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14-05-2012 // interviews: Interview with: Pickering Pick

Exactly 2 months ago I have expressed my love for Prayer Flag by Pickering Pick. Since the time that has passed the album became a standard on my mp3-player. By definition the home of my favourite records of the last 12 months. Now that time has proven this to be one of the finest, sweetest records of the year, I was wondering who Pickering Pick really is. We did a little email-interview, so you and me would have an opportunity to get to know the man behind the music a little better.

First off, Who is Pickering Pick? How old are you? Married? Kids? Just the basics.
I am Pickering Pick - I'm 33, I have two children and I've been married for almost 12 years. I'm English, my wife is Californian, and we live in Northern California. I've been in the US for ten years. We also have a big dog...

When did you first start making music? Who were your musical influences?
I suppose I first started making music properly - writing and performing my own songs - when I was 18 or 19. I recorded my first album, The Attic Tapes, at FFG, the studio my dad built and operates in the UK.

The musical influences I felt strongly at that time would have been Paul Simon, Tim Buckley, Van Morrison and Red House Painters. They had the biggest direct impact upon that first album. But I was listening to a lot of different artists: Neil Young, Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, as well as some of the alternative rock bands coming out of the US at the time. Looking back, it wasn't a great time for new bands. I had a hard time finding anything contemporary to listen to, so I kept going back to my old favourites.

What music do you listen to yourself at the moment?
I've been listening to some great music lately. Idiot Wind, Hip Hatchet, Father John Misty. I also just got around to getting some records from Yer Bird - the 2011 album from Ghosts I've Met, which is just beautiful, and the newest Hezekiah Jones album. I'm lucky to share a label with some phenomenal musicians. John Statz's new release, Old Fashioned, is wonderful, and Tyler Butler's Winter King, which was just re-released, is magical. I actually just recorded a cover of Tyler's song Feral Horse which will hopefully wind up on a Yer Bird release soon. The other records I listen to almost daily are Astral Weeks, by Van Morrison, and Sting's beautiful 1987 album Nothing Like The Sun. And Rhythm Of The Saints (Paul Simon). Definitely a daily album, that one. One of my all-time favourites.

Have you always wanted to be a musician? How did you get where you are now?
No, I didn't always want to do this, but I've always kept music at the centre of my life. I used to want to be a writer, a novelist or something. I've written two novels. But writing fiction like that, it's awfully hard and awfully lonely, and I'm just not good enough at it to be able to break through. I've always found writing songs somewhat easier, and very nearly as satisfying. And I enjoy the recording process a lot more than sitting down to write a book, so maybe this is the right road for me.

I arrived where I am now by simply writing and writing, trying out new things, getting better and learning how to put albums together. I gave away my music for many years, and many of my albums are available for free if you know where to look online. Eventually, though, I wanted to work with Sandy at Yer Bird Records, and see where that would lead. I don't regret a thing about giving away my songs for so long, but it was time to try something new.

Being a solo-artist, how do you know if a song is a good one?
That's a really hard question. I suppose, if I'm honest, I don't know how to tell if what I'm producing is any good. I work entirely alone. I don't share my process with anyone until I get to the advanced mixing and mastering stages, when I involve my father. But by that time, I've usually decided on the songs and the album will go ahead regardless.

When I'm writing, I have to trust I'm doing something authentic. If I'm not, I usually feel uncomfortable about it on a basic level. I've got dozens of songs sitting around, fully recorded, which I've just decided are not good enough, so they'll stay hidden. But what always surprises me is that the songs which listeners most connect with on my albums are rarely the ones which I think are the best. I can't force people to feel a certain way about my songs. Once they're out there, I have no more control. I try not to worry too much about it!

What is a 'regular' day for Pickering Pick?
On a regular day, I'll wake up with my wife and my children. Take one or more of them off to school and then try to make a dent in the mess we create at home. Then if I'm lucky, I'll have several hours to myself in my recording studio. Often I'll go in there with nothing to do, no ideas, no songs to work on, but I have to keep going in there. It's like going to work in an office, I guess. I have to be in there, though, or else nothing will ever get written. It can be frustrating, but eventually, songs start to develop.

The rest of the day? I'll pick up my kids, take them to the park or the river. Have a drink with my wife and talk with her about the day. We eat good meals in our house. Dinner time is pretty special. I don't like anything to disturb that.

With your album release a few months behind us, what have you been up to lately?
I've been in the studio a fair bit, running through old songs and rehearsing. If I don't play my older songs regularly, I tend to forget how to play them! I've spent a lot of time on fiddling around with some new studio hardware I bought recently. I am hoping to start recording a new album soon for Yer Bird Records. If I get my act together, it could be out later this year.

What would you like to see happening the most in 2012?
Nothing urgent. As long as my family is healthy and happy, that's blessing enough. I'm not particularly political, and I can't vote in the United States anyway, but there's a guy in Washington who probably deserves another term in office...

Thank you so much for this great interview Pickering Pick. It's been great getting to know to you a little better. Looking forward to that new album, the sooner the better if it where up to me! For the readers: If I'm not mistaken you can still order yourself a copy of "Prayer Flag" via his bandcamp-page.

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