Slaid Cleaves (born June 9, 1964) is a singer-songwriter born in Washington, D.C. and raised in South Berwick, Maine and Round Pond, Maine. An alumnus of Tufts University, where he majored in English and philosophy, Cleaves lives in Austin, Texas.
His full name is Richard Slaid Cleaves, but Slaid is the name that he has used his entire life.
Cleaves is a full-time touring musician, but like most musicians has held many day jobs: janitor, warehouse rat, ice cream truck driver, rope-tow operator, film developer, groundskeeper, meter reader, and pizza delivery driver. He was even a human guinea pig. He was paid to be a subject in drug studies by a pharmaceutical company.
Cleaves's musical roots extend back prior to his days playing in a high school "garage band" with his childhood friend Rod Picott. The two shared a love of music, especially Bruce Springsteen and named their band The Magic Rats, after a character in Springsteen's song "Jungleland."
He brought his love of American artists such as Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, CCR, and more with him to Cork, Ireland, where he spent his junior year of college. To help pass the time he learned how to play the songs on guitar and on November 18, 1985 he made his debut as a busker—a street singer—in Cork City, Ireland.