An Inspiring Chat with Pete Falloon
We were fortunate enough to speak with the great Pete Falloon and discuss his new album Reed in the River which is taking off in the UK, and I believe it is bound to wind up on our shores. This album was one of my favorites of 2016 and was such a breath of fresh air. It feels a bit like a throwback to the days of the Beatles and Paul Simon with an incredibly original twist. The album is great but even more so can be said about the man behind it. Pete and I had one of the most uplifting conversations I’ve been able to partake in, I hope you can gain as much as I did from this interview.
Setlist: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, I’ve really enjoyed your album and have really been looking forward to speaking with you. So what do you prefer Pete Or Peter?
Pete: Pete normally. My birth name is Peter but unless I'm doing something extremely bad it's usually Pete.
Setlist: Great, so what got you started in all this?
Pete: It depends on how far you’re willing to go back, but actually doing anything seriously with music it began around 1999, 2000. My brother Matthew, who produced this album; he was doing a lot of alternative folk type stuff around London at the time and playing his own material. He was playing some of the really nice venues that we used to have in London. A lot of these roots venues are getting closed down because of people moving into new flats around them and then complaining about the noise that were really critical.
He started doing that and because I played the guitar a bit he suggested “why don’t you come play with me and do some harmonies and such”. So I started off accompanying his songs and then started co-writing in addition to writing songs of my own, and that transformed into a duo called Brothers Falloon.
We did a couple of EPs with shared songs together and eventually got a small bad with a drummer and bass player. We ended up recording an album on a small indie label in 2003 and going on tour. So my brother really is who got me into it.
Since then I moved away from London to southwest England and left the band because it wasn’t really practical, being a 4 hour drive back to the city. He carried on and had an album that reached quite a bit of success. I had a family and It wasn’t until fairly recently after I felt I had enough energy after the sleepless nights that I thought wow, I ought to be doing some of this music.
They renamed the band to Smoke Feathers and were preparing to release their second album, and that Christmas I was alone wrapping presents listening to the demo and it just stopped me in my tracks. How far he had come since we got started. I thought I needed to get back on track after being rather quite for a while. It was kind of like an explosion of creative energy into this album that really got out what I wanted to say through music.
Setlist: Were you feeling a bit dormant not being as active as your brother?
Pete: I wouldn’t go as far to say there was sibling rivalry but I was feeling a bit left behind. I felt I was on one level, and then here he was getting playing time on national radio. But it was him encouraging me that got me doing this. It was him and another guy, Stu, who used to play bass with us. He plays in a brit-pop band called Dodgy. They went on this stripped back acoustic tour around the UK and instead of getting the standard support acts to play before to open they did an organized open mic. So they would get people from the local area to send in a song. Then they would select 3 or 4 people to play 3 or 4 songs. So I went up to one of these shows and Stu kind of says to me it’s time to get back into it.
It was really both of them and I’m so grateful to them for encouraging me. It’s a hell of a lot of work but it’s very rewarding.
Setlist: You mentioned with your album, Reed in the River; it encapsulated the message you wanted to share, so what is that message you were so compelled to deliver?
Pete: It’s a number of things really. It's not precisely a chronological story but a lot of things in my life across the period of Mathew and I’s last album and now. Some songs are from the time in between and some were written coming off the heels of the previous that I didn’t get right until recently. A lot of it covers standard music territory like love and heartbreak and things of that nature, but actually the way it moves towards the end moves towards a spiritual side, and growing through the mistakes and things that go wrong in your life. A lot of stuff I read before and during the process of making the album, pathfinding books and that sort of thing were influential.
Setlist: That’s really interesting, I love the continuity throughout it and it definitely plays like a story. So are there any events in particular during this time period that you feel influenced the album the most?
Pete: Thank you! To touch on the first point about the continuity some of that was quite deliberate. I wanted to keep some variety with the feel and content of the songs but I was quite careful with the way things were recorded and basically using the same instruments, give or take a few, but keeping the same core throughout. Almost all of the tracks have a fairly clean electric guitar which is doubled with an acoustic guitar because there was a specific type of sound I wanted to get. Everything was recorded in the same studio which was warm and vintage.
In terms of influences, that fed into it too. One of the really interesting things I did with Matt as he was producing, was he would play different tracks for me prior to going to the studio and ask if I liked this or that about it. Then when we went to the engineer in the studio we were clear on what we wanted and how to tell him if we wanted a little of this or that, we were working with stuff from Motown all the way to country.
In terms of what influences me, there are some things that are hard to get away from growing up. Our home didn’t have that many records but there was Don McLean best of records, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel; Bridge over Troubled Waters was a fantastic record. The music I came to love on my own, away from that; I really got into REM in a massive way and The Cure. And through them they lead me to bands like The Birds. Those were all massive inspirations for me as well as James Taylor. They were all kind of classic if you like.
Setlist: There was no shortage of variety on the album but the way you kept that continuity was impressive and one of the things I enjoyed most about it. No two songs sound the same but it still has a way of feeling like one piece.
You mentioned that in some ways the album plays chronologically can you touch on some of the events in your life that led to that?
Peter: A lot of the early stuff on the album has to do with an upheaval of love basically. Break ups and this kind of thing. Beyond that though is moving on and the song Faint Ruled Notebook is actually about falling in love with my wife. There is a bit of a sense throughout it of going through bad things to later get to good things. Interestingly some of the major events like having kids I'm not referencing directly. It's kind of a difficult topic to get right.
