Our guest this week on the Art of the Song Coffee Break is Pete Kronowitt, who just last year released his first album “A Lone Voice“.
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Katie: So I’m sitting here with Pete Kronowitt, who is based in San Francisco, who just came out this year with a great album called “A Lone Voice”, which is your 4th album, correct? And you released it in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention at a protest charity event that you organized. You have got some cahones. That’s great. Can you talk a little bit about that? You had mentioned this in an email to me and I was just blown away and I was just like, “Well, we have to talk about this now, it’s just too good.” So tell me how that all came about.
Pete: Well, for many years I’ve been writing songs with commentary about different topics. So the idea actually stemmed from, before I ever recorded I wrote a song about pro-choice, which I actually did put on the album. The song was inspired by a pro-choice rally when I lived in Washington, D.C. What does a guy do with a pro-choice song? It was an inspiration. I really put myself into it. It was one of those periods of time that I actually played the guitar so much during the time that I wrote that song that my fingers bled.
Katie: This is from someone who’s been playing since you were a kid. That’s saying something.
Pete: So I really didn’t know what to do with the song and six months after I wrote the song, there was another march in Washington, D.C. and about two weeks before the event I came up with this really silly and crazy idea. I would put on a show. I didn’t have a lot of songs that I would play at a show like that, but I got together four other acts and what we did is I found a venue in Washington, D.C., in Georgetown, the venue was The Bayou and the place held about 500 people and we filled up the venue and we raised money for the national organization for women and the D.C. rape crisis center. Because it was at a time that people were impassioned, people wanted to come out and support the causes and listen to music and spend some time together. It was a great, successful night. So I came up with that idea a long time ago, fast forward to a couple years ago and I decided I would start writing more socially aware songs and when we got closer to the release of the album my friend said, “You know, you should take these songs and go play it at one of the conventions.” So I kind of took that same idea and applied it to Cleveland and it was a ball. We had some fantastic acts there. We had people writing songs, protest songs, for the event. We had a poet. It was a poet named Ray McNiece and then we had a choir, which I met through meetup.com. They were based in Columbus and they all drove out to Cleveland for the event. Then we had three singer/songwriters including myself and two backup bands. The whole thing was just a beautiful event and it also highlights some of the issues we were having. The media was very focused on ensuring that people would be aware that there could be danger from protests so that muted the number of people who came out to Cleveland to protest at the Republican National Convention. Secondly, we had the event at the Agora Ballroom and it’s a fantastic venue but two nights before the event, five people were shot at a show outside of the venue. So, you can imagine, with all the heightened awareness of the protests and the convention, it reduced the number of people who attended. But the show itself, I’d say it was a success. That was what I used to launch my album. So that’s kind of a long story to describe that.
Katie: This is really interesting. So I want to go back a little bit to where you were saying that your song that you wrote about pro-choice which is called “Body, Choice & Mind”. I want to know why you focused on that issue in particular.
Pete: You might imagine people in my life that were close to me were facing that horrible decision, somewhere in my family and I had a girlfriend who became pregnant and that choice became very obvious to me that it was her choice to make. I really started thinking about all the implications. In that song I say, the issue is grey, it’s not black and white, and I still feel that way. It is a very difficult time when someone has to face that decision. This political environment that we’re in that really takes that issue and makes it a voting issue rather than a human issue. There are good points on both sides of that debate. I don’t feel to be an expert at when the moment life begins, and I shouldn’t be dictating that to someone else. When I was embroiled in thinking about this whole thing and then attended a pro-choice rally, I just got caught up in all of this. I wanted to be able to express this for myself as well as others.
Katie: Absolutely. Have you always been embroiled in political writing in your songs? Has it been something that’s been a recurring theme or did it kind of start with this?
Pete: No, political songs came a little bit later. Like most people, it was the matters of the heart that started off the whole writing theme. Matter of fact, I recently did a very extended set because I don’t normally play multiple hour sets, but I was asked to play a multiple-hour set so I did a whole old girlfriend set, which I never did that before. It was entertaining for me, I don’t know about others, but it was entertaining for me.
