Ready for [the] Launch

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I remember the first proper touring band I saw play live.  Growing up in a small town in the middle of no-where we didn’t have the opportunities to socialise in fun places – no cinema, no bowling, no concert venue, all we had was the park, the nigh street and (I’m really racking my brains now), oh yes… the fields.  No disrespect to small towns, but it sets the tone why I was 13 when I saw my first film in a cinema, and 17 my first proper gig.  Being a musician I had performed countless times at concerts and seen local bands play regularly, plus at our church we had a Sunday morning church band – a collective of instrumentalists that weren’t too shabby and the youth band (some arguably were the better musicians).

Back to the gig – in Norwich, took us an hour to get there, and inside it was dim, crammed and everyone was excited.  Of course, being short I had to weave my way to the front next to an older guy with long white greasy hair that would later end up in my face as we moshed the night away.  My uncle came too (the driver)  and he ended up loosing his voice, so loud was his singing, and the band were brilliant.  Now, when I say it was loud, I mean it was LOUD.  The drums and bass particularly thumping, the front man an artist engaging the crowd, and every song sounded different…better…as it was always meant to be.

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Got to admit, I’d played their albums a thousand time or more.  But after seeing the band live I had a new connection with the music and a picture in my mind of how it really should be played.  The live experience enhanced the studio album and the songs became mine.  

On Friday 8th September we’re playing the first live PYRAMID PARK GIG – THE ALBUM LAUNCH PARTY.  Honestly, the stress of releasing an album is enough, without planning a large gig on top of it.  But releasing an album without a live experience somehow feels lame, or certainly anti-climactic.  So, we’re pulling all the stops out with two quality support acts (go check out Tom McConnell, above, and Judah Chukualim, below) and PYRAMID PARK playing all the songs from the new album.  My hope is this inspires you.  My hope is that the music gets on the inner side of your skin, and remains in your brain for a long time.  My hope is that you will hear the songs differently because you heard them live.  No matter how polished the studio album is (and we think we did a really good job) LIVE will never be replaced by studio.

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I love that at launch parties you can do something unique, because no one else is telling you how to run it.  In 2014 my mum made 11 cakes with each of the song titled on individual cakes.  This time round we’ll be making a video with you in it (not just a crowd shot cheering a band, but a fan video based on a new music video), there will be new merch, a giant….oh wait I’m giving it all away.  Come along, be part of making  memories.

Tickets can be bought on Eventbright at £5, just click here: http://bit.ly/2flWIs5

The journey continues and more than anything else, I want you along with me. See you there.

Pete

Chapter 1: The Unexplained

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To celebrate the eleven songs soon to be released from my new album Vulnerability, we begin a blog series titled Chapters.  Each chapter will explain something about the writing and revelation of the song, giving you, my readers the most intimate experience of the creative process.  My hope that this will not only tell fascinating stories but inspire you in worship and creativity.    The Chapters are listed in song order (not chronologically) and now that you have access to the track listing, I think these stories will give you a autobiographical experience of the album (even before you hear the full project).

Chapter 1: The Unexplained

The thirty minute drive to pick up my guitar from an over-due service became the perfect opportunity to listen to a mix tape (CD actually) of new music.  A friend who was yet to release a batch of songs had asked me to listen to the tracks and see if I could come up with melodies and lyrics.  The second song on the rough project caught my attention, it had mood and groove and while chilled, had some sort of intensity that was calling me.  Singing randomly to it, I clicked a continuous repeat until these words lodged “The unexplained, the unthinkable, it’s how you move, it’s who you are.”  Over. And over. And over again.  Eventually the car turned left up a deep-in-to-the-countryside lane, I grabbed my phone and pressed record singing this lyric repeatedly.  It stuck and I liked it.

Fast forward three or four weeks, and the same song whined repeatedly with no more lyrics (insert sad emoji).  Surely, if a chorus arrives within thirty minutes why wouldn’t I be able to create at least a bridge or a hook or something!

Some songs are meant to die a while.  It was clear I was going to make limited progress, and so it became a stack of unfinished songs on my unfurnished shelf.  As I wrote several other songs for the album Vulnerability it became obvious that to make the album really work, we needed a few upbeat tunes.  ‘The Unexplained‘ as I had already titled it, surely could become that, but who else could I work with?  Historically I have struggled with co-writing.  I get too uncomfortable and nervous ending up agreeing with what really doesn’t sound great, and second guessing my gut instincts.  This was until I met Feranmi.

