1. Hi and welcome to Melodic.net. How are you?
I'm fine, thanks. It's a rainy Monday, and I have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a glass of milk, an episode of T.J. Hooker on in the background and your interview questions in front of me. Perfect.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in Norwalk, CT and grew up playing ice hockey year round. When I wasn't on the ice I studied drums for about 10 years. I always sang, thanks to my Mom. She used to host her barbershop quartet rehearsals in our kitchen and I was immediately hooked when I heard those harmonies. Car rides with my Mom were filled with her putting her own harmonies on the pop songs of the late 70's and 80's, which was very cool to hear. Music was always around; piano in the kitchen, a barbershop quartet in the kitchen at least once a week, harmonious car rides, drums, reruns of The Monkees on TV, my KISS infatuation, then my Muppet Show drum kit which led to it all. I was a singing drummer in my high school band, The Front. We thought we were R.E.M. meets The Replacements. When it came time to go to college, I couldn't really bring my drum kit to my dorm room, so I got an acoustic guitar for high school graduation. I learned some basic chords, and then "Brown Eyed Girl", and then took a stab at writing my own tunes. Some poems from poetry class combined with a few basic chords, and I was off. I caught the songwriting bug, immediately. I had a post college band that toured the east coast for a bunch of years,which fizzled in 2000. I kept writing songs and then recorded some which led to Jonathan Stuart at Viper Records in NYC hearing the demos. He released my first solo record in 2006. Here I am about to release my third full length record on Viper on June 7th. I'm really proud of this record.
2. What can you tell us about your album "Outlet"?
It's my first record that I love all the way through. As an artist, you're your own worst critic, and I dealt with some songs that I'd always fast forward on the last two releases. This one I let play through until the end with a smile. I promised myself I was going to make a record where I was psyched about EVERY song. And most importantly, be psyched to perform every song live. It's also the first time I've worked with an outside producer. My last two albums have been produced by Andy Abel,but this one has Dave O'Donnell producing the first two tracks. Dave has worked with some greats and won some Grammy's, so it was cool to be coached by a set of fresh ears. Dave also brought in some killer players, too. The album is cool to me because in the past I was told to "pick a lane", genre wise. A lot of my stuff was all over the map in the past. I kept that in mind while recording, but still bounce around between folk/pop/rock with a hint of country. I guess that might be the P.J. Pacifico lane. But, in a nutshell, this album has a bunch of different players on it (which I love), a couple different producers and one song I didn't write. I love everything about it. It's short, sweet and hooky.
4. Who are your main influences when it comes to music?
My Mom's voice, James Taylor's melodies and Paul Simon's lyrics. Throw in some Misfits, Whiskeytown and Del Amitri and chuck them all in a blender, and you get something close my music.
5. How do you write songs? What does the creation process look like?
Almost all of the time music and/or melody come first, then I'll add the lyrics. It's easier for me to have a melody and a hook first. Especially when I know the syllables of the hook, it's easier to plug in the words. Writing lyrics that tell a story, with a universal theme is another story. Putting both a hook with great lyrics is obviously the goal, but that doesn't always happen and songs end up getting shelved. I've got tons of songs that I either haven't finished or don't feel they're good enough to put out there. The cool thing about songs is that you can always go back to them and rework them until you fell they're done. Which, can also be a pain in the ass. Then again, you can try them out live at certain gigs too. A lot can happen to songs if you perform them out live for a while before recording them. Of course, out of nowhere, you can also have songs that write themselves in a half hour. Those are usually the most special.
6. Is there a particular song out there that you wish you had written?
Ha! Yeah, tons of them. There's nothing I appreciate more than a great song. There's a song out there now by David Ramirez out of Austin, TX called "Shoeboxes" that I absolutely love. Stephen Kellogg has a bunch I admire as well. I could list a bunch, but it's more like I hear a great song and think to myself "okay, I need one of those". Which, I believe, is an honest inspiration from all the other great writers out there. That's why I love touring and at the same time, meeting and hearing other writers. I learn from them. It isn't a competition. I'm constantly listening and learning.
7. Have you set any ultimate goals with your music?
Weird. I set one a couple years ago and just met it last week. I need a new one now. There's nothing like the feeling of setting a goal and meeting it. My first goal a few years ago was to make a living as a musician. I've accomplished that and I'm so grateful for it. Doing what I love for a living is the most important thing to me. Anything else is a bonus. But to answer your question, a song on the Billboard charts is my next one. I wouldn't call it the "ultimate" goal, it's my next goal. I've been setting goals since I took the leap a few years back as a full time musician, and I've met them all. I'm doing something right, I guess.
8. If you could choose, who is the ultimate artist to tour with?
Someone who could join me for a song during my set and vice versa. I've been a little obsessed with Lissie lately, so to tour with her would be fantastic. Will Hoge is another writer I'd love to tour with. Edwin McCain, Martin Sexton.....lots of folks.
9. Who is the best artist you have ever shared a stage with?
Crosby, Still & Nash at Gathering Of The Vibes in 2009. Hands down. To see my name on the same bill as them blew me away. I grew up worshiping them.
10. What is the biggest challenge for an artist today, in your opinion?
The biggest challenge for an artist without an agent is to get out there and tour. I don't have an agent and I get my ass out on the road as much as possible. But it's like anything in life; you have to work hard. And in some cases you have to pay your dues. It's all possible. If you're sitting in front of a computer as a musician, you've probably already uploaded your stuff to Youtube/Myspace/Reverb Nation, etc. That's great! But, the next step is to book yourself a tour and get out there. You might not make much money at first, but you will. It takes persistence and organizing, but it's totally possible. I've done it and still do it. Some might say the biggest challenge for an artist is getting radio play, which is true to a certain extent. But, you can tour without radio play, trust me. Once you're touring, radio play starts to creep in. Then the ball really starts rolling. Start small, set goals and things will happen. But in the end, if the songs can't do the talking on their own, you're in trouble. You have to have the songs to back up the hype. And work.......hard.
11. What is your take on piracy and illegal downloads?
Well, it's both good and bad for an artist. It's good if someone likes your music enough to steal it! Let's look at it that way first. And, there really is no way of stopping it, as of yet. If people are downloading your music illegally, it also means there's a demand for you in a market/city. Which then means you can hit those markets with a tour. Also, let's be real. You made music in the first place for people to hear it, right? So, let them hear it! You can't stop them anyway. Dave Matthews started his successful career with his fans having a HUGE underground tape swapping following in the beginning. I'm pretty sure he wasn't thinking about missing out on money back then. That led to him having big audiences in multiple markets, which was way more important at the time before the internet. Look at him now. Touring is where you'll make your money. Go sell CD's at shows and meet your fans. That's very important. So, if people are stealing your music off the internet, shut up and be psyched. You're stuff is spreading! If it wasn't, then I'd be worried. To answer both sides of the question, it's bad for the artist because you don't get credit for a sale. Which, in turn, is really bad for the record company. The record labels lose out the most on illegal downloads.
12. Thanks for answering the questions, any final words for our readers?
Thanks for reading and check out my new record, Outlet. It will be released on June 7th on Viper Records and available at all download sites and www.viperrecords.com. For all other info and tour dates, please visit www.pjpacifico.com. Thanks again!!