Interview with Pierce Pettis taped October 22 99 upstairs of Bodles' Opera House in Chester, New York before his performance there that night.


When you see Pierce live, there is no fanfare. No loud flashy guitar licks though he'd be capable with his custom made 7 stringed guitar.  As you move with him through his set , he moves you. You become aware of his solid, thoughtful writing.
From the CD “Making Light of It” is a tune from which the title comes....You Move Me. Here is Garth Brooks in the version he turned to a number one hit.

    Portion of Garth's version of You Move Me

Before we hear this all the way through, lets hear from the man who was a co-creator of that song, both as a singer himself and then in an interview conducted last week upstairs at Bodles Opera House in Chester NY.

Here he is with the tune Miriam off the same CD: Pierce Pettis:

1. Pierce Pettis - Miriam
    Making Light of It. - http://www.compassrecords.com
    info@compassrecords.com
    “No banners were unfurled”

A:   I am speaking with Pierce Pettis just shortly before he goes on in Chester,
      New York. I just have a couple of questions, thanks for agreeing to talk with WJFF.

P:   Oh no problem, no problem at all.

A:   You are so heavy lyrically - I am wondering who you call, or who you trust lyrically when you have written something. Who do you trust to bounce it off of?

P:   Oh Well, a lot of the stuff I do these days are co-writes so a lot of times I have an instant critic right there and a lot of it is that I bounce it off myself. I like to edit things and I guess the ultimate critic is the audience. If I get up there and they are looking at me like they don't know what I am talking about then that is usually a clue right there.

A:   A sign!

P:   After doing it for so many years I have a pretty good sense when I'm doing it right.

A:   In co-writing... what skill to you have to bring to co-writing. or what different kind of approach to just writing alone.

P:   Well, part of it is that you kind of have to check your ego at the door. You have to remember that the song is the point and not who gets to write what or whose really cool line is better than the other guys cool line. But also maybe the skill of diplomacy would be a good one, not that I'm very good at that. I think the biggest things are removed, it is probably good for writers because it removes them from being the point and let the point be the music.

2.   Pierce Pettis - My Life of Crime (co-written with Dana Cooper)
      Making Light of Ithttp://www.compassrecords.com
      info@compassrecords.com
      “I chose this life as much as it chose me”

A:   When you write alone, do you write autobiographically?

P:   Not really, only in the sense that I use everything as material. It is more direct to look at my own life. But no, I write from whatever. A lot of things are composites. It has never never been my intention to be a confessional writer, or an autobiographical....I just don't think I am that interesting.

A:   In the last month I have talked with both John Gorka and Ellis Paul who said that they work, writing wise..

P:   Uh huh...

A: ...from a lyric, a little thought and build a song around that? Or do you say "I want to write about jealousy"

P:   I don't really pick a topic or anything. Very often it will start from a lyric but I've tried more in the last few years to write from the music which is kind of nice because it makes you focus on having a discernible melody -a melody line that stands on its own. Sometimes if you have a strong melody you can almost hear the words in it you know? That gives you a clue and then you think about an idea. There is a difference between having a good line and having a good idea. That is not so much a message but what you build the song around. What is at the core of the song and if you have a strong line, hook kind of line that sort of says everything that the song is really saying, then that is a good line and a good idea, if you see what I mean. Other times, but what you need to know is to sit down and ask yourself "What am I writing about? What is this?"

A:   How soon do you do that?

P:   I do it during....it is all happening at the same time. I mean like when I am co-writing and we are looking for lines, a lot of times I'll stop and say "Wait a minute, let's talk about what exactly are we saying here. Because sometimes you get so caught up in the process of trying to think of some cool line or some great this or that you forget that you.. that the song has to have a point.

3.  Tim O'Brien - A Mountaineer is Always Free (co-written with Pierce Pettis)
      The Crossing - Alula Records alula@aol.com
      http://www.alula.com  800 932 5852

A:   If you were going to put together a festival of songwiters, I'd love to know who you'd want there.

P:   Boy, that is a tough question, because I'll start naming names I'm gonna leave people...

A:   I realize that...

P:   You mentioned Ellis and John and those are certainly two contenders. I love Dana Cooper. I like Sally Barris - there are just a lot of great writers. Too many to mention. I love Tom Kimmell and Tom Prasada-Rao I think is one of the most brilliant writers ever and boy... I don't know...

