© 2023 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Pure Love' CD reflects where Michael Rainer's music is now

Reign, aka Michael Rainer
Provided by Michael Rainer

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - His name is Reign. Before that it was Wildmann. And through all that, it is Michael Rainer.

Wildmann? "I got the name back in 2001 when I was on tour with K-Ci & JoJo. They told me that when I play, I tear the stage up and have so much energy. I was a little wild then … So, they gave me the name Wildmann. From that moment, I took the name and ran with it."

Interviewed at Jennings home, the singer and bassist is now in his late 30s and gave off no wild vibes.

"I changed my name to Reign this year in August. I actually thought about changing the name back in 2007 when I was signed to Hidden Beach Records and recorded my first album Man Alive that year. Even though I was already known by one name, I didn't like being perceived as unapproachable. The name change to Reign actually opened up doors for me that I don't think my underground name would have."

His new album, Pure Love, “has an old school feel, and brings soul back in to music," Rainer said. The album was designed to showcase romantic and inspirational songs such as “Big Girl”, “Sick and Tired” and “I’m Giving Love 1 More Try” – which happen to be some of the artist’s favorite tracks.

He also takes that soul on the road, recently completing a tour with R&B singer Christopher Williams. He also opened for El Debarge this fall at the Ambassador.

Long road to success

With one of his songs playing softly in the background, he talked about where he's from and why he's grounded.

"I grew up in Walnut Park and was raised by my grandparents. I know my Mom, but had never met my Dad until I was 21 or 22," Rainer said. His father did have an initial influence on him being a musician: "He sent me a guitar in a box when I was 5 and that was when I started playing the bass."

Later at the age of 7, he began playing with his grandfather's quartet and listened to other musicians to improve his skills. "I never took lessons -- never. I learned how to play the bass by listening to some of my biggest influences -- Stanley Clark, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, John Patitucci and my uncle William Rainer Jr.," he said.

Asked about playing in his hometown, Rainer said, "There's not too much support for musicians in St. Louis. Everyone is trying to make a name for themselves but no one wants to work as a unit to be successful. I honestly get the most love on the East Coast and in Atlanta."

He has played with such well-known artists as Jill Scott, Eric Benet, Rahsaan Patterson and Tweet. And for the most part, music has paid the bills.

But, he said, "The life of a musician ain't easy and this year may be the first time that I have a regular job.

Though he said that "money is up and down,” even harder times were behind Rainer. He said he was homeless for a while and sold drugs for a time.

“I sold my first drug piece at 11 years old. It was fast money … $100 every couple sales and a lot of money to me as a kid. It was streets, gang banging, dope dealing and church. Weird, I know. And I knew it was wrong but I did it for the money.” Still living in the same household as his grandparents, he would try to monetarily contribute but his offers were refused.

“To help out I would slip money in my grandmother’s purse but she would get it back in my room,” he said with a chuckle. “Even if she might have needed it she would tell me in a sweet voice to keep my money. Never did she judge me knowing how I got it, but always told me she loved me.”

At around age 19 his life went in a different direction. Gang activity led to two years behind bars. When he got out, he said he started mentoring children about making good life choices and that made his grandmother proud.

A great loss

In 2002, the passing of his grandmother “weakened him” in a way that drew his attention away from music. "My grandmother was my comforter. When she died I stopped doing music for about two months. It was like I didn’t want to do it anymore.” But then, he said he bounced back and getting back into music brought him good news.  

In 2006, he went to Atlanta to perform for a showcase. Within a year, he was signed by Hidden Beach Records. But a recording contract didn’t pay enough to cover rent after he shelled out for travel and other expenses that the label didn’t pay. “After signing with Hidden Beach I was homeless for two and a half years,” he said. He stayed at the studio where he was recording and other places, but had no home.

At that point he was in his early 30s and was the father of four children, who lived with their mother. “I then began drinking because of pressure from performing and how I was living,” he said. “But even though things were bad I had faith that things would come together.” Faith, he said, gave him motivation and kept him thinking about what to write for his music.

Moving forward

Reign talks about the future in a hopeful way. "I’m working on another album now,” he said. With a new vision in mind, his focus will be different. “I accepted my calling as a prophet in October. It’s crazy I know but I know this is right for me. Through all my trials, God always let me know he is always with me.”

In the near future he will begin shooting more videos the Pure Love album. Soon he and his wife will be moving into a new home. There he plans to have an in-home studio that will serve dual purpose as a music-recording studio and a classroom to teach students about his passion -- music.

"Music is my inspiration,” he said. “It keeps me focused. And to anyone who is trying to make it as a musician, I say bring in the new, let go of the old, and keep God first." As Reign candidly talked about his past, he made it clear that, if he could do it over, he would make different choices. But he believes his faith and positive outlook will take him to a better future.