Feranmi had a way about him, a confidence beyond his years and talent for days.  We got chatting at a mutual friends wedding, putting a date in the diary to meet, write and hang out.  Our first session went swimmingly.  He was deeply interested, wanting to know all about me, calming my nerves.  He was creative, and mad with it, which outed my inner weirdness.  Perfect!  Oh, and we wrote a song together, which you’ll hear more about in Chapter 7.  Success!    One month later, it was time to unleash this beast of an untamed song on him.

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It was time for lunch, and neither of us were enjoying the suggestions of the other.  Feranmi’s white board had long been filled with lyric ideas.  My pad, more lines crossed than ticked.  Our chemistry was waning, the song reluctantly clinging to the depths of the universe, allowing us no room to pluck it out.  We had at least found a vocal hook, but even deciding the structure was tricky.  Was the hook the chorus?  Was the now-chorus a pre chorus or even bridge?  I wanted to write about the grandness of God, having walked through quite a season of songwriting (nearly 40 songs) when personally I was struggling.  Coming out of this time my desire was to declare that although God was unexplainable, He was always GREAT,  and ultimately with questions answered or not, He is to be worshipped.

I’m unsure how, but I’m sure Feranmi inspired it.  We came to this bridge which seemed to lift the song to another level “Mountain high, I’ll show no fear.  Valley low, I know you’re near.”  Perfect – the summary of the whole album in twelve words.

The verses took longer – “I’ve come to a place where you’ve been for all time” summed up our searching for God in a season when He has already been there and waiting for us to see Him in it.  Then it started to click in verse two, the real musical lifter, explaining the peace, awe, power and Kingship of God.  This wasn’t my wallowing any longer, these were statements, confessions of faith.  The chorus no longer became a question but a proclamation.

Feranmi was jumping up and down shout-singing the chorus, we were elated!  I couldn’t believe that we’d been able to wrestle through that song to the point of completion.  In the process of a day I’d lost the will to song write with anyone ever again, to strutting back to the tube with a puffed out chest knowing we’d created something special.  What do they say about songwriting?  90 percent perspiration, 10 percent inspiration?!

It was a pleasure to invite Feranmi to drum on the record, with the additional de-tuned toms and kick drum rolling like thunder (listen to 3:07, 3:14, 3:18 for the fills).

Last, but not least, you can now pre-order Vulnerbaility from iTunes today.

 

 

 

The Unexplained – first PYRAMID PARK single

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Today PYRAMID PARK (my new artist name) release the first single ‘The Unexplained’ from the new album ‘Vulnerability’. 

Personally, I am so pleased to finally share this song after waiting over six months.  I’d love it if you could check the song and if you like it, please share on Facebook, or any other social sites.  

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For those who enjoy reading lyrics to songs, have a read of these.

 

I’ve come to that place

Where You’ve been for all time

A light burning in space

Inside You are the fire

The unexplained

The unthinkable

It’s how You move

It’s who You are

Your peace, perfect peace

Transcends my understanding

In awe of all that You are

You’re beyond my reasoning

Your power, holy power

It roars like a warrior

You’re King, the King of all kings

Your voice I hear and I follow

The unexplained

The unthinkable

It’s how You move

It’s who You are

Mountain high, I’ll show no fear

Valley low, I know You’re near

Look out for more news about the making of the song and indeed the video.

PYRAMID PARK

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Things change. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact sometimes change is necessary for us to move forward.

With a new season comes a great opportunity to start fresh. When I look back at some of the projects that I’ve done, I am so grateful for the journey I’ve had as Pete McAllen the artist. But I also realise that my sound has changed. In many ways, I as a musician have changed and, like shedding a skin, though painful, it’s necessary to grow into the artist I am becoming.

This change is very much about being strategic. I was advised by experts in the music world to make the transition from Pete McAllen to something broader than just my name. It’s a massive challenge to find something that’s unique and enables you to have a wider reach, longer term. There are a lot of male worship leaders out there, brilliant guys who are producing music that is not only good, but God-lead. It’s a densely populated market. I knew that if I was going to take the risk of going into music full time,  I was going to need to take things to the next level and rebranding is a big part of that. It takes forever to find a new name. This is not a quick decision or one that I jumped on without thought. I have spent hours and hours researching bands, hammering down what’s come before and what I could potentially create. And from that PYRAMID PARK was born.

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The logo is a pyramid. It’s representative of the fact that what we do on earth is connected to God and God lines out a spacious place for us to expand in our world. There’s the opportunity to rest, explore, play, fellowship. It’s in a sphere of God’s blessings. He’s brought us into this spacious place. The more connected we are the more space we have. Rarely does a park have harsh walls separating it from the rest of the space around it. Rather it’s boundaries are identified by markers, skilfully placed trees and the start and ends of roads. This image reminds me of my relationship with God. He manages to balance perfectly our freedom and the boundaries necessary for our growth, safety and security.  Our expanse only reaches as far as God desires it to, but there is so much to be created and explored within that.

