Birmingham, Alabama native Rayvon Pettis burst onto the indie/folk music scene last October, seemingly out of nowhere, with the release of his warm and engaging, self-titled EP. However, his emergence onto the music scene was neither an overnight event nor does it come from nowhere.
Pierce Rayvon Pettis IV, originally from Ft. Payne Alabama but currently living in Birmingham, is the son of iconic "Americana" folk singer/songwriter Pierce Pettis and the brother of the talented singer/songwriter Grace Pettis. Rayvon Pettis hails from an impressive musical legacy that, going into its second generation, shows no signs of slowing down. The Pettis name is renowned world-wide for songs of astounding beauty, depth and truth. Pettis songs never fail to deliver a poignant and bittersweet quality that seems to mark the best work of Southern USA-based artists, and this excellent, eponymous EP is no exception.
Surprisingly, the road that Rayvon Pettis took was not what one would expect from his musical roots. Says Pettis: "Growing up, I was well aware of my father's music. However, not once in all these years have we ever sat down and even discussed music, much less played together. My music came about because I got back from a 2010-2011 tour in Afghanistan with the 'bama Army national guard, where I was in transportation: running convoys all over the country.
When I got back, I was kind of restless and crazy, and so I learned guitar, since my mother had gotten me one. I was living in a two room apartment in the south side of Birmingham, where I started making songs and messing around more with guitar and mandolin.
In 2011-2012, I sought out an old friend of mine from Auburn, named Jon Mosman. He was tired and crazy too, and we started meeting up in his basement in Douglasville, GA...when he wasn't making barbeque. We'd smoke and drink all night, and talk about music stuff. We were both into a bunch of eclectic country people, and we both thought there was something in country that lots of people pass over for regional or political reasons. We figured there wasn't any good reasons we couldn't learn to make country songs, so we learned how to write songs and started the country band Liddy Rose, in which we had a little success in Alabama.
Anyway, after Liddy Rose, I was briefly in a band called Red Mountain, before quitting. Now I play my own songs under my own name, and the band is just me and my friend Jerrod Atkins who plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica."
When asked how he and Atkins met and came to join forces musically, Pettis explained: "Jerrod and I met when he was busking on the street in Five Points in South Birmingham. I thought is was so cool how good he was and the fact that he was playing in an OLD blues style with a resonator. I was new to the city, and I asked if he played anywhere; he said he did.
Later that night, I saw him and the infamous Nick Bate playing in a band at the time called the Meadow Milk Drops-which was kind of a proto band to what is now Steel City Jug Slammers- and that's how the friendship began. I started going out to his house in Trusville and jamming all the time, and we ended up playing together without any formal agreement or anything.
That's how live music is sometimes: you just follow the people you're most comfortable playing with, and one day you're just like 'whoa we're a band' lol. Jerrod's been in probably over fifty bands in the Birmingham area; everything from folk to metal. He's an extremely talented multi- instrumentalist badass! If you get some time, check out his other band: Steel City Jug Slammers."
Perhaps the most surprising discovery, when I interviewed Pettis in his cozy Birmingham apartment, was just how close his EP came to not even getting recorded at all. Said Pettis: "In Sept. 2012, I had booked us a day with producer Jon Knowles at Workplay Studios in Birmingham. Jon had heard me play "Nashville Thing"-at like 2 in the morning-in Gabel's Saloon in West Birmingham. He liked my songs, and talked me into the EP.
Before we even got there, Jon Mosman fell in love with a woman in North Carolina and immediately quit and moved up there. I had the time booked anyway, and I hated the thought of being a "no-show" and disappointing Jon Knowles, who had so much faith in my songs. I figured 'What the hell!' and got some friends of mine-including Ryan Flynt, Clint "Uncle CC" Hogland and Dylan Braziel-all from around the Birmingham music scene, as session artists.
We only had the studio 'scammed' for one day, so we ended up putting in a 17 hour day, finishing everything but the cello on "Fiery Angel" which Lori Cheng added later, because she was friends with Jon. So that was the EP which I just called 'Rayvon Pettis EP' because, although I hate self promotion, I was equally sick of band names, lol."
Of the four songs featured on Pettis' new EP, the sublime "Fiery Angel" is particularly noteworthy; not just for its lyrical beauty, but for who it's written for: legendary singer/songwriter David Olney. Acclaimed as "the Leonard Cohen of Americana" David Olney is one of Pettis' most revered artists, and writing a "tribute" song in Olney's honor was something that Pettis had wanted to do for some time.
Pettis: "When people ask me 'Why a tribute song to David Olney?' I answer 'Why not?' Olney is one of these old, 360 degree songwriters who can turn unbelievable phrases...and not just in pretty ways. Sometimes brutal ways. Sometimes nostalgic. He's absolutely one of my favorite songwriters, and I wrote "Fiery Angel" as a kind of "Song to Woody" type tribute because it kills me how many people still don't know about a songwriter whose work has impressed upon people like Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris etc.
A long time ago, when someone was teaching me to fight standing up, he said 'fight from the 45' meaning you don't attack head on, but not totally from the side either. People guard the front and side but not the 45, so you get through. That's what David Olney is, and why he's important. Most country songs hit from the front, and Indie-folk or whatever hits from the side, but David Olney's stuff hits from the 45. It's funny, damaging, airtight, pounding and special, and that's why I love it!"
Currently, Rayvon Pettis is touring primarily in the Birmingham, Alabama area. However, he is eagerly planning on expanding his tour itinerary into the rest of the USA, with a keen eye set on California's San Joaquin Valley. Says Pettis: "Where I live, so many folks are unaware of what an important role the Central Valley of California has played in both country music and also in that genre that's known as 'Americana.' Bakersfield in particular has spawned so many important and influential artists: from Merle Haggard to Buck Owens and on and on. I'm really looking forward to performing there...SOON, I hope!"
LISTEN TO AND DOWNLOAD "RAYVON PETTIS EP" : http://rayvonpettis.bandcamp.com/album/rayvon-pettis-ep
LISTEN TO THE STEEL CITY JUG SLAMMERS: http://www.reverbnation.com/steelcityjugslammers
DESCRIPTION: Rayvon Pettis is a versatile, country indie-rock songwriter whose styles bridge traditions of Neutral Milk Hotel, Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash and the Drive by Truckers. This is his first release.
Released October 3, 2012
Jonathan Knowles (Engineer-Producer), Rayvon Pettis (Songwriter, Guitar, Mando, Vocals), Clint "Uncle CC" Hogland (Lead Guitar), Dylan Braziel (Harmonica), Ryan Flynt (Upright Bass), Lori Cheng (Cello)
1.Wild Eyed Daughter 02:14
2.Nashville Thing 02:17
3.Dangerous Eurydice 03:20
4.Fiery Angel (Tribute to David Olney) 04:11
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