THE ALBUM LAUNCH – revisited

We cannot believe that it’s been over a month since Pyramid Park launched Vulnerability. And what an evening it was. We want to relive it as much as possible so I’ve broken down the evening into the various aspects that made it the spectacular experience that it was. I thought it would be good to get some audience perspective to. Thanks to those who contributed their insights!

Don’t forget that you can still order or download the album if you haven’t already. Get a sneak peak on Spotify HERE.

Where was I? Oh yes… the Launch.

THE ATMOSPHERE:

Honestly, the first thing you noticed when entering the auditorium was the giant Pyramid. Lit up in all it’s glory, the creative merch stand was brilliant imagery.

The massive pyramid was an amazing and unique idea.

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The lighting created a great atmosphere as well. There was a brilliant balance between the concept of a casual gig and a significant event for the band. It was clear from the engagement of the audience that they were there to whole heartedly support Pyramid Park as they set off on their new adventure with this album.

We also can’t forget to mention the fan-made-stop-motion-music-video-photo-boot. This was an ingenious idea to get the crowd engaged with the album on a whole other level.

 

THE SUPPORTING ACTS:

Pyramid Park could not have chosen two better acts to get the crowd going.

Judah, a local artist who did a fantastic mix of original music and covers, set the tone with his smooth, deep voice and brilliant stage presence. Check out his music HERE.

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Tom McConnell, a London based musician brought an eclectic style of music and performance. From classic Disney to intimate worship, the audience was taken on a journey and ultimately hyped up for the main event. Tom’s music is available on Spotify and is well worth a listen.

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THE ALBUM:

I thought it best to get the audience’s perspective on the band and their performance. My personal favourite was the encore when the band performed The Voice. I was not alone on this opinion.

From the atmosphere to the decor, the night was amazing. The sound and lighting set the mood perfectly and were a winning combination, particularly with epic sounds like that of The Voice which blew the audience away in the encore

All in all, the band did a fantastic job of taking the audience through the journey of the album. It was great to hear some of Pete McAllen’s songs like Enemies from his album I hear your voice (also available on Spotify). 21586783_2013585995554251_2655946229348986476_o

Thinking back, you realise that the a launch is literally a starting point for something. It’s the opportunity for a band to engage with its fans and introduce them to the music the way the band wants them to feel and know it. Pyramid Park did this in an incredible way that night. When I listen to the album I don’t just hear the recorded version that’s available to me. I remember seeing the bands excitement and passion as they played, I hear the heart and soul of the vocalists and the joy with which they sang. I remember the    shared laughs as little hiccups were overcome and that the band left everything they had on the stage for us.

And now the album is out there for the world to hear and the next part of the journey begins. We would be nowhere without the fans and we are always grateful for your time and attention. Thanks for staying the course with us.

 

Let the adventure continue.

