Phil Pritchett has been around the Texas Music scene as long as Jack Ingram and Pat Green. He is Texas Music’s resident rocker. He has tried his hand at songwriting for hire in Nashville and returned home to Texas with purpose: To rock tha house! Phil was very cooperative with his time and put a lot of effort into giving thoughtful, entertaining answers!
1. What’s new in the world of Phil Pritchett and the Full Band? We have a new live album coming out in March, “Cool and Unusual Punishment: LIVE.” We recorded it at the Tap in College Station and at Poor David’s in Dallas. It’s a snapshot of where the band is now and we are very excited about the results. It captures what we do best.
2. You went to college at Southwestern in Georgetown, which is pretty much like a Texas Harvard. How’d you end up there? Texas Harvard! I like the sound of that. I visited a lot of schools, some out of state. I went to visit SU and spent the night in the dorm, that kind of thing, and I knew it was the right place for me. It was a defining experience for me.
3. Word association first thoughts that come to mind about the following people: -Bob Dylan – -Wes Cunningham – -Pat Green – -Mike McClure – -Todd Snider – -Jack Ingram – -Cody Canada – -Bruce Springsteen – -Matt Martindale – -Willie Nelson – I can’t possibly sum all these guys up. They each do their own thing and I respect them for that. Wes Cunningham is one of my life long friends and a great talent. It’s good to see him on the list………
4. Stories behind the following songs…like who you wrote them with how you came up with it etc. -Feeling Port Aransas I write all my songs alone, with an exception or two….I went to Port A. a lot in college and I go there a lot now. The song is about how the sameplaces mean different things to you as time passes. I wanted to do it like a 6/8 sea farer song, some kind of sailor tune. It’s grown into one of our live staples and will be on the new live album. -Her Brother Taught Her How To Fight This one is for all of the tough women I know. I had that drum beat for a while. I had a demo that I liked better than what ended up on the “Tougher Than The Rest” album, but that’s the way it goes. -No Laughing Matter My first failed attempt to write a contemporary country song,….it ended up being too witty, too rocking, and too clever. Perfect for the Full Band but probably not many others. -Meet Me in Las Vegas I wrote that in college. I wanted to convey the loneliness one feels in places that tell you that you’re supposed to be happy. -Guardian Angel I wrote that when I was a camp counselor one summer. I believe in guardian angels and wrote it on the porch of the cabin one day. -Maria I went to Europe after high school for the summer and travelled around. The song is based on a night we had in Cordoba, Spain at a flamenco show. It’s all in the song, really. It’s based musically on about fifty David Garza (Dah-Veed, Twang Twang Shocka Boom) songs. It’s evolved as a live number and I never get tired of playing it. -Luke Skywalker & Indiana Jones Wrote that in Austin just before I made my first solo CD. I wanted to recount the fantasies and carelessness of youth. I was going for an REM type of recording because I love their early stuff, circa “Reckoning”, “Reconstruction of the Fables”, and the like. Our drummer Jason Stolly comes out and does a drum solo on the song now,….it’s always evolving. -Tougher Than the Rest This was sort of a Talking Heads thing. Another tough woman song and I had that guitar lick for a while. Some guys told me to leave out the “Much Tougher’s” on the recording, but I thought they were fun. Now “Much Tougher” is a sort of battle cry for our phans.
5. You’re known as a great guitar player. How long have you been playing? How many guitars do you own? What’s your favorite and what kind of rig do you use at gig’s? I started playing when I was 13 or so. I got my first electric guitar and got into a band. I was in a band then, playing Van Halen and the like and have been playing gigs ever since. I own eight guitars, I think. My number one is “Little George,” my ’52 neck Fender Telecaster with George Jones’ smeared signature on the body…it was already there when I bought it. Onstage, I play stereo through a ’74 Fender Twin Reverb and a ’68 Fender Super Reverb. I use very little effects, only a Tube Screamer and signal boost, but I use my volume, tone knob and pick-up selector a lot throughout a show to vary my tone and gain. I’m a big believer in plugging straight into the amp to allow the guitar and your playing do the talking.