A:   Not that you are leaving people out because you don't like them, I just wanted to hear some names from you.

P:   It is cuz I can't remember them right at this moment.

A:   But that is helpful, just to know. While I am airing this I will just cut into a Tom...song...say his last name I never say that right.

P:  (quickly) Pass ah duh rah

A:  (copying) Pass ah duh rah

P:  Tom Prasada-Rao.

4.   Tom PrasadaRao - Sleeping Beauty
       Hear You Laughing - WorkinFolk@aol.com
     P.O. Box 5734 Takoma Pk. MD 20913 301 431 1088

P:  If you have to stop and think about Tom's name you can't say it

A:  Pass ah duh rah

P:   You have to just sort of go with it. Tom Prasada-Rao. Tom will hear this and he'll hurt me probably.

      (laughter dies)

A:   I'm wondering if for some reason you couldn't play, you couldn't write and sing,

P:    Mmmmm

A:   What would you do as a profession?

P:    Boy I don't know. Um, I.....geez.... well, yeah I do know. I think a person can be generally of a creative bent and you can apply that to songwriting or you can apply it to other things. You know, I have a lot of friends who play music and do other things  and they are often creative things. I have a friend who is a brilliant guitarist and producer, but he is also a hot shot programmer for IBM. So, I think creativity is something you shouldn't limit if you don't have to. If I suddenly had to stop playing, I'd reassess, I'd look at what skills I have and what I like to do and try to find something where I could apply pure creativity, because that is something that is ...that people can't always get enough of. You can learn a skill but you really can't teach somebody to be creative. They either are or they aren't.

A:   When you do have a hit and somebody big, some big name say- Garth Brooks does your tune do you get treated differently by  some people and if so who?

P:   I hope not.

A:   Yeah, I hope not too.

P:    I have a lot of friends that I think were pulling...other writers have been very gracious to me. I was very much afraid that when this track was released that maybe people would get jealous or weird, but there has been absolutely none of that. People have been wonderful. I think the people who liked me felt somewhat vindicated and but other than that I haven't had people that were mean to me suddenly be nice or anything like that.

5.   Garth Brooks - You Move Me (by Pierce Pettis and Gordon Kennedy)
      Sevens - Capital
      http://www.garthstore.com  garthbrooks@earthlink.com
     “You move me out of myself and into the fire”

A:   Is there a question you get asked from people like me that is really annoying?

P:    Not really. You haven't been annoying at all.

A:    I was just wondering sometimes..."Can I talk to you for 20 minutes" and they ask you about what strings you use...I would think that is annoying.

P:   No. No. I mean, I feel honored that people are interested enough to ask questions in the first place. So, I don't find it annoying.

A:    So if I were to air particular people during this segment of time that you love - I have Tom as one idea, who are some others?

P:    Boy let me think. I love Bruce Cockburn. And gosh...Eddie From Ohio who I am playing with tonight. They are great! And um, geez beyond that....I like Tom Kimmel's new album. I love Buddy Mondlock's new album Poetic Justice. It is a wonderful, wonderful, record. That is a lot right there.

A: It is.

6.    Buddy Mondlock - (with Tom Kimmel) Poetic Justice
       Poetic Justice - Major Bob Prod. http://songs.com/buddy

In this Nashville area melting pot of writers here is a cut from Tom Kimmel who was the one who wrote that tune Poetic Justice with Buddy Mondlock. Both Buddy and Tom have it on their newest releases. Here is Tom singing his tune On To Something that he co- wrote with Tom PrasadaRao.

7.    Tom Kimmel - (with Tom PrasadaRao)  On to Something
        Short Stories - http://www.songs.com/tkptclear@songs.com

8.    Dana Cooper - Standing in my own way
        Miracle Mile - http://compassrecords.cominfo@compassrecords.com
     “Trying too hard to please, soft in the middle”

A:   Well I think you are a very talented writer and thanks so much for talking with WJFF fans.

P:   It was my pleasure.

Well Pierce picked some favorite writers, check my setlist for the date:
http://FolkPlus.com//setlists/991030.html
to view some of my favorites.

Closing with another tune of Pierce's sung here by:

25. Joe Stead - Paul's Song (Pierce Pettis)
      Miles From Halifax -  banjostead@compuserve.com
       http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/banjostead
       A rewriting of Corinthians 13

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