Solo is the debut EP of singer/songwriter, Emmy award-winning filmmaker, and actor, Kenny Pitts. In this Creator Conversation, I interviewed Kenny about his self-released debut album of five original country-rock songs. We also discuss his favorite places to visit, who he would like to be in a cage fight with, and how to stay positive.
How do you describe yourself and your music?
On the surface, Husband, Soon-to-be Father, Musician, Actor and hopefully a spreader of light. How do I describe Myself below the surface? Hmmmm…. A late bloomer! At 43 years old and releasing my first EP of my own singing/songwriting. Quitting my day job after 14 years to put more focus on Music and Film. Expecting my first kiddo this year at the innocent age of 44. I’ve been on a journey to find myself forever. Not sure I found myself 100% yet, but I think I have found who I want to strive to be. So all I can do now is stay the course and do all the classic stuff that people say…. “Follow Your Heart”, “Make sure you’re happy”, “Don’t worry”, “Above all, Love”. All of the above are constants that stick around because they’re true! We need to be reminded when we lose our way. I guess it makes sense, though…. Needing those reminders…. because a lot of us haven’t taken care of ourselves like we should have! We all know we need to drink water, but most of us are dehydrated.
I kick myself for not doing those things above earlier in my life, like my 20’s or even 30’s, but I wasn’t the person I needed to be then. As far as the journey and still currently finding myself, the number one thing that was needed to start, was for me to find more of my confidence and learn to discern what’s important and what I need to let go.
When I describe the music, I call it Country Rock just to be simple, but it fits in all the usual suspects of categories:
Alt-Country, Americana, Folk, Red Dirt/Texas Style, Southern Rock, A little Pop, A little Humor. The only two I won’t ever call it are: Outlaw-Country or Bro-Country. We aren’t Outlaws and don’t claim to be. We definitely are not Bro-Country. But…. I would go on tour with any bands in either of those two categories. I have never been confused with or accused of being an outlaw, but I can see someone trying to put us in the “Bro-Country” banner because of some of my “pop” sensibilities. There is a big movement out there…. A lot of online groups especially, that denounce with great ferver the word “Pop” and any song or band that may sound “Poppy”. It’s not pop that I want to avoid, it’s a shitty song that I want to avoid, but then it all still comes down to opinion and taste. In my opinion, humor also doesn’t negate a song from having heart. My song “Cage Fighter” is a funny song, but a true story. Its style is completely inspired by the talking-blues-folk-songs used & passed down the road by Todd Snider, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan & Woody Guthrie. I don’t subscribe that pop equates to bad. The new EP, “SOLO” overall, I wanted to record it with a little bit of pop sound so I could try to get it pitched to established artists or appeal to radio programmers & playlist curators. I went on my own to Nashville to record it with Zac Maloy (frontman of The Nixons) and his studio musicians. Zac produced, sang back up and even cowrote one of the songs with me (“99 Problems, But A Horse Ain’t One”)
I was pretty happy with the recordings and it motivated me to get back to live playing and so I put a new band together – Kenny Pitts & The Raging Peacemakers. That includes Bassist – Wade Anderson, Lead Guitarist – Russell Anderson and Drums – Chad Franklin.
They like to say that we are a singer/songwriter backed by a rock band. So once again, it’s easier to just say country rock.
What pushed you to share your music with the world?
Over that last couple of years, I had pushed music to the backburner. Way to the back. I have been writing songs since my late teens. Started playing live in my 20’s. Started stepping to the front and singing my songs (As opposed to just playing guitar) in my late 20’s. I never really busted out and just put music as my priority. I was working a lot in films and acting along with having a regular 9-5 job. I am an owner/partner/producer/actor in Outsiders Productions and that was always a priority too. 6-7 years ago, I wanted to put more focus on acting and pursue it outside of our company. So with my Outsiders Productions work, Acting and a full-time day job, music got pushed around further to the back. Outsiders Productions started working a new project in the last few years called “Play It Loud”. It is a docu-series that focuses on local Oklahoma Songwriters. We recently just won an Emmy in 2019 for it too. From the very first episode of “Play It Loud”, while working behind the scenes, I felt a desire to get back into music and push it harder. Watching these artists share their story and their songs, I just knew I had to get back involved in music.
At that initial onset of the “musical fire” starting to burn again, I was thinking that I can just focus on songwriting. I thought I could write on the side of anything else I was doing. My initial plan when recording the EP was to record it to pitch/sell just to be a songwriter, but the minute I got the rough copies back during the mixing, it hit me hard…. I had to get a band together and play live again.
Use only seven words to describe your album?
Songs to get you in the mood.
What was the greatest challenge you had when making the album?
One of the biggest challenges when making the EP was choosing the songs to record. I have written quite a bit of songs and deciding which ones to do was pretty hard. With my initial idea of songwriting and pitching, I ultimately chose the songs I thought could be marketable. Prior to going in for the studio work, I was afraid that I was going to be too picky especially with the studio musicians and end up being a burden if it/what the were doing wasn’t how I wanted, but within the first hour of the day, I felt I got my money’s worth and it felt right. I barely had any resistance to what they were throwing out there. Prior to recording, I gave them a raw track of each song (my vocals and an acoustic guitar) and rather than a rundown of the music, I really focused on telling them the mood and the feel I was going for and I’ll be damned…. They nailed every song and I was pleased!
What’s something positive you try to keep in mind or do when negativity surrounds you?
