PJ Bond describes himself as 'I write songs and sing them. I move my body around the world. I love people and pizza'. After completing a UK tour over the last few weeks eGigs caught up with him to catch the low down on this cool cat.
Explain to the readers a bit about yourself and your genre??!!
My name is PJ Bond, and I am a songwriter from the US. Over the last 5 years or so I have played just shy of 1,000 shows in over 19 countries, and 40 of the United States. During that time I released 2 full lengths, 2 EPs, 2 7"s, and a handful of compilation tracks. My music has been described as Indie, Americana, Alt-Country, Rock n Roll, and a variety of other less applicable terms. I like to believe I fall somewhere in the middle of it all.
What's the DIY Indie scene, its a new one on me?
The DIY concept in music is the same as anywhere else - Do It Yourself - though perhaps with a greater lean on community, rather than individuality. With that, the idea has been to take as much control of your music as possible, sometimes for desire to keep true to a vision, other times out of necessity. In varying degrees, bands and artists in the DIY world will record their own albums, do their own artwork, get their own records pressed, book their own tours. However, the DIY umbrella is quite large, and these days seems to mean different things to different people. In the end, I do what I need to, in order to make sure records and tours happen, but I am at a point where I happily welcome help from labels, booking agents, PR companies. Everyone has to figure out what works best for them.
After investigation it looks like you've had quite a bit of material out since 2009, five albums, how come I've only just heard about you?
That's a great question! As I said before, it's only 2 full length albums and a handful of other releases. But I think the obvious answer is that now that Xtra Mile are in my corner, more great things are happening. With most acts there is a lot of work that happens behind the scenes before the greater audience finds them. It's tough out there. I've been pushing the boulder up the hill for a while, and now I have some solid help, and we are moving with greater speed and efficiency. Still, it's only the beginning. Hopefully more good folks like you will help spread the word.
Who would you say your influences were and why?
This has changed a lot over the years, but one constant has been my younger brother, Brian. He is my favorite songwriter I know, and he and his band, Communipaw, have influenced and been part of so much of what I have done. In recent years I've also been listening to more of the obvious great songwriters - Neil Young, Tom Waits, Dylan, Springsteen - all the ones you'd expect. But I've also dug into the Grateful Dead, some old soul and groove jazz records, and I am constantly spinning albums from country legends like Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams. These all have a uniting tie of feeling authentic, real, honest. Of course not every story actually happened, but that doesn't make it fake. And I love the sound of real instruments - actual drums, imperfections, the sound of musicians playing off each other and feeling the song, rather than rigid perfection.
What is your song writing method, is it lyrics first or tune first?
My songwriting changes, depending on where I am, both physically and mentally. When I am at home I will often just play for fun and if something catches my ear, I'll try to work it and follow it to the end. At those times it starts with a chord progression and a melody. In these cases, the lyrics do not come until way later. Other times, if I am on the road, I may write a lot of lyric ideas in a book, as it's easier to sit with a pen and paper than to find a quiet place to play guitar and sing. So then I will take these lyric ideas and try to apply them to a melody. A third version is if I'm just walking around, I may come up with a melody, and then try to fit a lyric to it. Then I'll do my best to get to a guitar and figure out what the chords are that fit the melody, and try to fill in the rest of the lyrics. So it really depends. In the end I just hope I get a good tune out of it, and if I do, I don't care how it happened.
It seems you split your time between NYC and Asheville, why's this? Do you get different influences from both places?
I didn't have a place of my own for about 5 years, and so when I was off the road I would spend time with with my family and great friends. In Brooklyn I was able to see my best friend and stay with him, take care of his dog, Loki, and visit lots of my friends who are up north. Other times I would go to Asheville and enjoy the peace of the mountains, and hang out with my older brother, Chris, and his lovely family. Between the two I get to satisfy my love of two extremes. And they do both really inspire me in different ways. I'd started to appreciate and like country music more around when I started spending time in Asheville, and down there I got to live a little closer to the feeling. But I was also introduced to some other really great music, and am constantly excited about new ideas when I am there. Brooklyn provides more of the metropolitan, uptown vibe. When I'm there I feel my faster pace, dig into a more modern, hard nose approach. I think my life and music benefit from having both. And these days I am staying in Philadelphia, which somehow combines a little bit of the two. It's very much a northern city, but more laid back than NYC, and provides a lot of opportunity that I might miss up there.
What inspires you to write?
I am inspired to write by the desire to make sense of things, and to try and recreate or capture emotions. With that, inspiration can come from so much more than music - the way you feel when you're sitting next to someone you wish you had the guts to talk to, how you feel when you see your grandmother's ring that she left you, the feeling of a cold beer on a hot day. I unfortunately do not know enough about art, film, books, but I still find beauty in all of these things and am always driven by them to look deeper. In the end, I want to feel something when I make and listen to music, and hope the same for everyone else. So I need to work to make that happen.
If you weren't a songwriter what d'you think you'd be?
This is a great and hard question. When I was younger I thought I would be a teacher. But I think I may have lost the passion for it, or at least have been deflated by the oppressive administrative part of it. Sometimes I think I'd love to own a cafe/bar, a place where I could host people and treat them well, a place they could come to, to feel good, not to escape their problems, but to be reminded that these pockets of comfort still exist. I'm not sure it'd be so easy in the US, but I have been to versions in Greece, Germany, the UK. That could be a nice way to pass the days.
What have been your favourite artists you've supported?
Austin Lucas has been really good to me, and is such a strong performer and songwriter. He's a great talent. Chuck Ragan is extremely kind and gracious. Maria Taylor was beyond sweet and welcoming, the tour I did with her really felt like a family. Cory Branan is always great. As far as people who have supported me, James Choice & The Bad Decisions, The Lion & The Wolf, Marko Casso, are all wonderful, and should be checked out. Also, last night I played with a band called The Shakes, from the UK, and they should not be missed.
Do you have a favourite place to play live?
Bielefeld, Germany, and Graz, Austria are two of the cities that have been consistently amazing to me. I have so much love for the people in both of these beautiful places. I also always have a wonderful time at Ramones Museum in Berlin.
What are the good and bad things about life on the road?
This could fill a book, and probably already has and will again. So, I'll give you the quick version:
You're always leaving people, places, and things you love to go out and find new people, places, and things to learn to love
If you could sell your latest album in three words what would they be?
Folk with Teeth
Why should people come and see you play live?
My performances have been described as life affirming, deeply honest, thought provoking, driving, intense. None of these descriptions are mine. But if any of these interest you, and you want to see someone approaching life with open eyes and heart, and trying to make honest music about real things, and have fun the whole time doing it, why don't you come on down to a show?
What do you hope to achieve in the next year?
I hope to be a household name.