Katie: Going through history, that’s got to be a bit of a head-turner there.
Pete: It was fun to introduce the songs too because I had never put them together like that. So going back to the politics, but through that, that’s how I learned the craft of songwriting and then, as I did, being aware of issues that are greater than myself, trying to come up with a way to talk to people about some of these larger issues is a very challenging thing. There’s no one way to do it, but I think the more people that do it the better. That’s one way to have the conversation that the country is not having is to sing about it.
Katie: Absolutely, and I’ve got to ask too, given the results of the election, in listening to your album, I would say I could probably guess your political affiliation. So how are you feeling and reacting going forward with your music?
Peter: That is the perfect question because I’ve been asking myself the same question. To be really direct, I definitely am progressive in my leanings. I think it’s good for people to be open about their politics rather than not talk about it, but also be respectful and courteous when you’re talking to people. I was very supportive of Bernie Sanders. I know there was a lot of controversy in the Democratic Party about Bernie vs. Hillary when Hillary did get the nomination, but I was an ardent Hillary supporter. I believe that there was a politically motivated effort, and a well-thought-out tactic to demonize Hillary, which was very effective. I don’t see Hillary the way she was depicted by people with political motivations. I saw Hillary as someone who was a public servant, who tried to do the best she could do, she made some mistakes. I think those mistakes were very minor in comparison to the good that she’s done. That’s unfortunate that you can’t have that conversation with a lot of people. So now, moving forward, I was disappointed that so many people were able to look past all of the comments made by Donald Trump and still vote for him. There were direct quotes that he had that you didn’t have to think about them too much. There were some that were racially motivated. There were very significant comments about what he said. And the misogynist comments that were unforgivable and that people could look past that to vote for him was disappointing. So, moving forward, I’d like to address that in music. These are issues that we, as a country, as a larger society, need to think about. Music sometimes is a way for us to have a conversation. When you’re a songwriter, sometimes that conversation feels very one-sided.
Katie: I can imagine that.
Pete: I learned in this last album that there’s something that happens when you take the advice of Pete Seeger and you don’t just write a song singing about a topic, but you make it a sing-a-long. That barrier between the performer and the audience disappears and you become one. It is a beautiful moment. A lot of people have sing-a-longs, but when they’re politically motivated and people are passionate about them, it’s really changed my view of what we should be doing as a songwriting community. Not just writing folk songs and make people sing along, but coming up with creative ideas to be able to communicate those messages which are important.
Katie: You know, that reminds me too of a comment that you put up on your Standing ‘O’ page. It was from antiMusic and it was saying that your music is politically motivated and it’s impactful, but it doesn’t come across as preachy or condescending and I think that really plays into what you’re saying about encouraging the sing-a-long songs, is that it’s like that feeling of community and not like, “I’m telling you that this is the way it should be”, so I have a lot of respect for you doing that.
Pete: Thank you. If you take the title cut from the album “Change is Gonna Come”, the way I describe the song…. maybe I’ll start with a funny story behind the song. I was riding my bike through Golden Gate park and I was listening to one of those really old iPods, which has tons of storage and some phrase “sounding the alarm” came up in one of the songs. I cannot find the song, but that phrase just stuck in me and then I just started making up verses. I kept making up verse after verse. I think I made up six verses on the ride. In order to remember them, I was using the tune of “My Darling Clementine” to sing them to myself. It was very amusing.
Katie: That’s really interesting though too that you came up with these lyrics and you still needed a melody in order to remember them, but it wasn’t the melody that you ended up with.
Pete: No, I knew it wouldn’t be the melody.
Katie: I’m curious because I’ve never heard anyone write like that. Do you write like that often, or is it just something that’s a one-time thing, like ‘I need to find a way to remember these words but I don’t know the melody yet’?
Pete: It was the mother of necessity. I was on a bike. I guess I could have recorded them on my iPhone, but I didn’t. I used just this tune because it had a certain meter and for phrasing it worked. It just fell into my head. Then, when I got back home, I put together some chords. It probably took me a couple of months to develop the tune into what it became. But it wasn’t just me, and this is the other part that is very amusing about the song. So, a number of the songs from this album “A Lone Voice” were written or at least furthered at a songwriting retreat called The Wood and Stone Retreat.