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Chapter 3: Lead Me

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Today we begin the third instalment of our blog series titled Chapters, where we give you an up close and personal experience of the songwriters journey.  Vulnerability, the new Pyramid Park album has been out for just over two weeks, and the response has been incredible.  As an artist you always hope that the songs will resonate as much as they do with you, and already stories and comments are returning that highly encourage me (some highlights have been having the album top the iTunes UK Christian & Gospel chart, and being made album of the week on a radio show in Switzerland).  One of the songs that seems to be connecting a lot is track number three Lead Me.  It’s the shortest song on the album, and perhaps the simplest.
I can’t remember when it was formally written, but I do remember when it was finished.  For a few months the song had felt complete.  We had the verses, we had the chorus.  It was a prayer written to music.
As a writer I love the word “stunned” and many years ago had included it in a simple worship song called “Draw nearer.”  Those who knew me from the small church planting days in Hertfordshire will perhaps remember it.   The line I loved the most stated “I am stunned by your grace…”  Grace, mercy, undeserved love, are true stunners.  As I get older and can easily recall mistakes, errors and down right stupidity on my part, the truth that God in Heaven reaches out with a hand of love to build relationship long term with me is truly amazing.
All of this was written to a backing track which I’d built up on a Logic session (music software).  The synth driven song had an empty feel, giving the song enough room to breathe.  I rarely write like this because generally I find production becomes a distraction – firstly my inability to be able to work quickly (I’m a novice producer) and secondly the distraction of making it perfect.  However, for some reason, the desire to over produce didn’t distract, and perhaps kept the whole song simple and to-the-point.
Months later in the studio, we tried to work out the direction for the song.  It wasn’t meant to be as strong as track three, but had a beautiful simplicity that made it a clear contender for one of the top places in the running order.  We made several decisions, firstly to try not to be predictable with drums.  It’s easy to give a lift in a song with a mellow start by introducing drums in the chorus or verse two.  We didn’t want that.  It had to feel slightly dark and mysterious.  So if you listen hard, you can only hear a kick drum and programmed electronic beats.  The second decision was to eliminate unnecessary guitars.  There are two simple guitar parts on the whole song, almost mirroring each other.  The added rhythmic texture comes from a third quiet guitar part in the later chorus’ and tags, playing next to nothing.
As I wrote the lyrics, the theme was always for God to lead me closer and closer to Him.  As we stand in awe and look at Him, our revelations fuels more worship.  My prayer was for Him to be my guide and His words to be my journey and destination.  I pictured the vast expanse above us, the wonders and beauty of creation and particularly the stars when I stayed in rural Rwanda by a lake in the middle of no-where.  We were living in grass huts for a week, and the stars at night were so close and multiplied beyond belief within touching distance.   I considered the picture of Heaven read in Revelation, where the crowds threw down their crowns in honour of King Jesus.
And then came the tag.  I was playing the song to my friend Feranmi after a long day of writing.  He liked it, and we quickly got into finishing it off.  We played it over and over, and within minutes had a tag…complete!  Rarely is a songwriting session so easy, but I guess we’d been working, wrestling and perfecting other songs all day, and sometimes a little gem of a moment happens.
I guess this song has a dream like feel, slightly repetitive, much like prayer-fullness, when we can journey from listening to whispering, to speaking to thinking, reflecting, reading, wondering.
“Lead me Lord to You.  Hide Your word in my heart.  Take me deeper so that I can see You in new ways each day.  Amen”
Interested in more of Pete’s music? Check out his album on Spotify

Chapter 2: Born To Be Brave

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Last month we began a new series of blogs titled Chapters.  With each chapter I want to share with you some insights into the writing and the revelation of the song, giving you the close up and personal viewpoint of my creative process.  As you begin to listen to the songs I hope these blogs help give you an added flavour of the process.

Today, September 1st, marks the release of Born To Be Brave, the second single from Vulnerability.  Born To Be Brave was one of the earlier tracks to be written on the album, but in reality, it was a track that was never meant to be.  Somehow it’s gone from rank outsider to being the unexpected second song on the album. 

The month was February 2016, and we were gearing up for one of the biggest events of the year.  In March, our church C3 puts on an annual conference for ladies, titled Breathe.  At the time I was the worship pastor and part of my role for the event was to create a musical soundscape that fitted the theme Brave

Angie Campbell, who leads Breathe had asked me to write a song that would fit the theme.  We discussed a fantastic book by Brene Brown titled Daring Greatly and how so often for us to be brave is to be vulnerable.  Little did I know how much this book would end up shaping the next year of my life.  Immediately I had a song that I’d been working on at home, it fitted some of the conference narrative and had a working title that embraced the theme Brave.  However, in Angie’s view it didn’t quite fit, and she graciously encouraged me to write another. 

I hate writing under pressure!  Knowing I have time to make tweaks or completely overhaul a song, helps me know that a track will be the best it could possible be.  With all my hope held on this other song, and a stack of other creative work to complete I had no idea how to write a piece that embodied this new, more, positive approach to vulnerability. 

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I’m not exactly sure how it came about, but I began on the guitar with an old chord shape arrangement, which I’d used in another song.  It seems to fit and triggered a portion of the melody.  Honestly, I didn’t think the song was up to much, but having listened to several other artists I noticed the value in repetition over the course of three minutes thirty.  Deliberately, I decided that this song could use repetition if done in the right way.  I also tried to play to my strengths as a writer, knowing my time was limited.  This meant writing a strong pre-chorus.  For some reason I prefer writing a lift into the chorus than the chorus itself.  This is the section which goes “No more hiding, no more running away, I will walk it out, I’ll walk it out.” 

