We caught up with Pete RG to find out about his new record Reaching For The Moon, cool collaborators and touring life. The songwriter brings a rustic yet modern charm to everything he touches and has been gifted with a somber yet not overly obnoxious and self-important voice that doesn't have to rely on gimmicks to make you feel moved, just old fashioned talent and personality.
Spacelab: How is it going? Looking forward to your Piano's residency? That's prestigious. A well respected club.
Pete RG: Everything's great, thanks! I've been over the top busy for the past several weeks prepping for this tour as well as the release of Reaching For The Moon. I think I've been averaging about 4 hours of sleep a night. So I'm a loopy, but in a good way' I'm really looking forward to the Piano's residency as well as the rest of our two week run through the Northeast. I feel honored and the band feels horned to have the Pianos residency. In fact, Pianos offered us a 4th Saturday, but we couldn't do it due to a schedule conflict. That would've been amazing, though. A full month based out of NYC at such a great venue.
Spacelab: How did Reaching For The Moon come about?
Pete RG: I don't remember because it happened so fast. Seriously! Brina [Kabler, multi-instrumentalist/co-producer] and I knew we wanted to record the follow up to the Lightning Strikes EP as soon as we finished our spring dates in support of that release. We had a batch of strong songs ready to go, but as we prepped for the spring tour, a new group of songs started to emerge. I finished them off in and out of tour dates. Once we got the band in the studio in mid-May, we all decided to go with the new songs that we'd been tinkering with while on the road. A month later, the recordings were done. A couple of weeks after that, they were mixed and mastered. That's pretty quick for me. In fact, while doing the vocals in the later stages of recording, I would be looking at the lyric sheets and thinking, 'Who wrote these? Was it me?' I think the 14 hours a day, 7 days a week schedule for 6 weeks made things a blur.
Spacelab: Do you like to wear your heart on your sleeve or prefer a little distance and interpretation on the listener's part?
Pete RG: Ooh, good question! I like both, but I'm a pretty direct person. So my natural tendency is to wear my heart on my sleeve. I like clarity and a good story.
Spacelab: How did you get to know Dave Krusen? Always enjoyed his playing. He was a favorite of my first drummer years ago and we would ape his fills while driving, haha.
Pete RG: I know Dave through my good friend and bassist, Adam Kury. He and Dave are in Candlebox and have worked on other projects together. In fact, Brina did a few shows with them as a background singer for some U.S. dates backing up Ida Maria. The first time I got to see him play was one of those shows. It was a sold out show at the Roxy. Adam on bass. Brina singing. Dave killing it on drums. Very cool! When my long-time drummer, Scotty Kormos, was unavailable for the spring tour, Adam recruited Dave. I've been told Dave's very selective on the gigs he chooses, so it's a blessing to have him in my band, especially playing with Adam.
Spacelab: What made "Divine" your choice for first single? Not that anything is wrong with it, but I mean comparatively to the others? Is it your favorite child, haha?
Pete RG: It was a team choice. Myself, Brina and Alex Moreno (the general manager of my imprint label, 4L Entertainment) felt it was the lead track. When we presented the EP to our radio and PR firm, The Syndicate, they felt the same. It's a good toe tapper with a great guitar riff thanks to Kevin (Haaland, guitarist). Yet, it has the signature sound of my low, low, low voice as well as some interesting lyrics. A clear choice. Whew!
Spacelab: I like your stuff or Conny Ochs where you can hear that the singer could work with stripped music or a full band. At the same time teamwork is important, something I was just talking about with David Lowery of Cracker. How do you temper your own vision with allowing space for the players brought on to the project to breathe their own life into the songs?
Pete RG: Nearly all of my writing is done on acoustic guitar. I work the melody, the underlying chordal harmony and the lyrics so that they stand on their own, even in the most stripped down presentation. For me, it's all about the song. In fact, when I first played the songs for RFTM on acoustic guitar for my dad, a songwriter himself, he assumed I would be making a rootsy record. He was happily surprised with the band interpretations since the acoustic versions worked so well.
There was a time when I wanted to control every note and harmony that was made, every beat that was played and every sound created. I made some good recordings that way, but it was very painful; kind of like pulling your own teeth. Plus, it was kind of isolating because it created a barrier between myself and those who I was working with to make the recordings by limiting their contributions. Once I matured and realized that no song is all that precious, I became more open to outside input. Consequently, not only did the recordings blossom more, my writing did, too. I've learned to let go without losing sight of my vision. It's very liberating and enjoyable, not to mention artistically productive and physically healthy!
Spacelab: Do you tend to write more when travelling or are you a lock yourself in a room and come out wild eyed with a masterpiece Syd Barrett type with no friends (haha, joke!)?
Pete RG: I write all the time whether at home or traveling. I think writing's more about discipline than inspiration. You've got to keep at it day after day to discover and recognize moments of inspiration. Likewise, you've got to keep at it day after day to make something of them. Writing's as much a learned skill as is any other occupation. The more you do it and the more you push yourself out of your safety zone, the better you'll get at it.
Spacelab: What has kept you encouraged and "reaching for the moon" in the current musical climate?
Pete RG: I'm not one to pay too much attention to the musical climate. I'm busy making music because it's a way of life I love and can't do without. If the climate's rainy, I'll put out a bucket and capture water. If it's sunny, I'll get a solar panel. If it's cold, I'll build an igloo. In other words, I'll do whatever I can think of to keep doing it because I love making music.