Music Talk with Pete Kilpatrick

Hailing from Maine, Pete Kilpatrick grew up with a deep-rooted passion for melody. He taught himself acoustic guitar at age 16 and thus began his journey into the wild and wonderful world of music; a journey that includes over 1,400 shows, stage time with Dave Matthews Band and the prestigious “Maine’s Best Act” not once, but four times, for Portland’s Best Music Awards. When I first heard Pete’s music, I was hooked. A sucker for simplistic, guitar-driven music, I couldn’t get enough of his meaningful lyrics and unique stylization that was reminiscent of Bon Iver and Ray Lamontagne (who has also been alongside Pete on the stage).

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I started playing guitar and writing my own music as a senior in high school. I didn’t really play in front of anyone for about two years after that and when I was nineteen I started performing shows pretty regularly,” Pete began to tell his story. “I moved to Portland, Maine shortly after graduating from high school. There was a really strong and vibrant music scene in Portland at the time (still is) with a number of bands who had found national success. I was able to make some great connections with many of these musicians which helped me to get my name out there to the general public.” 

During that time, Pete put off college to pursue being a musician full-time. He worked on his first album at that time, Halfway Home, in 2003. Now out, is Pete’s seventh studio album, Echo. Recorded almost entirely live with five musicians, this album takes a much simpler approach than Pete’s previous releases, with a refreshing, back-to-basics concept.

The new record, Echo is different from my previous six records in that this album was recorded almost entirely live. My four bandmates and I wanted to capture the feel and sound of what it would be like for someone to come see our live show so we all set up in studio and tracked nearly everything at the same time. This is the way that albums used to be made and things have shifted so that everyone generally tracks their parts independently, which, while obviously more convenient and controllable, certainly can take away from the authenticity and dynamic of everyone feeding off of each other. It was a really interesting experience and I feel that it pushed everyone to really nail our individual parts because if one person screwed up then we all had to start the song over. 

I would say the songs on the new record are pretty similar in style to our previous album, Heavy Fire, and there is definitely a mix of upbeat stuff as well as a couple ballads. Since the birth of my two children, Sawyer (4) and Hadley (1) I definitely find myself writing from a more introspective space which I’m sure many artists find when they have kids. I think people who are fans of our older stuff will definitely be drawn to the new record. There is definitely something for everyone within these ten new tracks.” 

After listening to the album for myself, I couldn’t agree more. While the overall feel is definitely more introspective and raw than Pete and the band’s earlier work, their sound is unmistakable and authentic.

As for his biggest influences, Pete says,

Musically I would have to say that Fran Healy of the band Travis and Glen Hansard of The Frames/The Swell Season are two of my biggest influences. They both have really unique styles of songwriting which are super heartfelt as well as extremely catchy.  I also really love Nada Surf, Ryan Adams, Dawes, Death Cab for Cutie as well as the classics like James Taylor, Bill Withers, Neil Young and Jeff Buckley.

Personally I feel like I am influenced and inspired by people who are making the most of every day and not taking anything for granted,” he said. “Seeing people who are making art, planting and tending to beautiful gardens, getting out and engaging in new life experiences, influences me to try new things, both in songwriting and in life in general.” 

Inspiration doesn’t always mean new music though. It might be best to describe Pete as a “binge songwriter,” something that is seemingly impossible for most writers to do as they’re producing a ton of content really close together.

I’m one of those songwriters that wont write a song for three years but will sit down and write ten songs in three months. This is the exact process that I went through on my new record, as well. I work really well with a deadline because it forces me to sit down and focus. After writing for more than fifteen years now I have the ability to quickly realize if a song has legs or not. This helps me to dictate how much time I should be investing in working out ideas for a song that doesn’t have an immediate reaction on me.

I also have never written down a lyric without having a melody in mind. I tend to sit down with my guitar or piano and put together a few chords. I’ll then come up with a melody and lyrics for that part, whether it’s a verse, chorus or bridge section. Then I will repeat those steps for the additional parts  until I have a finished song which in my experience can take anywhere from one day to a month or so. A few of my most popular songs (‘By My Side’, ‘Dear July,’ and ‘Coming Home’) were all written in one day. These are the songs that, in my opinion, are just floating through the air and you have to be in the right place and time to reach up and grab them before they vanish completely.” 

Your jaw would most likely drop if you knew all of the artists Pete has shared a stage, or been on tour with. You can visit his full biography to see a complete run down, but I was curious to know who he had the best experience touring with.

“I would have to say sitting in with Stefan and Boyd from Dave Matthews Band was a highlight only because they were my favorite band growing up and they definitely played a major role in shaping my musical career,” he confessed. “We got to perform the song #41 in front of about 800 people at a small club in Vermont and it was definitely a special moment for me.

I also always have a great time performing with the guys from Guster, O.A.R, and Barenaked Ladies. We have done multiple shows with them and we have very similar fans which always makes for memorable shows.” Then, someone you might not have expected to hear about;

“A few years back I did a month long college tour with rapper J. Cole and that was super fun as well. We were traveling around the country in two nice tour buses meeting some super cool people. It was also sponsored by Ben & Jerry’s so I was living exclusively off of Cherry Garcia ice cream and beer, which is never a bad thing!” He laughed. 

Beyond albums and the stage, Pete has also had a significant amount of television syndication with his music. If you visited his full bio, earlier, you probably saw the on-going list that made you scroll.

I think the coolest thing is that I’m a big fan of some of the shows that my music has been featured on so it’s just an added bonus to know that something I created played a small part in adding to each episode. It’s always super cool to find out from a fan or friend that my song was featured on a show because a lot of times I won’t know until the episode airs.

I would say that my favorite episode of a show my music was featured on is NBC’s The Office ‘The Pool Party’ episode. My song, ‘By My Side’ was featured and it has a very distinct piano melody throughout the song and it was used really cleverly in the episode. I vividly remember that I had just landed in Salt Lake City on my way to perform at the Sundance Film Festival and when I turned my phone on after we landed I had 15 text messages from friends saying that my song was just on The Office. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait to check it out!

I also had a really great placement in the show Hart of Dixie a while back where they played almost the entire song in the background of a really great scene. I’m spacing on the name of the episode but it’s definitely up on Netflix!” 

This month has been filled with new music already, so it only sweetens the pot that you have more to check out. With perfected vulnerability, strong depiction and beautifully simple melodies, you will find yourself feeling totally fulfilled after each and every song, as if you were just told a story that you’ve heard variants of before.

And now collectively, we can all celebrate the new music we’ve been gifted with!

 

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