It goes back to what I was saying above about the constant reminders… You just gotta keep reminding yourself that it will get better. As long as you follow your heart truly, you will find that positivity. Just make the forward steps. The biggest change I made in 2019 was quitting my day job of 14 years…. That one forward motion, although a big step, was my biggest example of following our hearts for good things to happen. So I quit and the chain of events over the next couple of months are all wins in my book; We/Outsiders Productions won an Emmy, The full band played multiple music fests over the summer,
I released the EP with a successful release party at VZD’s, We played a few gigs in Nashville and most importantly, I found out that my wife and I will be having a baby.
So make those big happy decisions! Also, if I can add one thing about that Happiness and Positivity, I think you gotta share it, you gotta spread it around to the world.
While “99 Problems, But A Horse Ain’t One” was written last year, how do you feel it compares with current events?
How does “99 Problems, But A Horse Ain’t One” compare with current events? That is an interesting question! The song is fun and a little goofy too! Funny you should ask about it with current events and thanks for digging deeper into that song rather than focusing on… “The Horse.” After all, it is about an apocalypse, but remaining cool because you have what you need and are going to be safe and taken care of. It’s about being smart in a time of chaos. Currently, we have a lot of folks scared, worried and sick.
So maybe it’s not just a fun goofy song about horses and more relevant than one (even me) might initially think? Disclaimer, I am not saying that song is in anyway a passionate piece to save anyone, but…. Maybe, it can give someone confidence or make them laugh with or at me.
How would you describe your relationship with Ada?
My relationship with the town of Ada can be best described in the song. Ada was my college town – My first place to live after growing up in Shawnee. It’s a place where my initial journey was shaped. The majority of my initial guitar playing and songwriting was in an Ada dorm-room. I was a metalhead. 80’s & 90’s rock is how I learned to play guitar mostly, but my songwriting always came out more in a weird country folk way. 80’s rock is where I get my good feel for the pop and 90’s rock might be where I get my desire for dark or weird lyrics. I also worked as an R.A. and a Night Guard. I would play my guitar out in the parking lot while guarding the night.
I was also a radio DJ there too. 106.5 Goodtime Rock N Roll. Music from the 50’s, 60’s, & 70’s. It’s where I met my brothers in Outsiders Productions. I met Adam and Jason there who actually happened to live a mile or so away from me in my hometown of Shawnee, but we never met until Ada. Our first films were college projects we did together before Outsiders Productions was our name.
Thinking about that song now, I realize there are a lot of things in that town that I had to get out of my system; Questions, “buts”, “Should’ves”, being forgotten, being not wanted, etc … Like the song says, I do go back there all the time. I go there at least once every year to spend Christmas Eve with good friends. I am still in contact with many of the friends I had when I was there. It’s a cool town… far enough from home, but still close to get back quickly if I needed to. So I guess Ada was a learning ground and a trial area where I learned or maybe still learn now in retrospect as I think about who I was when I was there.
What do you recommended for people to check out when there?
The Village Bar is a great dive bar and great experience.
The Blue Moon Café has great burgers and the best cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper.
Mike McClure’s Boohatch is there! Not sure if he gives tours, but he should. It’s a pretty cool place.
My friend has an alpaca/goat ranch called BMK Acres, you should check it out.
What’s a peaceful place you like to visit in Oklahoma?
Dirt roads alone in your car with the radio playing are always peaceful.
Who would you not want to be in a cage fight with? If you couldn’t get hurt, what fictional character do you think would be fun to fight?
I would fight Charlie Christmas. The character I played in Outsiders Productions’ superhero flick. I would want to see if he is more me than I really am in life or if he was completely made up and fictional.
(Side Note: Check out my previous interview about Charlie Christmas here.)
What are some of your favorite places to perform or listen to live music in Oklahoma?
I think places for the first time are some of the most fun.
In my very first rock band, we got booked at The Samurai and I thought we made it! I grew up listening to the radio always talking about The Samurai with bands coming in and out of there.
Once we played there, as cool and great of a place as it was, that mystique was gone. We played more gigs there and had great times, but there’s something about that first time playing a place. It’s the difference between the ride to vacation and the ride home afterwards. It’s the same stretch, but the mystery and energy is a little different.
Setting up the gig, wondering about the place…. The owners, the staff, the customers, the regulars, the size of the stage… So many variables. You never know what to expect.
Getting back into music since putting out the EP, I’ve still had a lot of awesome first times.
We did the VZD’s release show which was my first show there and I love that place! I want to come back. We were in talks of setting up something again right before the current shut downs hit.
Another first for me this year was The Diamond Ballroom which was right up there with The Samurai as far as a classic Oklahoma Venue. It was awesome to play there! They even brought me back again 2 weeks later. The band and I played a few shows in Nashville in September and regardless of the venue, we were all stoked to play in that town. Playing a place for the first time and that mystery doesn’t mean it’s any loss to come back again and play. It’s no loss at all, it’s always an accomplishment and a great thing to do. It’s like the excitement of a first date and then wanting to continue to date. What I’m saying is I want to go on multiple dates with all the bars and venues in Oklahoma!
What else would you like people to know about yourself and your music?
One definitely is that I’ve had a great support system around me. My wife, Reina, has been a big proponent of me following my dreams. Whether it was quitting my job, taking music to the next level, acting or film-work. When I got the music back during the mixing, she knew and was vocal about me doing something more…. She believed in me. Many of times she reads with me for auditions. Many of times she has set foot on an Outsiders Productions project to work. At basically every step, she was there with positivity and motivation. My friends and family have also been there with support and positivity. I think that’s why Outsiders Productions has worked well over the years. We were always supportive of each other and a particular vision of the project.
Another thing that I want people to know about me is that I am more than just one single song of mine. I like humor, Iike seriousness, I like deep talks, I like symbolism, I like that sometimes I put them all together and it’s hard to tell which one I am emphasizing.
So, please check out other songs and such on my pages (Youtube, The Socials, Itunes and etc..).
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