Sound Out: Jeff Pearce - September 2017


Jeff Pearce - The Gatherings 2014

The process of meeting Jeff Pearce began years ago when I had the opportunity to listen to his CD called Vestiges. Finding his work to be of the first order, I was even more impressed when I discovered that this musician was fully capable of playing his music live before an audience.

Soon thereafter Pearce was traveling to Philadelphia for performances at The Gatherings Concert Series and STAR'S END Ambient Radio - where he delivered impressive sets of guitar-based atmospheric spacemusic. Within the reverberant setting of the St Mary's Hamilton Village church sanctuary, Pearce's expanding chords and otherworldly rumbles transported the audience to a reverential quiet space - while late into the night, his extended set for STAR'S END filled the soundspace with a wondrous cosmic yearning.

This Fall, Jeff Pearce is heading back my way, to again headline at The Gatherings on Saturday 7 October 2017, and afterwards live on STAR'S END. He'll have a new album with him, and lots of great stories and music. I hope you will take time to read the interview I did with Jeff Pearce, on the occasion of his sixth appearance at The Gatherings Concert Series - in hopes of gaining more insight into this top talent of our innovative music community.

Thanks! -Chuck van Zyl


Rural America

STAR'S END: What is it like where you live?

Jeff Pearce: It is very "rural"- and this time of the year [September] is harvest time, so the landscape is becoming "empty looking" again.


Electric Guitar

STAR'S END: Where does the guitar fit into your life?

Jeff Pearce: It's a daily part of my life, and it's something I don't view as "work" or a chore. It's an exploratory tool, in many ways - and most of the time, very "private". My wife and children will on occasion hear what I'm doing, but most of the time, it's just private exploration.


Guitar Pedals

STAR'S END: You play/use a guitar in an unconventional way. Please help readers understand how you use the guitar to make music... please relate the basic technical aspects, but also any unique insights, feelings or emotions related to your instrument which you may have experienced throughout your career.

Jeff Pearce: I plug my guitar into all kinds of effects boxes, and they certainly help greatly achieve the sound I'm hearing in my head. But over time, I've realized that it's not necessarily what the guitar is plugged in to, but what is generating the note. And I use things like knives and paintbrushes to generate a different texture from the guitar before the sound even hits the effects boxes.


Jeff Pearce STAR'S END: You've performed for The Gatherings Concert Series and STAR'S END Ambient Radio several times. Have you any lasting memories of Philadelphia?

Jeff Pearce: I have MANY lasting memories of Philly! Mostly "night" memories - hanging out at WXPN for Star's End (at both the "old" and new location), having late night pizza at the station after playing a Star's End set - talking music with people who attended The Gatherings - there's a lot of good memories.


STAR'S END: During concerts over the years you've spoken to audiences about your daughters. Can you please give readers some insight into how they have regarded your work in music through the course of their lives?

Jeff Pearce: My daughters know that my music is something I do, something that's important to me, but I feel safe in saying that they know they are infinitely more important to me. VERY few conversations between us involve my music, and that's just the way I prefer it; my "role" in their lives involves VERY little of my music. THEY, on the other hand, inspire music from ME. But I'm not going to demand that my music has a role in their lives; they are their own people, and my role in their life involves helping them find out more and more about who they are, and what they want to be.


Jeff Pearce - The Gatherings 2014

STAR'S END: You perform your concerts completely live, no backing tracks whatsoever. In a sense, you are hearing the music while in the act of making it, which means the audience is hearing it at the same time you are. Please try to explain your experience of live music - of playing it, but also of your response to it. Have you ever been surprised by where you have gone musically during a show? or succumbed emotionally to something you played?

Jeff Pearce: I'm aways surprised with where pieces of my music go - and that's a good thing. The moments I most remember, when playing live, are when an older, or well-rehearsed, piece of music "gives" me something new - that I experience something in it that either wasn't there before, or that I didn't realize was there in the first place. I can allow myself to get "lost" with improvisation pieces, and I am at the point where I can completely give myself over to that experience. But finding something "new" in an older piece of music? That very rarely happens except for when I play live.


Talking Machines

STAR'S END: Do you know anything about the audience for your music?

Jeff Pearce: In general, I know that they are "deep listeners"; they're not just putting some music on and then typing emails; they are devoting attention to what they're listening to - my music, as well as the music of every musician they listen to. This inspires me greatly - but also reminds me that I absolutely have to "bring my best" every time I put some music on a compact disc.


STAR'S END: Have you ever had to describe your music to someone who has had no previous contact with contemporary or innovative instrumental music? If so, then how did you do it?

Jeff Pearce: I usually tell them that I play very slow, quiet instrumental music - and that a lot of it is meditative. That covers the main things.


Stephen Parsick

STAR'S END: Please name and explain five guitarists which have impressed or influenced you.

Jeff Pearce: All for different reasons: David Gilmour, Michael Brook, Jeff Beck, Michael Hedges, and The Edge (from U2). The commonality they share is that they are immediately identifiable; I can recognize any of those guitar players when I hear them. Of course, there are so many more great guitar players, of course. But I was told to name five. :)


From the Darker Seasons STAR'S END: Your new album is called From the Darker Seasons (2017). This title reminds me of an earlier album In the Season of Fading Light (2012), your EPs Winter Calm (2015) and Solitude: December (2014), and even a few individual song names. Am I right in my observation that you've been investigating this theme for a while now? If so, what has brought you to it? Is the season of Winter a metaphor? Are your musical aesthetics somehow aligned with the Autumnal? Or have you, upon completing these works, just found that it evokes a feeling distinctly cooler?

Jeff Pearce: My creative process seems to really explode in the autumn and winter seasons. What I love most about nature in the midwest, I see in the autumn and winter. I know that many musicians - and writers, too - see winter as a metaphor, a state of being that await the coming of spring. I don't tend to think that way - I see winter as its own beautiful season.


-Chuck van Zyl/STAR'S END Interview with Jeff Pearce - September 2017

Please find more about Jeff Pearce at The Gatherings Concert Series on Saturday 7 October 2017 from the website: