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Pete Molinari on Songwriting & “Steal The Night”

 
 

Pete Molinari is one of the best songwriters out there. His songs are timeless and his attention to the craft is remarkable. Lucky for us, Pete has been in the recording studio, and his latest single “Steal The Night” is another feather in the cap of an artist who always impresses and entertains. A super groovy video has also been made. Dig it.

We asked Pete Molinari a few questions about his process. He was cool enough to share:

What/who influenced your latest single, “Steal The Night?”

The single ‘Steal The Night’ like many others I’ve written started with me just sat at the piano playing around. It was actually an old song kind of re-worked in a way. No one particularly inspired it but it was one of the last songs written on this record and was written out of frustration from falling out with someone I worked with for a while. The lyrical content suggests that.

It has a lack of belief in the person being described within the verses. It talks of being let down, a lack of loyalty, mistrust, and someone turning their back on you and the disappointment in them doing so. The choruses are filled with optimism and positivity, telling the person In many ways “Come on, we can do this!!!” And as it states “Feeling, Flying, Falling, Fear...But you know it’s gonna be alright” and lastly “Come on, come on, let’s steal the night” it’s a song mainly about overcoming fear.

What is your songwriting process like?

Songwriting is usually me sat at a piano or guitar playing around with the melody and actually seeing what comes. I also like to have a title. I love titles to things. I always did as a child. I love poems that began “The Balled Of....” or “Ode To...” one word powerful titles of Plays  like “Macbeth” or “Hamlet” or Opera pieces like “The Marriage Of Figaro” ...I was always intrigued by the title and then what it would be about.

Once I have a good title and melody I can begin to shape something. I rarely begin without a strong melody and knowing what the song will be about. On the odd occasion I may have just begun words like a poem and added music along the way but very rarely.

How do you approach arrangement?

Again with arrangement it’s a collaboration with a Producer or ‘Arranger’ where I’ll play a song stripped down (as in ‘Steal The Night’) which was recorded and produced with Bruce Witkin at Unison Studios. Bruce is a great producer because he’s always open to suggestions and giving the artist the chance to try something out and it’s giving the song what it needs. That’s as good as a producer can be for me.

I’ve also enjoyed recording sessions with Linda Perry who I currently work with and who runs one half of the record Label ‘We Are Hear’ I’m signed to with Kerry Brown. Linda is all about vibe and energy and “How something feels,” which can be refreshing rather than thinking something to death.

Sometimes arrangement ideas happen or suggest themselves almost immediately when a song is written. Whether percussion or strings and horns or vocal parts and harmonies. The ‘Steal The Night’ chorus for instance felt lost and empty to me without the call and reply vocal and when that was suggested it was the key to the whole song. Sometimes songs need nothing more than a solo vocal and a solo instrument and they can be most powerful that way.

I have had songs on previous records like that, like a kind of war ballad titled ‘Lest We Forget’ which was a lament about war and the unnecessary nature and brutality of it. No matter what instrumentation we attempted in the studio nothing felt more powerful than the solo version bare and naked. It spoke more and was more direct and powerful. For me It’s always about giving the song what it needs. Get all egos out of the way and let the music dictate.

Any tips for getting over demo-itis?

This is a funny one. I believe I have never suffered with it or been stricken with that unfortunate diagnosis, but producers I have worked with have been. There was one particular song I remember called ‘Minus Me’ recorded in Nashville where the producer and label liked the demo more than the arranged version. I didn’t agree. I try and avoid demos altogether if I can. I’d rather just play the song to the person I’m working with on the day and come up with an arrangement (if the song needs instrumentation).

Who are some of your favorite inspiring artists?

I’m influenced by a range of artists. I don’t try in anyway not to be or to hide it. I believe even the greats have been strongly influenced. You can hear Mozart’s influence on Beethoven to begin with, you can see Da Vinci’s on Michelangelo to begin with, Buddy Holly’s on The Beatles, Guthrie’s on Dylan, Laurence Olivier’s on Day Lewis and Ralph Fiennes, Brando’s on De Niro and Charlie Chaplin’s on many many film makers. It’s important to have them.

Lately I have been listening to a lot of Classical music and reading a lot of Classical literature again. I love (almost to the point of obsession) theatre, plays and opera. The first music I ever really heard was my father playing Maria Callas and Edith Piaf all day long. I heard everything by Mozart, Beethoven, Puccini, Verdi, and read about the Renaissance painters, Shakespeare and Victorian poets growing up in England with a big family of Mediterranean’s. There was no escaping it, and now I’m glad I didn’t. I wasn’t spoiled materially but I was fortunate to be spoiled with the arts.

Then I discovered guitars and Rock ‘N’ Roll and what I thought “Cool” meant, haha, and now I sometimes feel that I listen to and read more of what I initially learned about art when I was a child. It’s funny how that happens. I love going to theatre and to opera and to the classical concert hall. It feels like a natural habitat. The classics will always, always be the most challenging for any artist to return to I believe.

What are your creative ambitions for the near future?

To open up artistic areas in myself that lay latent at present. I love music, I love song and will always create that way. I love the writing and recording process mostly and I do love performance, but I want to publish more literature. I recently published an illustrated collection of lyrics and poems titled “Caffé Dell’ Artista” and that felt like the catalyst.

Holding the physical book in your hands that you’ve created feels like giving birth to something beautiful and powerful. It prods and pushes you to write and create more. I have written novels and plays and I wish to produce and publish them. I’d love to adapt something for film too.

Immediately the future is another single though and a brand new album of new songs. I’m always writing and recording. I can’t deal with the nervous energy otherwise. I need to be doing. Watching the manifestation happen. Seeing the creative spirit work and unfold. After all what are we here to do other than express what is within our spirit? What are we here to do other than try and create something beautiful while passing through? Surely life is more than mere identity and an occupation.

Everything will pass, me, you and everything we see and the world will keep on spinning without us. But people have created beautiful art and left it behind for everyone forever. That’s the most I can hope for.

Pete Molinari