Continental Drift is about relationships with parents, particularly with my mother. I think as it is for most guys sometimes it's really close and other times it's difficult to see eye to eye as you get older. The good thing is, even though that sounds like a sad story we now are in a really good place.
Until recently, compared to the rest of the world I was behind, not having anything like an iPhone or an iPad or Facebook. So Contemporary Ways is about technology in a sense. Eventually I gave in, but when I realized how far I got behind not having access to these things the song came from that, but it has another side to it as well. I believe it is really easy to become controlled by these things, a slave to your own technology in a way. It’s really about finding that balance.
The last three are really quite spiritual. In late spring when I was writing the songs, I don’t know if it had to do with the creativity or the writing of the songs but I had a period of time when I was waking up at like four AM and not being able to go back to sleep till half past five. At that time of the year if I would go downstairs and look outside it would be really light. There is an amazing morning light with a gentle rain and the sun coming over the trees so bright. I didn’t want to be up at four but it was really an uplifting experience. With Reed in the River it was about learning to go with the flow. I think through work life you end up pushing against the grain and fighting to push ahead. But it's very much about acceptance, make the best of the thing you may have been trying to change. There is a freedom that comes with that and the knowing of who you are.
Setlist: Wow, it's really fascinating after doing so much speculation being able to walk through the album with you and hearing the source. You definitely get the feeling of a slight shift in tone towards the end of the album. So diving a little deeper into Lay Down in the Morning Light, from a spiritual perspective as you put it, what do you think prompted you to wake at that time and go out there?
Pete: I believe some of these thoughts and feelings were encouraged by what I was reading. My mother gave me a book called Less is More by Brian Draper that I thought was rather prudent. Although he is very much from the Christian faith I believe he hopes it's wrote in a way it could be applicable with or without religion. In a sense it's about decluttering people's lives and focusing on things that really matter. Its incredibly simple and clear, easy to grasp. Even taking a moment outdoors to think for a while it was really those trains of thought that this little book sent me on that led to this turning point. At the same time I was reading another book by Damien Hughes, who is like a sports coach and a motivational speaker. It was in a similar vein about encouraging you to do things that you really want to do with your life but you may be holding back or don’t feel you can, that kind of thing. It was semi path-finding and it was a questionnaire that more or less said; what is it you want? When are you going to do it? And how do you know when you get there? For me it was; I wanted to do this album and really I wanted to have it done about eight months ago HAHA and at times I was frustrated, but it’s a problem to not take the right amount of time and finish with something your not happy with.
I had come across this story about a father who was going through the attic and found his sons journal. He started to thumb through it and found a dated page that he had written about as well. So he grabbed his journal and read about his perspective of this day they had spent fishing. He had recalled what a waste of a day it had been, but when he read it from the point of view of his son, it had been one of the greatest days of his life and fondest memories with his father. It really led me to wonder how often do we get things wrong like that and miss the real simple beauty in life.
So it was those sorts of things, particularly Brian Draper and the encouragement from my brother and Stu to get on and do this.
Setlist: That is really powerful thanks for sharing on that level with us. So we can get an idea how long have you been working on this album Pete?
Pete: It was quite a slow process, it was certainly back as far as 2014. My brother Matthew was living in Switzerland at the time and we pulled back in Paul Everest, who is a drummer we both have been working with for years now. He lived in London and I was four hours away from the city so it was kind of crazy. One of the bizarre ironies was taking massive advantage of things like Dropbox and mobile recordings.
Setlist: Those contemporary ways…
Pete: Yeah, exactly. However we went to the studio to do the basic parts, being the bass, guitar and the drums, because we wanted to keep the feel of the band working together. We had a bit of a gap in between the second and third session. I want to say like nine months.
That was interesting because I had this time to work out addition parts to add. I had all these rough mixes that I could play in the car or while I ran, playing them all the time. It led to me finding the pieces in my head opposed to sitting down with a guitar. That aspect has become increasingly important to me; is that I thought through the music opposed to attacking it and getting it done. See yourself go!
Setlist: Where do go from here?
Pete: Well I'm really pleased with how this has turned out, I'm pleased with how it sounds and pleased with everyone that was involved, and the journey as a whole. But it is one thing for me to be happy with it, but to have the support and the reception we’ve been receiving has been really great. We got to do a support gig for a British band called The Blockheads which was pretty cool, and we just did a pretty amazing live session on BBC’s Introducing, which was a huge boost. It kind of took my breath away reading some of the things written about it.
Setlist: Wow, that has to be validating after all this time and effort.
Pete: It's definitely not the case where I am seeking out this attention and in some ways it can be difficult to accept that kind of praise, but never the less we do want it HAHA.
It would have been a hard lesson to learn if after two years no one could connect with it, but I'm hoping soon we can reach national radio and get some gigs on the festival circuit in the UK.
There are two different directions I feel myself being pulled; one being the stripped down acoustic path and the other being the more psychedelic sixties type of sound.
Setlist: So obviously with all you have going on in your life between balancing a family and work, the creation of this album wasn’t convenient for you. So why were you so compelled to make it? Why is what your doing with Reed In the River important?
: You know, my brother warned me that it is going to be a lot of hard work and cost you a lot of money at the end of the day, and both of those things are true. It takes a lot of time and we do have children but having said that, what it has taught us as a family, is that you can accomplish things that are quite difficult and we can all accommodate and make things work.
Perhaps as a couple and a family, it has inspired us in sense to think more broadly in the things we aspire to do.