Since the release of his accomplished debut album ‘Behind This Guitar’, Mo Pitney has been making friends and earning fans with his soulful approach to Country music. He tours the UK for the first time next month.
Lovely to speak to you Mo, Are you looking forward to the UK tour?
You bet! At the beginning of the tour in late August we’re playing Ireland with the full band, then we do a few shows in England with just me and my guitar, songwriter style and then we end the tour at a festival in Switzerland with the band.
Which format of show do you prefer? Full band or intimate acoustic?
It all depends on the venue. Some venues are a lot more fun to play with the band, certain others are better with just me and my guitar. I do love sitting down and just playing singer songwriter style and sharing some stories, taking about what happened in the writing of the songs.
The UK audience will love the song writer nights – it’s still a fairly new experience for us over here.
Thats great! I heard you guys over there are really respectful of the artist and their words. I’m really eager to see how everything goes down. I’ve heard it from a lot of people, musicians and in interviews that the UK crowd listens well.
Are you bringing the family with you or is this a solo trip?
No, thankfully I get to bring my wife, Emily and our baby, Eveline too. My parents are also coming, they are going to help run merchandise and my brother and sister play in the band too. We’re all coming over!!
What a musical family!! Does that come from your Mum and Dad?
My mum writes and my dad does play a lot of steel guitar and banjo and lots of other different instruments; he can sing too. So, growing up, every boy wants to be like his dad and I guess I was wired that way too – I spent all my time playing guitar, listening to Country and Bluegrass records, I don’t how how I could have escaped it, it’s in my blood!
Holly’s (Mo’s sister) voice works really well with yours. (She sings backing on a number of tracks on BTG)
We’ve got to sing an awful lot together. Being cut from the same cloth, we listen to the same music and when she sings lead I sing harmony and when I sing lead her harmonies are great. ‘Take a Chance’ is my favourite recording on the album, Holly hit the harmonies on that out of the park. She’s done a little bit of writing and we are giving her a little bit of leeway now to see if she can step out and play some songs on her own in the middle of the show. She guides the band and is starting to learn how to hold the paintbrush. I don’t want her to be overwhelmed like I was when I first moved to Nashville – I wasn’t ready, so I want her to find her voice and find out what she can do in a better way than I did.
When did you make the decision to move to Nashville?
I was about 18, 19 when we made the jump. I got guy from a guy named Billy Lawson, a great songwriter, he wanted me and my dad to come down and start writing songs with him. He heard one of our songs on a Bluegrass record that we had recorded. We were doubtful whether things would work out, but they moved pretty quickly!! We soon moved down there, which took me very much by surprise. People were telling us that it takes five years to even get a record deal, but we landed a demonstration record deal, which is like a mini deal, with Universal in probably about four weeks of being in Nashville, which kind of blew us away. We took it to mean that God was kinda telling us that this was where he wanted our next steps to be. We’re not with Universal anymore, we’ve moved on and we’re with Curb Records now, but it’s been a good journey ever since!
Have you been pleased with the reception to ‘Behind This Guitar’?
Very pleased. We released it at a very interesting time. I think the hope was that we would have a little more radio success before we released the album but as far as the circumstances under which the record was released I’m more than pleased with how it’s gone. Sometimes it feels like your tyres are stuck in the mud but then at other times it feels like your spinning out! Curb have been very gracious in letting me remain who I am – I think the only pressure I feel is the ability to take care of my family. You know, wondering what life will be like twenty years from now. I think even if we don’t have as much excitement upfront my career will have more longevity if I stay true and stay who I am.
The songs that you write reflect an open, honest, simple approach to life. Is that who you are?
Yeah – especially at that time of my life. I was in a simpler place. I just wanted to write a simple, Country-boy view of what I had experienced up to that point. We’re just starting to dip our toes into the water of thinking about the next record. We’ve recorded three songs with my touring band. The first record was used with studio musicians whereas this time round we’re wanting to aim for a more ‘live’ feel. We’ve got three songs so far and we’re just experimenting to see if we have got what it takes and I think we do, it’s kinda cool what we’ve got so far.
Has becoming a father this year changed your songwriting or opened up different emotions?
Yeah, anything you experience gives you that next step in life, you feel a bit more, understand a bit more about yourself, about others and about love. I’ve written a song for her which I’ll probably play on tour in the UK. It has changed me a lot, the way I put words together even, so it’s all good. At this stage of your life there is a lot of change and a lot to take in which changes you, for the better! Sometimes you worry if you can handle it, if you can be a father, not just supporting financially but supporting emotionally and being a proper example because you are setting someone’s entire life trajectory – it sometimes freaks me out so I’ll need all the grace I can find.
And so when can we expect some new music from you?
If I were to guess I would say hopefully the first part of next year. There’s a lot of moving parts and I can’t lock in anything on my own, unfortunately. I’m pretty sure it will be a full album rather than an EP, that’s what we’re shooting for – I’ve got quite a few songs ready to go! It’s going to be hard to even whittle it down to an album. The first year I moved to Nashville I wrote, probably, over 100 songs and then the next couple of years it got less and less because I had found the guys that I like to write with and I didn’t want to write songs just for the sake of writing songs. We ended up having about 50 songs that were in contention for the album and it became a matter of what record they would go on and at what point on the record. That’s a fun challenge! I’ve learned that it’s not always the best song that wins, you have to find what fits with the feel of the record. There are a lot of beautiful colours in the world but you can’t always put them on the same painting! This is the stuff I am learning – that making a great record is more than just putting a bunch of great songs together on one CD.