Katie: Oh yeah, with Jen and Scott Smith of Naked Blue.
Pete: So you know Jen and Scott.
Katie: Yeah, they’re part of the site too. They’re great and we interviewed them a few years back.
Pete: Yeah, Jen is the one who turned me onto the site. So Jen has played a big role in my life. She sang backup on a couple songs on my first album, which is where I met her. I met her through the guy that produced my first album, John Alagia. Because she sang backup on a couple of these songs, then we ended up playing some gigs together, she invited me to come to the retreat. Really it was the retreat that changed me.
Katie: How so? Go into that a little more. I’m curious.
Pete: I went to this retreat with a couple of songs that I was interested in writing, without an idea to write a political album or anything like that. Then it was through those relationships that I ended up writing “Change is Gonna Come”. One of the people that I met was a guy named Chuck McDowell, who is an absolutely fantastic singer/songwriter out of Atlanta. Chuck falls on the conservative side. Maybe not getting into politics of what he could call himself, but he’s definitely on the conservative side. I’m sitting there and I play these verses that first night around the campfire, and right in the back, I hear this voice “I think I got a chorus” and the next night he played me the chorus and that was the chorus. He got it. He nailed it. So this song does represent the spectrum. It does say that change is gonna come.
Katie: Yeah, and I really felt like that too because I come from a very politically conservative family and I’m not conservative myself. I’m definitely leaning left. But I was thinking while I was listening and I was like, “Oh boy, you know, this is a song that my family would listen to and we could all relate to in one way or another, so I was very appreciative of that and I’m appreciative that came out of a relationship and a conversation with someone that was on the opposite side of the political field, because that’s what I was wondering throughout this. I was like, “Wow, that’s great, you can get people that are coming out to your protest rallies, you can get people to come out to your concert who are probably going to have the same views, but what would you do when you’re faced with someone who doesn’t have the same views as you?” I think that’s great to have that ability to have that conversation and that dialogue and not have it turn it to something that’s like, “You’re this way, I’m this way” across the opposite sides of the battlefield.
Pete: It’s difficult to find that middle ground and then write about it in a way that’s interesting, because when you write a song, you want to be a little bit controversial with some stuff. You want to use evocative images. It’s easy, especially in the environment that we’re currently in with Donald Trump as president, because that’s all that people do right now. They’re using evocative images and their common language and it’s not pleasant. I don’t think these songs are saying “Kumbaya”. They’re not saying everything’s going to be good.
Katie: No, not at all. You’ve got a song that’s named “Got Guns?” which, by the way, is about a really hard subject, but it’s also really funny in some moments and I was amazed to hear a song that is about such a tough subject using these really controversial opinions and have it be at the same time very entertaining.
Pete: That was my second attempt at a song. The first one, I wanted to write a song about gun violence, and I came up with a great idea, I got a great tune, but it frankly was way too depressing and I couldn’t do it. So I decided at some point that I would take a very sarcastic tone. In this debate that we have, that we supposedly have, it’s again, like the discussion that we have about abortion. To some degree, it’s an artificial debate because there’s a middle ground that most Americans would agree that background checks and some additional enforcement of the laws that we currently have, there’s a lot of middle ground there that’s not pushed by either end because they have an advantage is dividing us. So I start out very sarcastic and then I highlight how ludicrous the idea that having a gun in every situation, in every place, doesn’t actually make you safer.
Katie: I love too that you end with “Eight kids die every day, I guess they don’t got guns”. It’s incredibly poignant and also, a darkly funny line. I appreciate that you took this tone and this unique approach to a very difficult subject, because you can easily write a very dark song about that. Why gun violence? Why is that so important to you?