The essence of the song is to encourage us all to step out and be a bit braver.  For whatever reason, each of us has the option to shrink back and dare not to risk living the potential wide-open-space life that God calls us to.  Disappointment stops bravery.  Hurt stops bravery.  Insecurity stops bravery… and I could list one hundred other limitations. 

Whenever I share this song at gigs and encourage people to take a braver step in life, it amazes me how many respond.  Recently a deputy head teacher wanted to play the song in his school over the tannoy system to remind his students to be brave. 

Personally for me this has become a bit of a prophecy.  As the writer I’ve probably sung Born To Be Brave over myself more than anyone else.  I too face many moments of fear and am tempted to shrink back.  I’m reminded of a verse in the Bible which says “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved”  (Hebrews 10:39).

As I have taken the leap into what continues to be a vulnerable place, quitting my job and building a career as an artist and musician, singing this song over my soul brings a new zest for life.  I believe that all the greats of the past had to take big leaps of faith and not do what was ordinary or expected of them.  Being brave is the way I want to go. 

You can now listen to Born To Be Brave on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2U8TU2eRAfNgkefAOHXaqO

Pete

Change is Weird

Change is weird. There are no two ways about it. Big or small, a change in one area of your life has a domino effect on the rest of it.

I moved rooms this last week. I’ve gone from the small room in the house, to the big one. I didn’t know until I left it, that the small room was actually made out of the same material as Mary Poppins’ bag. It became apparent when what had filled the small room, also managed to fill the big room.

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I went into that weekend thinking it was going to be no big deal. I was moving about 4 meters to the left. What sort of real change could that bring?

Lots as it turns out.

You see me moving into that room means someone has moved out of it. It’s the most bittersweet thing for me. My best friend is moving into a new season of her life. It’s wonderful to watch (well right now it’s funny to watch because she’s set up a tent in our back garden for a little while until her new place is ready – she’s basically a wood nymph though, so this is not unexpected or surprising) but it’s also sad because we have only been able to live together for a year. We knew from the first cup of tea that we shared, that our friendship would be something special and last a life time, but being in her room, and trying to make it mine now – well it’s weird.

I also got some new things for this room – because it was bigger. One of those things was a clock. It was put on the market place page that we have for our church. It’s got a really nice cream edging and the hands are a deep red. It’s really cool. It’s loud though. I got so excited about the concept of owning a clock (I think I thought it would make me more grown up) that I forgot how loudly I HEAR clocks. I hear all of them. Incessantly. When I released how loud this clock was I thought it was going to be a problem very quickly. It turns out though that there’s something about it’s consistency that is actually very soothing. Also, I’m more aware of the time now. Which is important for someone like me who is perpetually late if I’m not careful.

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I thought that since I was moving rooms, I would also use this as a season to grow in my tidiness factor. I was not born with a whole lot of that naturally and I decided that this room would THE room. The room that I got tidy in. I sent a photo to a friend of mine in Australia of my new room. I had spent hours sorting it, getting everything in it’s place. I was so pleased. I sent him this:

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And he responded with this:

… I like it. What I did notice was the bottom left of the bookshelf, it’s almost like there’s the old Sarah that I know. You’ve put everything else in it’s place perfectly all around the room, and then the bottom shelf is like “ah man, I forgot I had to find a place for this stuff. This is the perfect place for it” and then you put it all there!

I looked at the picture again and I laughed. Because he’s right. I love to organise, but I’m not always good at organising myself. And there is always going to be a part of me that is not 100% tidy. And I can spend my life trying to change that and feeling inadequate, or I can realise that that is a part of me and it’s OK.

I’m not saying that I get to spend my life in a mess all the time or I should make no effort to be organised, because that would not be stewarding well the things that God has given me. But God has gifted me in areas of hospitality and creativity and leadership and other things that I haven’t even discovered yet, and I can spend my time trying to change the things that are weak about me and probably fail, or I can grow in my strengths and manage my weaknesses to the best of my ability and seek God’s joy in all that that brings.

So, change IS weird. It’s where we discover the most about ourselves. It’s where we realise what matters to us and what doesn’t. It’s where we learn what we are good at and what we aren’t. Change helps you change. And that can be a good thing.

 

SH

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 high 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.