fill in," Reed says. "When I have finals come around, I can't be worrying about ‘Don't Stop Believin'' and bar fights."
Kathleen Poe Ross