Los Angeles indie rock singer-songwriter/producer Pete RG is an incredibly talented artist. Backed by Brina Kabler (co-producer/keyboard), Adam Kury (bass), Dave Krusen (drums), and Kevin Haaland (guitar), his sound is unique, at times daring, and it makes you feel overwhelmingly badass. His new album Tender Souls is set to release on September 23rd, and we’ve got the exclusive premiere of his song “Heaven Knows”.
The track begins, making you feel like you’re in an old western. It’s got sinister instrumentals, waning guitar that is deserving of a standing ovation in its own respect. Then the vocals hit, low, raspy, gorgeous in their own way. There are absolutely aspects of the song that make it feel like it could roll into an 80’s-era Michael Jackson song, but it somehow maintains its original integrity throughout.
I just want to put on everything I own that is black – including the perfect shades – and walk down the street with this song as my soundtrack.
In honor of the upcoming release, we chatted with Pete RG a bit. He really likes doughnuts, which means we are best friends.
What’s the first song or album you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?
Oh, wow, I think it was a Beatles album. One of their Past Masters compilations from my dad. He nearly had a heart attack when he saw me watching a rerun of the Monkees TV show and singing their songs when I was a kid. He’s a huge Beatles fan. He was like, No, I’m gonna make sure my is raised proper.
When did you choose to pursue music? Was there a defining moment, by chance?
My parents are musicians. I learned to sing and play a number of instruments from them. But, it wasn’t until I picked up the guitar, in my senior year of high school, that I wanted to make a career out of music. In fact, it was pretty instant. One or two guitar lessons and that was it. I was hooked. The career in politics that I’d planned to pursue in college was out the door.
What do you love about playing with your amazingly talented – held by immense chemistry – band?
They make me better. Not because of what they demand of me. But, because of what they all demand of themselves and bring to every rehearsal, every recording and every song. I have to keep my game at its best all the time. No slacking. Also, we all really enjoy each other. We have conversations that go on and on from tangent to tangent. We’ve had a few times when, before a gig, we’re hanging and suddenly realize we’re supposed to be on stage in a couple of minutes. Quick run!
You toured like crazy this spring! Do you have any fun stories from tour? (Crazy fans? Favorite food spots?)
Hell yeah, we did! Amazing time. It was an honor to open for Candlebox and share the bill with Lullwater. I was a little concerned that our sound might not reach their fans since our sound is so different. But, we only got love from their peeps. Plus, Kevin Martin’s a great front man. I learned a lot watching him night after night. I really respect how much he gives of himself to his fans, on stage and off, and appreciate how genuine he is. On the funnier side of things, I loved how each of the visiting wives/girlfriends would ask Brina, in a very concerned manner, how she was surviving on a bus with 10 guys! Trust me, she was the toughest one on the bus. Other moments? Laser tag in OKC with John, Brett, Ray and Joe of Lullwater. Miss you guys! Two pounds of crawfish for $5 in Louisiana. I don’t think you can get much of anything in Los Angeles for $5. BTW, I didn’t mean to overlook the etouffe and gumbo. Drool! Also, Brina and I took a couple of days off to visit Washington, DC. One of our favorite cities, for sure. She’d never been there. Last one, OMG, playing at Club La Vela in Panama Beach City, FL. It’s one of the MTV Spring Break clubs from the ’90’s! A serious time warp. That was strange. I could go on and on. Overall, it was just great to be crossing the country with that group. Wonderful people. The vibe and camaraderie couldn’t have been better. I’m very thankful. It was sad to go home. But, the memories are fond and inspiring.
The guitar in “Heaven Knows” is almost sinister, though the title of the track (and the album) would suggest otherwise. (It’s beautiful, by the way!) What inspired this song, specifically?
Thank-you! It’s a fun riff and song to play live! There wasn’t one OMG moment of inspiration for this song. It was a series inspired breakthroughs. Like most of my songs, it began with me stumbling into a melody and some lyrics while exploring different guitar sounds. It made my worthy list; as in, ideas recorded on my phone that I deem worthy of revisiting. Nothing special. During a casual recording session, I brought the ideas to the band. Scotty Kormos was playing drums that day. He and Adam came up with the Stonesy groove right away. That inspired both Brina and I. She came up with the whoah-oh idea. That inspired all of us some more. Then, boom, nothing. The song hit a brick wall. We only had the verses and choruses. That wasn’t enough. So, we left it alone until Brina suggested we try to work it into our set for the spring tour with Candlebox. We made a quick recording (Dave on drums at this point) right before the tour began as a reference for ourselves. The bridge melody and chords weren’t done cooking. Dave just held a steady beat as a time reference while the rest of us tip-toed on top. Once we started playing it live, the bridge started to take shape. It had been the missing piece. Night after night, we experimented. Slowly, it started to take shape. I knew we were getting close when Kevin Martin jokingly took me aside during a soundcheck and told me I was stealing his thunder. He was referring to a little political rant I would go on during a breakdown in the bridge of the song.
Tender Souls is out September 23rd. What are you most excited about with its release?
I’m most excited to take these songs on the road! It’s always fun to see new songs evolve over the course of a tour. The experience inevitably inspires new songs. And, of course, we’ll need new songs for the next album. So, I’m sure we’ll have some good writing sessions during soundcheck once we get a few shows under our belt. I’m looking forward to those…
Do you have any fun anecdotes from the production of the album?
You’ve got me thinking about fun anecdotes. Hmmm. Frankly, every session we spend twice as much time talking and laughing than we do recording. But, here’s a little one. I remember taking a band break and going to a killer doughnut place near the studio, Sidecar Doughnuts. My personal downfall. Anyway, the devil in me encouraged Dave, the band’s unofficial doughnut connoisseur, to get a dozen doughnuts and bring some home to his family. He bought that dozen. But, as he told me a couple of days later, they never made it home to his family.
Who has been the biggest inspiration for you in your music, be it a musician or other human in your life?
My father’s my biggest inspiration. He’s lived the American dream. A poor immigrant from Greece who came to the US in his teens, with his family, and went on to build a successful business and life. He showed me that hard work, persistence, perseverance and a little opportunism can bring tremendous rewards. And, I’m not just talking about financial rewards. He also happens to be a good songwriter and, early in my career, urged me to find my own voice and write my own songs. All that said, since we’re father and son, we still butt heads from time to time. LOL.
What’s your favorite thing to snack on, either on tour or in the studio?
When I’m good, I keep a lot of nuts around. Almonds, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts, any nuts. Raw and unsalted. When I’m bad, lots of Sidecar Doughnuts. Lots. I feel like I’ve been more bad than good, lately, unfortunately. BTW, this is not a plug for their doughnuts. Honest. All that said, pizza beats everything. Any pizza, pretty much. Throw some tomato sauce and cheese on some flat dough and I’ll happily eat it.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about myself. I love talking about myself. I can’t stop doing it. Do we really have to end this now? LOL. Seriously, though, thank-you for the interview and for featuring Heaven Knows. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and support, period.
‘Tender Souls’ is out September 23rd. It is available for preorder now.