Pete: It’s one of those things where I’m lucky enough not to have been personally affected in a negative way, but I also come from this particular topic in an interesting way because I actually love guns. I’m fascinated by guns. I grew up as a kid, that whole idea of the hero and being able to solve those issues with violence. As a small kid, that was very appealing to me and, as I got older, and I started looking at the information that, at least I believe, on the progressive side, I kind of believe in the instances where there are guns. If you have a gun in your house, you have an increased chance of using it the wrong way instead of the right way. That’s not to say that everybody should not have guns in their house. I’m not anti 2nd amendment. I think there are ways to be safer to have guns. I came at this from really liking guns and then realizing there’s a problem in this country where more than 33,000 people die. Many of those are self-inflicted and if they didn’t have access to a gun, they probably would not have killed themself immediately. There’s the people who die and then there’s so many people who get injured. They’re not even in the statistics. Matter of fact, we don’t even catch the statistics because of the way the National Rifle Association asserts themselves with Congress. It’s a very unfortunate thing. So, to me, the NRA is the villain.
Katie: Yeah, interesting. So, just going back a little bit to some of your history, let’s just really start diving back into the start of your playing because I want to touch on that a little bit before we leave today. How did you start playing? You said you started playing when you were a kid?
Pete: Yeah, I picked up a guitar and went to a guitar class, like many kids, your parents say, “You should play an instrument” and so I wanted to play guitar. I grew up with a transistor radio attached to my ear. I would just sit there for hours and listen to top 40 music. I loved all the top 40 music. Then I grew up in Florida for my formative years and then went to school in Washington, D.C. at American University.
Katie: Oh things are coming together now. So you were in a swing state and then you moved to D.C. and now you’re writing political songs.
Pete: And Regan just got elected.
Katie: Yeah, you were born in the right environment for this.
Pete: Then I moved into a dorm room with my best friend, and he was the big man on campus, Big John, and he had a guitar and a Jimmy Buffett songbook and I was like, “Well, I grew up in Florida, I should learn some Jimmy Buffet songs”. So, I picked up his guitar and two and a half years later he moved out to get married and he left me his guitar. That’s the guitar I learned how to play all these songs, wrote all these songs, traveled all over the world with. I owe him a debt of gratitude, not just for the guitar, but he just was an original inspiration for me. I would just play. I think everybody in the dorm knew me because I would sit there in the stairwell and I would just play because it had good acoustics.
Katie: You know what? You’re the second person that I’ve talked to that had their songwriting roots in a stairwell. I think that’s so funny to me. But it has great acoustics, so what are you going to do? When did you start playing out?
Pete: It took me a long time. I did the open mic circuit for a long time. I wrote songs for about ten years before I convinced myself I was a songwriter.
Katie: Wow. Oh my gosh. What a journey. Well, hey man, good on you. You hear so many songwriters that are like, “Oh yeah, I started writing, then I went out a few months later and then here I am” and you’re like, “I took ten years to cultivate this and then I’m a songwriter”. I think that’s amazing to me.
Pete: I felt like I was making stuff up, which, that’s all I do now. I’m really proud of this new album, I worked with some of the most incredible musicians in my life.
Katie: Oh yeah, Phil Madeira too by the way which, oof, mind-blown. That’s great.
Pete: Yeah, I love Phil. He’s a beautiful soul. Of course, he’s not just a great songwriter, but he’s an amazing musician and played some great tracks on this album, but my first album was produced by this guy named John Alagia that I mentioned. I have to tell this story. So John was in a duo called Derryberry and Alagia and he wanted to produce. He produced a lot of the great local bands and acts in Washington, D.C. The people that I really liked. So when I was looking to record after writing songs for ten years, a friend of mine recommended that I go check out John. I walk into John’s basement and he’s got $100,000 worth of equipment in his basement which, in ’94, ’95, is quite a bit of money that he spent on equipment.
Katie: Still a lot of money now too.
Peter: So after I started working with John, he told me that I needed to go check out this band. And he’s like, “Yeah this band, they’re going to be bigger than The Beatles, and I’m going to record their first album!” So John Alagia did record the first Dave Matthews Band album in Martha’s Vineyard.
Katie: Oh my gosh, you’re kidding me! What a trip.