6. Is it true that the mafia and FBI are looking for your bass player, Ryan Lynch in regard to gambling debts? Due to a gag order, I am not at liberty to comment.
7. Give us a favorite touring memory from the following towns/clubs? -Huntsville We played with Ragweed at the Jolly Fox one night and had a huge time. Another time, we played “stump the band” where people were yelling names of songs and bands from the crowd and we would just launch into things off the cuff. We did “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd, “Summer of ’69” by Bryan Adams, some old REM…man I wish I could remember more. We played for like three hours. -Dallas Our live recording show in November was unreal. I played the Barley House years ago when Roger Staubach was sitting at the front table. We opened with “Antarctica USA” and put him on the Texas Mt. Rushmore. He was laughing his head off and we got to meet him later. -Ft. Worth This was our slowest market for years, now I live there and everything is great. I had some huge nights at the Aardvark a couple of years back. My Suburban broke down on the way there from Austin one time and we had to pile into my mother in law’s Explorer. Another time we played a ranch party where I got to see the hardest, sustained rainfall/storm I have ever seen in my life, before or since. -College Station ChiliFest was great last year, it’s tough to beat that. It’s one of our best towns and the memories there are too many to count. The Tap, Harry’s, Carney’s, they’re all fun to play, it’s not so much the places as it is the people. They really support their music down there. -Waco Scruffy Murphy’s was a great college rock n’ roll bar. My band was the only one who played there from out of town, as far as I know. It was small, loud and unbelievably smokey. We had many amazing shows there before management switched over and they quit having bands. It’s a shame. -Lubbock Lynch slept in the van all night after Cabrito a year ago. We did a show at the Blue Light when Boland and Ragweed, et. al. showed up and we had a great show and hung out in the kitchen all night. I’ve seen huge snow and ice up there and have been stranded an extra day a time or two. I almost played a JV high school football game in DeLeon, Texas on the way to Lubbock from Austin a few years ago. A school bus and coach were at a gas station and he asked if I could play nose guard because they had some ineligible players and may have to forfeit. He was dead serious. I was already late for the show so I had to bail. Not a day has gone by since that I have not thought about it and wished I had blown off the gig and played. It is the only regret I have from all the time I’ve been travelling and playing shows. -Houston Too many to count. One night at Fitzgerald’s, I came out for the encore dressed like Tom Petty, I had a stringy blonde wig, stovepipe hat, vest, …the works. All those young kids were so confused. We did “American Girl” and “The Waiting” I thought it would be fun and a few people got it. But overall, it was bomb,….they don’t grow many old school Petty fans anymore. -Poor David’s Pub Stolly jumped on Lynch’s back during a solo and I was playing drums, for some reason. I can’t remember what song we were doing but the crowd was way into it and we switched instruments and kept going until we finally COULDN’T PLAY! All of the strings on the guitars were broken and the drums heads were split. Stolly was on Lynch’s back and it was the only time I saw a show of mine completely grind to a halt. Someone in the front row was heard muttering, “What’s happening here?” It was an awesome moment, to reach that point when there is literally nothing more you can do to entertain. We just waved and walked off the stage. -Firehouse Stolly and I got into a fist fight during the encore last year. We knocked all the drums over and had to be separated. It’s funny now but wasn’t at the time. He is still one my best friends, as are Ryan and Jordan (Powell, road manager). Our last show there in January was amazingly packed and fun. It’s one of our favorites. -Blue Light It has a reputation among bands as a tough place to play because the crowd never claps. I never care, and we’ve had them dancin and clapping all night in that place so I don’t really concur with that opinion, although I know what people mean. That Ragweed/kitchen night was great, we love it.
8. Everyone has good and bad gigs. Give us an example of a great gig and a terrible gig. The truth for me is that all gigs are equal parts good and terrible. Even when they’re bad they’re fun, loud and rewarding. And when they’re good, they’re still dirty, low paying and deafening. It’s the yen and the yang. I love a show with 1,000 people and the ones with 10. Both of them challenge me as a performer. It’s all relative in a way. I will say the bad ones are more fun, years later. It’s no fun to hear a band talk about how great their show was, but if they have a horror story to tell, all musicians’ ears perk up because it’s so funny and relateable.
9. You played nearly all the instruments on your stripped-down 2000 album Heritage Way. Tell us about the process of making that rather unique album. It was a different kind of album, but I am very proud of it. I tried to make the opposite of “Philworld” and “Phil Comes Alive” and I think I succeeded. It drove some of the country guys away, but it gained me some new respect from “real music” people, if that’s a term. I wanted to see how far I could go as a player, songwriter and producer. It was a curveball for the whole Texas Music thing, but maybe it widened the definition of what that can be.
10. Top 5 influences on your music. Impossible, but I’ll do it by categories……. 1.) “The Standard Classics” – Beatles, Dylan, Miles Davis 2.) “The Rockin’ Songsmiths” – Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Neil Young 3.) “Formative 80’s” – U2, The Police, Talking Heads, REM, Crowded House 4.) “Cool Country” – Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark 5.) “Early Locals” – David Garza, Twang Twang Shocka Boom, The Spin
11. You own your own record label, Spitune Records, what’s it like being a big-time record executive? It’s all cigars, limos, and champagne. I love it.
12. Your sound is constantly evolving from record to record. Are you working on material for another studio album and if so, what will it sound like? I’m always working on new stuff, but I don’t write songs and think “Hey, I got a new song.” They come in big clumps when I’m doing a project, going for a feel, a tone, a sound, or specific subject matter. I’m always gathering guitar licks, chord progressions, and melodies. I compile them and then link them with what I want to say with the song. It frustrates some people, but that’s the way it works for me. I didn’t intend that way, that’s just the way it is. As for the next record, I don’t know, I’m listening to a lot of Jayhawks, old REM, that last U2 album, Miles Davis,….so whatever that is.
13. Your acoustic guitar work on Phil Comes Alive, especially the song “Encore” is amazing. Have you thought about adding the acoustic guitar to your stage show? I do an acoustic set in the middle of the show these days. I just find the acoustic limiting when you’re the only guitar player in the band. It’s not like I can strum along while my 6 piece band plays around me. The Edge, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Peter Buck, they were the only guitars in their respective groups and they all play loud electric. I’m no exception. You have to cover some ground when you’re the only one.
14. Relate your experiences in Nashville. Did you have any success as a songwriter for hire? Did you play any gigs while up there? I loved living there, but I was still playing in Texas a lot and it didn’t make sense after a while. I learned more in that year up there than I’ll ever learn from now on. I came to understand what it was that I did and what I was supposed to do.
15. How does your wife’s family feel about your chosen profession? They are totally supportive, and I couldn’t do any of it without them.
16. Favorite Beatle? Lennon, his stuff still blows my mind.
17. What artists have you not worked with that you’d like to? I’d love to work with any of the guys in my Top 5 list. Tell Costello to give me a call.
18. Is “rock n’ roll really the future, present and the past”? Absolutely. It is capable of reinventing itself every ten years or so and is bound by nothing. When things get stale, that’s when you should start looking around because Someone out there will come along with three chords and a good tune and make it all new again.
19. Favorite George Strait Song (everyone gets this question). I didn’t know he wrote any,…Ha!. I’m no country guy. I couldn’t name five songs he sings…..next question.
20. Compare/contrast the music you and your peers are making and the stuff that Nashville/LA are pumping out. I can’t say. I just do what I have to do and I don’t really compare it to anything else. I can’t explain or justify anything I do, or what anyone else does. I will say we need to be careful about what we call “good” and “bad ” in music. I hear Texas guys bad-mouthing Nashville and then play some tune that sounds like a Toby Keith song. If most Texas guys were to show up on CMT, no one else in the country would sit up and say “Now there’s something you don’t see every day!” It’s a guy and a band singing about love,…more or less, and it helps if he’s not ugly. And there’s nothing wrong with any of of it, that’s the way it is. I’m just not interested in any of that for it’s own sake. I just do what I have to do and I’ll accept whatever it gives me in return, rather than change what I do to try and maximize the return. That never works.