There was a time when Nicole Reynolds didn't know she could sing. The 24-year-old native of Pittsburgh worked behind the scenes of the music industry, promoting other up-and-coming artists and their gigs.
That all changed in November of 2006, when she stepped foot inside ''the country's oldest lesbian bar,'' Washington D.C.'s Phase 1 during an open-mike event.
''I didn't think I was going to play,'' the soft-spoken folk singer recalls. ''But then my friend convinced me to get up [on stage] and play a few songs.
''It was the first time I sang in public,'' she continues. ''And it went really well.''
These days, touring along the East Coast has sprung another unexpected endeavor for Reynolds: farming.
At times Reynolds, who was born into a family of steelworkers, is responsible for herding 40 sheep, milking goats and gardening as part of a live-in arrangement with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that provides housing for volunteers in exchange for farm labor.
''I kind of don't really have a home,'' Reynolds says. ''It's good for me because I don't have to pay rent, and when I travel I can go to different farms, work for a day, and they'll feed me and give me a place to stay.''
While she might have a difficult time finding a farm anywhere near Phase 1, Reynolds gets excited when talking about her upcoming Jan. 27 gig at the venue, where she plans to perform material from her latest album, This Arduous Alchemy, released last October.
Reynolds, who is recording new material for her yet-untitled third album, tackles homophobia simply by being out.
''I really try to be open about my sexuality,'' she explains. ''On a personal level, I think it battles a lot of homophobia. I've gone to protests and done that kind of stuff, but I've found just being open has worked the best.''
Nicole Reynolds will perform Saturday, Jan. 27, at 8 p.m. at Phase 1, 525 Eighth St. SE. For more info, visit www.nicolereynoldsmusic.com.