Give us a little bio about you for those who are new to your fanbase.
I’m a songwriter from Northern Ireland. I’ve been in love with music for as long as I can remember. In fact most memories I have are triggered by hearing one song or another.
I’m influenced by poets and storytellers like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits but I have an interest in artists from every decade from the 50’s right up until today. More recent artists I’m enjoying are people like Foy Vance and Father John Misty..
I spent a long time writing songs, playing gigs and promoting myself around Northern Ireland before being picked up by a record label called NUA Entertainment.
They afforded me the opportunity to relocate to London where I’m now based. Since then I’ve recorded my debut album “Ashtray Black” with Tommy McLaughlin from the award winning band Villagers, the first two singles of which have been played on Radio 2.
I’ve also had the opportunity to co write the title track for a movie called “Property of the State” which is set for release this year.
Tell us the meaning behind the NEW album ‘ Ashtray Black’.
Well, I had a lot of songs written and a lot of EP’s recorded when I was back in Northern Ireland. So for my first official release with a label, I decided to take a good look at the songs that had accumulated and put together a collection. So if I have to assign meaning to it I suppose it plays out like a 42 minute diary of the last ten years of my life. It’s more coherent than I expected. The oldest lyrics can stand beside the newest ones without feeling too embarrassed and there’s the same sense of urgency running through it all.
Songs like Pretty Smiles and Hotel Room are a little trip down memory lane where I can stop and wave at all the girls I’ve tried and failed with. Songs like Idols, Doorstep Riots and Hard Days are songs where I play the role of a reporter or a private investigator or something like that. Those are the songs where I’m pretending to know a thing or two about what’s going on in the world and conveying it in the most smart-assed way possible. On “Ashtray Black”, the title track, I was trying to empathize with a woman who’s son was tragically killed in a car accident. They were neighbors of my parents. This is the oldest song on the record and maybe the most important because it gave me the first real glimpse of the type of songwriter I wanted to be.
Describe each track in two words.
11 O’Clock – Good Opener
Doorstep Riots – Northern Ireland
All These Things – Nostalgic Nonsense
Idols – Non Sequiturs
Ashtray Black – Attempted Empathy
Pretty Smiles – Forbidden Fruit
Hotel Room – Life Story
Someone You See – Inexperience, Innocence
Ten Pounds in my Pocket – Dangerous Beauty
Hard Days – Good Nights
Hollywood Lights – Distressed Damsel
What was the writing process like for ‘ Ashtray Black’?
Well, there was no process in the conventional sense because these songs were originally never meant to be on the same record. But I’ve been smoking the same cigarette for about ten years now, and each song on the album is like an ash I’ve flicked here or there.
I think the reason the songs work as an album is because my approach to songwriting, while certainly developing, has always remained fundamentally the same. The name of the girl and the bar might change, but you always end up just as heartbroken and drunk.
What was the recording process like for ‘AshtrayBlack’?
It was a relatively intense two weeks. My friend and producer Paul Steen and I took about 30 demos down to producer Tommy McLaughlin in Ireland and the three of us chose which ones should make the cut. We got the bass player and drummer from Irish band Villagers, and the renowned pianist Michael Keeney to play on all the tracks. It was certainly a thrill to watch musicians of that standard play my little songs. Tommy the guitarist of Villagers, who produced the album, was as quirky as any producer should be. We had a lot of fun.
What is your favourite track of the new album?
Melodically, I like Hollywood Lights. It has a great chorus and I’d like to play it with a band to a full stadium someday.
Lyrically speaking, I’d have to pick “Ten Pounds in my Pocket”. I doubt I’ll ever so accurately describe the profound effect the opposite sex can have on such an innocent unassuming boy like myself ever again. I think I nailed it with that song.
Whats the most memorable memory you had during the recording of the Album?
I remember the day I was doing my vocals. Tommy very kindly gave me a bottle of red wine to take down to the booth. The plan was to take a thimble full to loosen up a bit. The problem was we did the whole album in one day and by the time we got to the last track the bottle was almost gone. After singing my heart out on what I thought was the best take i’d ever done in my life of the song “Hollywood Lights”, I confidently asked Tommy and Paul (who were listening in the control room) “How’d that sound to you guys?” They responded almost simultaneously… “It sounds like you’ve been drinking, Pete”
We got it in the end, but I really wish I still had that take.
did you collaborate with anyone on the album?
Not really, the songs were all written before the sessions. First I wrote the tunes and the lyrics, then Paul Steen put his stamp on the songs which usually dictates the overall direction in terms of style, genre etc , then we took them to Tommy who took what we did and added his own style of production. But in terms of writing, the melody and the lyrics are all as they were when I wrote them.
Will we see a tour?
There’s no tour as such, but I’ll certainly have a few venues booked around the time of the release. I actually just previewed the album live at The Bedford in Balham. The reception was very encouraging and I look forward to the next one.
What is the message you want to send out to your fans?
I don’t have a message. But music is a very powerful thing. A few notes of a song can change your whole outlook on life and very quickly alter the type of day you’re having. I just hope one day to affect somebody with something that I’ve written in the same way I’ve been lucky enough to be affected over the years.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and just as an artist?
My career’s moving forward in some sense, but I haven’t yet achieved the degree of success that would qualify me to advise anybody. I’m still figuring everything out.
But I do know that it’s important to stick with writing a song until you get that buzz from it. There’s a certain buzz you get during the process that lets you know you’re onto something. It lets you know that somebody else is going to like the line you just wrote. If you finish a song and you haven’t felt it you’ve probably failed. People listening can always tell when something’s been phoned in, or written for the sake of it. Waiting for that feeling can certainly stop you being as prolific as you’d like and you can go for months without that lightning striking. But if you hold on, it’s well worth the wait.
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?