Pete: Before he got signed. And I remember seeing Dave Matthews and his band in Dewey Beach and The Bayou in D.C. Just fantastic. They were fantastic. But then John Alagia recorded John Mayer’s big debut album and Jason Mraz’s debut album. All after me. I just got lucky. So I had this album that was commercially viable, but I could not get myself to pursue music. I just couldn’t get myself to do it.
Pete: Well, I didn’t view my life traveling around the world and playing music, the same music, in venue after venue. I honestly thought that would become boring and that my life would not be that interesting. It’s kind of weird to think that.
Katie: I think you’re the first person I’ve talked to that has thought that way.
Pete: The other thing is that I didn’t want to write for other people. If I’m going out and playing for people all the time, then I’m not writing for me anymore. Music, for me, and I’ve heard a lot of people in the interviews that you guys do, they talk about observing the world and talking about it. I think they’re right, but if you’re trying to get someone to pay attention to you rather than just do it for yourself, it seems to be different. When I do a political song like “Change is Gonna Come”, I’m certainly doing that because I want people to pay attention to me. So I’m aware of what I’m doing.
Katie: I like your honesty. I do, it’s refreshing.
Pete: It’s totally about me. I think that when people do hear them, it’s only after years of me playing them now do I recognize that there’s some universal truth to the stuff that I wrote about. But I certainly didn’t attempt to do that.
Katie: I think that we’re surprisingly similar sometimes as humans and I think that writing about your experience is inevitably going to connect with someone else so as long as you’re being truthful to yourself, someone else is going to relate to it. I think that issues come when you’re trying to write about something that you know nothing about. It’s hard to connect with people on that level.
Pete: I totally agree.
Katie: Thank you. I’m curious though; you have done a lot of traveling. I saw you have a video up on your Standing ‘O’ page from Beijing and you talked about the food in Tokyo, so how is reconciling that with your former view of thinking it would be boring to travel the world and sing the same songs over and over?
Pete: Well, it turns out I was wrong.
Katie: What was that turning point for you where you were like, “Ok, it’s ok to go do this and be a songwriter and experience that lifestyle?”
Pete: So, in 2009, I worked for Intel Corporation for just over 20 years, and Intel has a great program where they give you a sabbatical. You work for them for 7 years and you get two months to do whatever you want. You can add your vacation to it so you can basically take a whole quarter and go off and do whatever you want. So I called up my friend, I knew John David Coppola from my dorm in college, and he played. So you saw John in that Beijing video and I just called John up and I said, “Hey, I’m thinking of going on tour, I figure if I don’t do it now, I’m never going to do it” and before I told him where or when he just said, “Ok, I’ll go.” This is another John that I owe another debt of gratitude to. Now that’s three. It’s Big John, John Alagia and John David Coppola. I never even put these three Johns together.
Katie: There’s magic in the Johns.
Pete: So my first sabbatical, John flew over to Paris and we just kind of played around. We played the Paris metro. We played at a cafe. We played some bars. It really wasn’t serious. I’m glad that John did it. Then, when I called him up and said, “I think we should go to Asia”. I hired a company in Japan and they built a tour for me. I was able to get into a music festival, which was my anchor gig. Then I had some friends in Beijing and they did a fantastic job of securing a midsize venue, which was, for here, it’s a huge venue. And I basically put a whole tour together and it was a ball. It was more fun than I ever expected, but I could not get over how much work it was.
Katie: Oh I’m sure. That must have been a little bit of a shock too. So then, do you still work for Intel? Is that something that you still do or are you just doing full-time music?
Pete: This year I had an opportunity to take a package from Intel earlier in the year (2016) and I chose to do it and focus on music full time.
Pete: What led me to doing that? Organizing the protest charity benefit.
Katie: And I was going to say, “How would you do that with working full time?” I don’t even know, that’s crazy!
Pete: So I was always doing music to some extent. I did release albums when I was working, but you can’t really do it right unless you’re completely focused on it. I give so much credit to the crazy people who try and do this for a living because it’s impossible. I really don’t know how anybody is successful at this. The amount of skills you need to do this job…it’s insane.