From a personal perspective, the change allows me to distance myself from the music as an individual. I don’t have to wrestle between the two ‘identities’ of Pete McAllen the person and Pete McAllen the Artist. It makes space for other people to be involved in the project. At the very least, it brings clarity when I am playing with a band, in an unfamiliar setting. In the past I’ve been introduced as Pete McAllen and his band, Pete and the guys, The Pete McAllen Band. The new name brings clarity. Lack of clarity weakens the message and the power of the songs.

It’s not easy to make a change, especially for my long term fans. I realise that, appreciate that and I know this could come across as impersonal. But let me assure you, this is still me, my projects and my heart behind the music. I continue to be grateful for your support and I hope that my new sound, and my new name will help create that space for you to commune with God. Ultimately everything I do is for His glory.

Thank you again for coming along on this journey with me.

PS Please follow me on the new PYRAMID PARK Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

The Crowd, The Critic and The Muse – a Review

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I did some superficial research to see what other people had to say about this book before I read it and started writing. And I’ll be honest, I couldn’t find much on it outside of Amazon comments and Goodreads. Pete really encouraged me to read it, as did some other creatives in my life who I am privileged to call friends. I really didn’t know what I was in for.

Disclaimer: I didn’t read the book with my eyes. What I mean is, I listened to it on Audible, and so I will be throwing aspects of that into this review and be recommending that you listen to it rather than read it with much shameless bias because it was a FANTASTIC experience (there is intentional capitalisation there – I need you to understand how epic this was).

The Crowd, The Critic and the Muse, a book for creators – by Michael Gungor.

A Review

Earlier this month, Pete wrote about his encounter with the Gungors and some lessons he learnt from them. If you have not read it yet, check it out here and then come back to this.

This book, for all intents and purposes, is written directly to the heart of the creative. And in a similar vain to the The Artisan Soul, it presupposes that we are all creators. In fact Gungor says “Whether or not we create is not up to us. As humans, it’s in our nature. Every step, word and breath is an act of creation.” What we create, that is left up to us. We can choose to create good or evil, life or death, but we are always creating.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the different aspects named in the title.

Personally I felt that this book was not just a guide to building creativity more intentionally into your life – though it does a great job of that – it was also about helping us to understand that our artistry is a gift from God and completed in His Grace and that should inspire and motivate us to be the best versions of our artistic selves.

The Crowd.

I could literally quote a third of the book to you now. Honestly, as I write this, I don’t know where to begin. My perspective has been severely shifted by Gungor’s writing here. Just read this:

It is the crowd who gives the artist her language, her tools, her mode of expression. The crowd can teach the artist to speak more effectively with her work. Without culture, the artist has no language and no one to speak to. But the voice of the crowd will never lead the creator to step outside of the crowds expectations. The crowd will always demand the expected, the controllable. This is why the crowd should not be the primary voice that the creator listens to.

Gungor says that culture determines our context for creativity, and for life. It gives us the rules to live by and if we didn’t have them we wouldn’t function as society. Artists are, by nature, determined to bend those rules – to push the boundaries so that we can see what else is out there. The challenge here is to ask yourself, how much are you letting the voice of the crowd drown out your individual personality?

The Critic.

What is art anyway? This question is answered differently all over the world, in all generations, in all eras. It’s never really been measurable. It’s never been stagnant. It’s never been specific. It’s been real. It’s the external reflection of the soul of a person. ‘It is the ordering of the potential that already exists in creation.’ You CANNOT let the critic determine the significance of your art. You need to be strong. You need to be bold. Create anyway.

The Muse.

Gungor speaks about how society has looked for an appropriate name for the spirit of creativity. The ancient Greeks looked to the Muses, the Romans to the Genius. As Christians we look to God as our source of creativity – the ultimate creator. Gungor supposes that whatever your belief system, we all recognise there is an outside-of-ourselves-influence to our art. This is where we ask the ‘what drives us?’ question. What inspires you? We must remember that our context influences our creativity. Our inspiration often comes from our past, our belief system and more often than not, our reaction to these things. Gungor says that ‘creativity is a gift that arises from a deeper place than conscious thought’. What do you allow to influence you? What should not be on that list?

