...One of the more vital and critically acclaimed folk stars of recent years."
"...all Pettis has to offer is his earnest best, a tender heart, packaged in one three-and-a-half minute song after another."
-Jason Killingsworth, Paste Magazine
“Pierce Pettis doesn’t write mere songs, he writes literature...End to end the songwriting is brilliant...Pierce Pettis albums are events in my listening. His writing just gets better all the time and his singing is marvelous, wry and warm..."
After a lifetime of crafting finely-wrought, heart-touching songs, singer-songwriter Pierce Pettis feels that he’s finally found his comfort zone. “The biggest change,” he says of this point in his career “has been getting over myself and realizing this is a job and a craft. And the purpose is not fame and fortune (whatever that is) but simply doing good work.”
“From the time I was very little, I always had the music going in my head,” Pettis explains. “Like my own personal soundtrack or something. I also come from a fairly musical family: my mother went to music school and was an excellent organist and pianist. And my sisters all played piano and other instruments. In school, I met other kids who wanted to be rock stars, just like me. From the time we were around 10 or so up through high school, we put together various bands -- all of them horrible.”
His “horrible” bands didn’t deter him though and even though he had a nagging feeling (“I thought I was supposed to be a doctor or something.”) he persevered, not only playing music but writing songs in a mix of rock, folk, country and R&B genres that landed him an unpaid position as a staff writer for Muscle Shoals Sounds Studios. While there, his track “Song at the End of the Movie” found its way to Joan Baez’s 1979 album Honest Lullaby.
Pettis hit the road and became a member of the “Fast Folk” movement in New York in the mid-1980’s. He released one independent solo album, Moments (1984) before signing with High Street Records, a division of Windham Hill. There, he released three albums: While the Serpent Lies Sleeping (1989), Tinseltown (1991), and Chase the Buffalo (1993). His relationship with Tinseltown producer Mark Heard transcended the album. After Heard’s untimely death in 1992, Pettis committed to including a song of Heard’s on every one of his own albums, a practice that continues to this day.
Pettis was a staff songwriter for PolyGram from 1993-2000 and when his High Street contract ended, Pettis signed to Compass Records where he has released Making Light of It (1996), Everything Matters (1998), State of Grace (2001), and Great Big World (2004). Pierce Pettis’ songs have been recorded by artists including Susan Ashton, Dar Williams, Garth Brooks and Art Garfunkel.
Excerpts from an interview with Pierce Pettis
published in World Magazine
I guess if I had to look for recurring themes, it would be the same old alienation and grace. It's not anything conscious on my part, but I always seem to come back to that. As I look at them, many of these lyrics seem quite hopeful and positive-but in the midst of the strangeness of it all.
.........As to my personal beliefs, I'm a Christian and a Catholic and there's no doubt that has impact on the way I think about everything. If you believe in the sacred, then the secular world doesn't exist. But as to my intentions, my intention has always been just to write a good song.
I think an audience appreciates it if you're being honest with them and will allow you to sing on just about any subject you want-so long as you don't violate that trust with pontification or preaching.
......I guess my spirituality just wants me to tell the truth. And maybe with a little compassion and humor. It's not so much a spiritual thing-just a desire to be true to my work, true to my audience, and true to myself. I want to write songs that listeners can see themselves in instead of just seeing me.
........My goal is to remind the audience and myself of things we already know rather than try to tell them anything. There's a saying where I'm from, "I don't know nothing . . . but I suspect a lot."