Katie: The skills and time to do it too. The thing is that it’s so hard to earn a living as a musician right now in general as well with all the streaming services and trying to get a fair payout and trying to get fair pay at a gig. It’s a tough so I don’t blame you. You even put on your website that your best advice that you received was not to become a professional musician. I need to know the story behind this because that was a really interesting statement to make.
Pete: Well, because of the reasons that I stated earlier. I really didn’t want to write music for others, I didn’t want to change what I was doing. I didn’t think I liked the idea of touring. Then I did it in 2009 and I put a long-term goal to myself to figure out how to do it and I’m still not there. I’m doing it. I’m full-time music right now. I’m spending some part time with a non-profit, and that’s a great non-profit, by the way, I should mention the Playing for Change Foundation who puts music schools all over the developing world. But also I’ve been touring after I released my album and tried to do the marketing of it. My hats off to people who do this. I’m in awe of people who do this for a living.
Katie: Are you planning to do another tour soon?
Pete: So going back to that first question that you asked of “What do you do after this election?” What I’d like to do is go back to the creative side. That’s the part that I enjoy. That’s where my heart is and really delve into that for a while and see if I can come up with a project potentially with some other folks where we can have an impact, looking at some of the bigger problems and really writing about it. The ’60’s it was a tumultuous time. There was a real folk movement that preceded the ’60’s but it really came to it’s own with Dylan, but the people who created the folk movement really predate Dylan. I’m looking at this moment today where we have a President Elect Donald Trump as one of those scenes in a movie where you look around and everybody’s in slow motion. They’re smiling, laughing, kids in the playground, people in cafes, and there’s a train wreck coming. I felt like that’s what I was doing. I wrote that song, nod to Sam Cooke, it’s his title, but that song is an alternate version because it’s about people who speak out. I was speaking out along with a lot of really good people and now I feel like you’re screaming at the movie screen saying “No, look out!”
Katie: It’s so true. I laugh when you say that because that was kind of the image that popped into my head when listening to your song so it’s really funny. You’ve got a really cinematic point of view there. You really chose the right time in history to become a full time musician so I’m really excited about this. I appreciate it.
Pete: I’m hoping that if it’s not my songs and if it’s not me…. I have no desire to be famous, I really don’t. I love music. I don’t like the other trappings of all that stuff that people do in music. Hey, I like to have a good time and party too but I’m really hoping if nothing else then people, they hear a couple songs and say, “Well maybe I should write about what’s going on. There’s some messed up things.” Songs do help people visualize a way forward. There’s no other song that does it to me like John Lennon’s “Imagine”. In the short three verses, he painted a vision of what humanity could be. I don’t think anyone’s done it better. That’s a way to guide us. That’s what we’re missing right now. Yeah, it could also be snarky sarcastic songs that could get us over the hump of some horrible thing like “Got Guns?”, but it could be told in many different ways and I think that’s what we should have now.
Katie: I agree, I think it’s important to tell it from different perspectives and different ways because people receive it in different ways and right now what we need is people speaking out in general. So you have enough voices speaking out in enough different ways and you’ll get to people. That kind of leads me to my next question though, do you have any advice for songwriters out there right now?
Pete: Well, if you’re an aspiring songwriter, you just have to be obsessed. You just have to do it. You have to get over the hump. You can listen to people, you can try and get inspiration from others, but songwriting, in one sense, in the way that I looked at it when I was starting out, I said to myself, you could fool yourself, it’s really simple. There’s five chords. You don’t even need minors. Just five chords. You come up with some melody that you just kind of throw in there and you just start writing.
Katie: Ba da bing ba da boom.
Pete: To a great degree, it is that easy. So you have to get out of your own way and do that. I think what happened to me in my 20’s and into my 30’s, I became obsessed with songwriting. Everything was about songwriting. Something bad would happen to me…and, again, this goes back to me not wanting to be a professional musician. I didn’t want to exploit a situation by writing a song. Now I’ve done that by the way.
Katie: Interesting. Sorry, I have to ask you about that. That’s so interesting to me. So you don’t want to exploit a situation by writing about it. Talk a little bit about what that means to you and how it was getting over that hump of being vulnerable and having to share that with people.