 

 

I fell in love with this book, not only because I felt like Gungor was speaking directly to my soul, but also because I felt like through the delicate weaving of his words, the author was challenging everything I base my creativity on. Not so that he could take away from it’s value, but to push me to be at a point where I would move from being a creative to being a creator. As he concludes his melodic prose, Gungor says that the artist needs to come to a place where ‘she moves beyond the philosophy and mysticalness of art and into the craft of it.’ I finished the final chapter with the desperate desire to pour my heart and soul onto the page. To throw all the words that are constantly circling my mind onto paper. I want to make everything rhyme, I want to capture everything I see in a poem or a story. I want to create. I want to create life.

This book is not for the faint hearted. It’s not a place where you will find solace and comfort if you are worn out or creatively weary. But if you are worn out or creatively weary, this IS the book you should read. This book does not allow you to sit where you are. It requires you to show up. To be the artist you were created to be, in whatever form you choose. It is going to open your eyes to who you are as an artist – as much as you will let it.

The question is… are you ready?

Take a breath.

Count to three.

Go.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/cka/Crowd-Critic-Muse-Book-Creators-Michael-Gungor/0988242907/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1499354616&sr=8-1&keywords=the+crowd+the+critic+and+the+muse 

Audible: http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Arts-Entertainment/The-Crowd-The-Critic-and-the-Muse-Audiobook/B00DC1MIBS/ref=a_search_c4_1_1_srTtl?qid=1499354572&sr=1-1 

The Soundtracks of a New Season

A few weeks ago I took the leap of faith to begin a journey as a full time artist (musician artist, to clarify, not the new Picasso).  I’ve been listening to a lot of songs.  Here are some that have been inspiring me.

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Seasons Change (feat. Michael Ketterer) by United Pursuit

Seasons Change has been a permanent fixture on my playlist for some time.  It’s a reminder that God is the seed planter, asking us to build with Him, trusting Him for the rain in transitions and change.  The writer puts it so well “Though the seasons change, Your love remains” a line that has given me hope, healing and then the courage to step forward into the unknown

 Here Now by Hillsong United

Hillsong London visited our church on Sunday night, and played Here Now live.  I was struck by the chorus again “Here now, still my heart, let Your voice be all I hear now.  Here now, fix my eyes on things that I can’t see now.  Spirit breathe like the wind come have Your way.” Over these months the cry of my heart has been inspired by one of Paul’s many prayers in the New Testament “to know God better”.  When everything else is uncertain, knowing the One who was, is and will always be, is the firmest of all foundations.

 Give Thanks To God by Allan McKinlay and Pete Crockett.  Rehashed by Housefires

We heard Allan play this at our worship team retreat earlier in the year (thanks Allan for coming all the way down from Glasgow), and since then several of the team have commented how the song impacted them.  I love how Housefires have taken this, stuck it on their latest album and added the tag “You’re always good, You’re always good to me.  What a great cover to an already strong song.

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King Of My Heart by Sarah McMillan

A bit of a theme continuing here, but in this song it’s the bridge that gets me every time.  You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down.”  Such a strong song, sung everywhere it seems, in the UK at the moment!  We’re regularly singing it at home as we go about every day life.  Some songs can say it so well in such few words, this is one.

New Day by Life Worship (NZ)

Nearly three years ago we were in New Zealand and met up with the worship pastor at Life Church, Auckland.  He kindly took us out for lunch and gave us their latest album (at the time).  This song has been playing in our car so often, and the more I hear it the more it inspires me to step forward in faith.  It’s helped me to pray in the early days of choosing this new path, something I personally really needed.  The chorus says “It’s a new day, faith is rising, faith is rising. It’s a new day, God is with us.  As we step out often with follows us, and indeed the knowing of God being with us.

Burn Bright by Tom Smith

Probably the most energetic track on the playlist, this anthem is uncompromising in statement and the perfect get up and get on with it song.  The music says as much as the lyrics, with it’s MuteMath instrumentation. Every time I listen to this, I wake up a bit, especially good to listen to before playing live.

Every Cell by Brock Human

The music, the space, the simplicity.  Every cell in me must respond, to the rhythm of Your heart” pretty much says it all. The song even inspired a tiny part of one of my new album tracks (yet to be released) as we worshipped with it while recording. 

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Mention Of Your Name by Jenn Johnson

Stunning production, and a perfect intro song to Brian and Jenn Johnson’s latest alum “After All These Years”.  The strings carry a sense of majesty working in sync with the vocoder style vocals (reminding me of Imogen Heap).  For me, this is one of Jenn Johnson’s finest vocal takes on an album.

Glorious by Samuel Lane

Musically this song stirs my soul, sounding like it was originally born out of a  spontaneous moment.  Sam Lane’s voice is excellent, but it’s the passion that provokes my heart.  I love the build and guitars.  Without doubt a must for those who love worship being a little more, let’s say roar!

