By Jim Davis
Donnie Reis should feel right at home when he visits Troy later this month.
It’s a bit of a homecoming, after all.
A Cincinnati-born musician who spent seven years living and working in Tipp City before moving to Nashville, Reis teams with Scott “Scooter” Brown to form country duo War Hippies. They’ll visit Hobart Arena March 30 when they open for Travis Tritt.
Being back in familiar stomping grounds on a ticket with a country music icon should shape up to be a pretty fun night, Reis said.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” he said during a recent phone interview. “My wife (Kristy) is from Tipp City. I’m going to see a lot of familiar faces — and to be with Travis at Hobart — that’ll be perfect.”
Reis and Brown — both military veterans — formed War Hippies in 2022 and released their debut self-titled album last October. The 12-song album includes several songs penned by Reis and Brown, while videos of singles “Killin’ It” and “The Hangman” have been featured on CMT.com and The Country Network.
Reis admitted it’s hard to pick a personal favorite on the album, but said fans are connecting with the material.
“As an artist and creator I’ve created a lot of music, and what I have found is sometimes what I think is the best is least received — and what I think is not important — people go crazy for,” he said. “But I do know good music and good songs, and this record is organic and there is nothing that sounds like it. What you’re getting is our raw productions from our brains. That’s us playing and us singing. We are unapologetically creating what comes out of us.
“(The album) aligns with who we are and it tells our story,” Reis continued. “Scott and I have lived the life that is on that record. That’s our lives … and I think people are responding to that.”
Reis served in the U.S. Army (2001-2009, including a combat tour in Iraq, 2004-05), while Brown is a U.S. Marine veteran with two tours overseas with a combat tour in Iraq. Both artists are heavily involved in working with veteran support organizations and the veteran community.
“It’s so important to help people with the transition from military service to civilian life,” Reis said. “We’re a part of (that community) and we’ve lost friends … and you don’t just lose friends in combat. So it’s important for us to be a beacon and light at the end of the tunnel. We want to encourage people to live their best life.”
Through music — with Brown on guitar and Reis on violin — they’re accomplishing that, and they’re doing it by blending strengths gleaned from their own individual experiences.
“Honestly, it’s the best case scenario (being a duo),” Reis explained. “Scott and I are completely different individuals, but we have a lot in common. His strengths are some of my weaknesses and some of his weaknesses are my strengths. We’re very supportive of each other. It’s a huge blessing.”
And being able to share numerous shows in support of Tritt has provided a wealth of experience and friendship with a country music icon.
“Travis is wonderful. He’s such a patriot — God, country and family — that’s who Travis is, and it’s evident in his music,” Reis said.
“He truly is one of those guys who is making an effort to take us under his wing and help us, and it’s really cool to have that.”
And if touring with War Hippies and creating new music isn’t enough to keep him busy, Reis launched his own line of signature violins in 2017 (The Donnie Reis Violin Collection) and he is owner/executive producer at Twelve 3 South recording studio in Nashville.
It’s a busy lifestyle that keeps him on his toes.
“I’m a staunch believer in God and I believe that I’m living a purpose-driven life,” he said. “I have to get up and keep fighting. It’s my duty and mission. I’ve got to walk the walk.”
Reis said fans will get close to an hour of music before Tritt takes the stage in Troy.
“You’re going to see a very eclectic, cool show,” he said. “Scott and I do a 45-minutes-to-an-hour set, so we’ll be able to run the gamut of the record and some storytelling. There will be some big energetic moments and some peaceful moments, too. It’s a story for sure. Hopefully we’ll take you on a ride.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with music kicking off at 7:30. For tickets or more information, visit the arena website at www.hobartarena.com, or call 937-339-2911.
Visit www.warhippies.com to learn more about the band.