Pete: So there’s actually probably two good examples. The first one, I’ve had, like we all have, a couple of friends who have succumbed to cancer. Back into my songwriting mode, I started visualizing my friends. This one friend in particular, she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at about the same time I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I was treated and I’m fine and I knew that she wasn’t, but it was hard for me to accept it. She completely accepted it. It was horrible to watch, but she was at peace. I visualized her and husband together and then I wanted to go write a song, and that’s where Phil Madeira comes back into this, because I met Phil at the Wood and Stone songwriting retreat that Jen and Scott put on. I flew to Nashville to write this song with Phil and the idea of the song is that my friend is in bed, watching TV with her husband, and they’re both faced the same way and the husband is behind her and there’s tears on the back of her head. So I wrote that song with Phil and it’s a beautiful song.
Katie: It is.
Pete: And the music and the band. It’s a beautiful song. And, again, I’ll be honest, I feel like I’m taking that moment and, hopefully, it’s helpful for people, but I don’t know. I wanted to share it. I wanted to make it more objective. I wanted to tell a story around it, but there’s part of me that recognizes that maybe it’s not ok. But I don’t know. Every time I play it for people they love it, but it’s a difficult topic.
Katie: It is difficult too because you’re talking about somebody else and their really personal life, but at the same time, going back to what we were discussing a little bit earlier, your experiences or someone else’s experiences that you’re talking about through song, even if they’re selfish or, for you, in writing them, someone else is going to relate to them. So, in this case, they could love “Tears on the Back of Her Head” because, as you said, a lot of us have seen people go through cancer and have not beaten it and it helps us by listening to that story be able to process our own emotions as well.
Pete: That’s very true, and that’s a very fair point. And, at the same time, look what we do as songwriters when we become professional. We’re selling a product. I understand that even when you’re helping people as a professional, you’re getting paid for it and you’re selling a service. But, at the same time, I also can recognize a part of it that I don’t like about what I did and be honest about it. So let me just give you the short version of the second song. It’s a very personal song. It’s the last song on my album. It’s called “Perfect Day” and my sister had diabetes almost her entire life and she had a number of issues that led to her committing suicide. With her choice that she made, I became very depressed and that song is what got me out of my depression and I feel less exploitative in that song, but it’s also a very personal song for me.
Katie: No kidding.
Pete: And to use your creativity to come out of depression was probably one of the most important lessons that I’ve had in my life. That’s why I feel more comfortable putting that song on the album.
Katie: I can see how that would be, but I understand that there’s a lot of conflict in being able to share that and feel, “Oh my gosh, is this ok to do this? How does this fall?” And I can understand that, but I really appreciate you offering that perspective as well and that struggle. Just on a personal note, I’m very sorry for what you’ve had to go through. That is a real hardship, and it’s just a beautiful example for how using your creativity can help you process that and move forward. So, thank you for sharing that story.
Pete: Thank you, Katie, I appreciate your sensitivity.
Katie: Well, hey, we’re just about out of time here, is there any other notes that you want to leave us with about the album or your music going forward?
Pete: When you do an album, every song is kind of like it’s a child and you kind of push it out of the nest, but there’s one song on there that I love the recording and the writing and I’d just point out, it’s also about that songwriter’s retreat, so going back to your question about what I would encourage other songwriter’s to do, heck, go to a songwriter’s retreat. Get out of your environment and go meet other songwriters. The thing that Jen and Scott did in their songwriter retreat was collaborative writing. I had never done that before. I would not have been able to write that song “You are Here” without Larry Montgomery. He gave me just a couple lyrics, but those lyrics made all the difference in the world because I truly wanted to write a song about being present. I think that song is successful in at least, again, I wrote it for me, and it’s successful for me because when I play that song, I get myself back to where I’m supposed to be. So I think that’s what I’d like to leave everyone with.
Katie: Wow, that’s beautiful and thank you so much for sharing that and thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate that.
Pete: Thanks for having me. This is a treat for me. I love what you guys do at the Standing ‘O’ Project and you guys are supportive of newer artists and you have a great presence so thank you for all the work you guys do.
Katie: Thank you so much.