All I Am by Pete McAllen

Slightly weird adding one of my own songs to the list, but it’s true I’ve been listening to it, singing it in the shower.  This song was written as a prayer of surrender, mixed with a longing for more.  “I have tasted and seen all Your goodness to me, yet there’s so much more, that my heart longs for” sums it up. The journey has been rich, but in God there is always more.

Bonus Track – Devotion by Worship Central

We’ve been playing this one in church, and I just love it. Take a listen.

Spotify “Leap Of Faith Playlist”: http://spoti.fi/2u1HPOP 

You’d think that with a theme like “Leap of faith” I’d have more rousing songs, but instead it’s been the spacious reflective tracks that have spoken to me the most.  Here’s to the new season!

 

The Summer of Gigging

19059108_10213412911936205_5099458339399265710_nAs an independent artist, you need to get creative in order for people to hear your music. Yes there is Spotify and YouTube, and there are festivals and larger gigs. But my heart for this new album is to help people engage in their own personal worship with God and so, House-gigging has become a part of my album journey. I did this with great success with my last album, and will probably do it for future albums too. Over the last two weeks I’ve spent the weekends playing in the lounges, a garden and a shop of friends and fans. The Summer of Gigging has officially begun.

Playing in front of hundreds is a lot easier than a handful of people in a lounge. You learn a lot about the people you are playing for when it’s up close and personal. The anonymity and distance of the stage doesn’t exist. You experience a real vulnerability (hmmm… sounds like a good name for an album…).  So as I packed up the car and drove the short journey to St Ives I felt nervous.  It’s rare that I’m not nervous before playing, but this particular time I had crammed nine songs from my new album into the set list, and was certain a mistake or two would be made.  

In a generation where Netflix is king, I really value people coming out to listen to live music, particularly an artist they had never heard of before. It’s comforting to know that even though instant gratification is fashionable, good old fashioned listening and appreciating music as it gets made, will never really go out of style.

I suppose what I love the most about house-gigging is how each experience is unique. That’s the benefit of entering someone else’s space – you never quite know what it will be like and it’s guaranteed to be different to the last one. So here’s a little expose of the last few weeks.

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Jodies House (St Ives)

Intimacy. The evening sun streamed gently through the windows of the conservatory. The twelve of us made ourselves comfortable on an array of couches, mattresses and cushions. You could hear the creak of each chord change, the breath in my voice and see my facial expressions for any bum notes.  They listened to my stories with interest and by the end, I could see that the songs had made a difference.  Music has incredible power, and this night showed how it can unite a diverse group of people. 

Paul & Jan’s House (Gorleston)

Home.  Returning to Paul and Jan’s house made us feel particularly relaxed, and, well, at home.  We knew around half of the people who had joined us for the first house gig hosted here some sixteen months earlier.  People wore slippers, chilled in the deep sofa’s – you get the idea – the sense of community was fantastic!  This was certainly a bunch of friends enjoying time together listening to music.  Personally I loved the night because our sixth month old daughter, Lilja joined in for the first few songs before bed time.  What’s not to love about that as a new dad?!

Ruth’s House (Milton Keynes)

Banter.  Gardens certainly have a different vibe to lounges, and this garden was full of fun and laughter.  After the amazing BBQ, I settled in my little gazebo and began playing songs.  Little did I know that two of the kids there crept up behind me and started miming as if playing in the band (or mocking me – I couldn’t work it out).  What followed was several moments of banter between me, the kids and the rest of the people there.  With big crowds you simply can’t hear the banter back and forth, but it was a pleasure to get to know new friends in MK.  Plus, I played a completely unplugged version of a new song “Father, Father” right in the middle of where people were sitting. Talk about intimate.

SOAR (Luton)

Voices.  So, technically this wasn’t a house, but it is my first time playing in a shop.  SOAR is a charity shop, making a difference with the most vulnerable in the centre of Luton.  After only a couple of songs I could hear these fine people singing along to the chorus’ without having to tell them how they went.  Pretty awesome for any musician.  So I decided to teach a new song, and we just went off on one, singing beyond the song and encountering God’s presence.  When people are up for it, it’s more than ok to scrap the planned set list.  With people watching on from the road, and stepping into the shop, this was by far the most diverse of the nights.  

I look forward to what the rest of the Summer has in store for me as I travel with my music. It’s a real privilege to be used by God to bring worship into people’s home. I love the intimacy, the banter, the sense of home and family, and love, love, love it when we can sing together.  Thanks each and every one of you for having me.

Want me to play at your house?  Send me an email, I’ll get it direct and promise to respond: info@petemcallen.com

Pete