Interview & exclusive premiere: P.J. Pacifico gives AXS a preview of his new EP

Singer/Songwriter P.J. Pacifico is gearing up for the release of his new EP Ready to Run, a personal project that speaks to the cathartic nature of hope in the human experience. The EP is being released via Viper Records on May 5 and it features production from the brilliant Garrison Starr & AG.

Pacifico took time out to share some of the inspiration behind Ready to Run with AXS, as well as drop the exclusive premiere of his new track “While You Were Looking Away.”

AXS: Thanks for taking time out to answer a few questions! First off, congratulations on the new EP Ready To Run which is coming out on May 5. Can you tell us a bit about the lyrical and musical themes of the release?

P.J. Pacifico: Thank you for chatting with me, Laurie. I appreciate your support and I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about the new EP. The lyrical themes of the release are the most honest I’ve ever sung. They touch on new love, old love, survival, determination and hope. The past couple of years have been important ones for me. I went through some life changes and changed my outlook on a lot of personal goals in my life. After learning what I don’t want going forward and letting go of a lot of stuff that I didn’t need to hold on to, I more importantly focused on what I want to achieve. But, I had to make room by letting go of some personal clutter to do so. I set some new goals and met them through creating the music on the new EP. These songs mean the world to me and I’m so proud of them. It’s a completely new sound for me lyrically and musically, which is a result of being out of my comfort zone. I saw an image recently of a circle and inside it said “your comfort zone” with an arrow extending from the center of it. At the tip of the arrow read “where the magic happens.” That image says it all. The thrill of taking a leap and a risk with a new sound pushed me and energized me to explore places I’ve never been to before, musically and lyrically.

Quite honestly, the producers (Garrison Starr & AG) got everything out of me. It was there, I just didn’t know I had it. They believed in me and I felt it. Everything a producer(s) is supposed to be, right? Exactly. They rule, and we will discuss them at length before this interview is done, don’t you worry. We were all pretty much on the same page as far as musical influences go, too. We listened to a lot of stuff before each writing session and mostly had a Peter Gabriel/TV On The Radio/Sting/Paul Simon gumbo as the vibe we were going for. And the music of the 80s, of course. Most of my favorite music of all time came out in the 80s, which all three of us grew up listening to. I really wanted to put the acoustic guitar down for this one, so to speak, and let the music come out in an organic (even though I hate that word) kind of a way, which it certainly did. The release was also completely co-written between myself, Garrison Starr and AG. I sang at both the absolute top and bottom of my vocal range, using vocal techniques I’ve never tried before. The topics of the songs are ones I wanted to tackle for a while, especially “Among The Living.” I learned stuff about my voice that I never knew I had before. The girls got stuff out of me that brought me to tears numerous times during the writing and recording process.

This whole EP is a release for me. It’s a way of telling myself (and the universe) and hearing myself say that I’m ready for what’s next and what there is to tackle to get what I want. That there is a reason for everything that happens and I've learned that holding on with hope and patience will always reveal the reasons why certain things happen the way they do. Drop all negative thoughts and energy while envisioning the outcome you want. You already have what you want. It’s there. Just go get it. Anything is possible in this lifetime with a positive outlook and drive. This release is proof for me. I remind myself of these things every day since creating this EP because it’s the exact outcome that I wanted. It’s the intention I set and saw before the creative process started. I’m continuing to learn that anything is possible.

AXS: I love the song “All for Something.” It has a cathartic element that evokes happy tears. How do you find that perfect balance between happy and sad?

Pacifico: Wow, thank you so much for those amazing words. “All For Something” is the mother ship of the EP. It was the first song we wrote and what triggered Viper Records to get behind us creating more music together. Once I heard a rough mix of what we made during our first writing session I knew we weren’t done. It was like nothing I’d ever been involved in before and I only wanted to make more of it. We all did. Viper’s response to the first listen of “All For Something” was simply “write another”. Two weeks later I was back in Los Angeles to write and record the remaining four songs with Garrison and AG. “AFS” is a nice balance of happy and sad, you said it perfectly. But there’s hope in there as well. The lyrics were written in more of a dialog style for me. Writing down the exact words that would come out of my mouth instead of trying to be too cryptic and poetic. Just plain honesty. And these days I have positive hopes and strive to get better in all aspects of my life. So to answer your question, hope is the balance. By throwing hope into the mix it becomes the mother ship of both emotions. Everyone can hold onto hope and belief no matter if they’re happy or sad in order to progress.

AXS: I understand that the song “Among the Living” is about your experience with cancer and the lingering survivor's guilt. Did you have any hesitations about sharing such a deeply personal experience with the world?

Pacifico: Yup. It was tough discussing the subject at the writing session with the girls, first of all, and I consider them family. But I also was greatly intrigued with the idea of telling my story through a song, but again, with a light of hope added. Forgiving myself about surviving cancer is something I work on every day and I’ve gotten a lot better at it. This song started it all for me and kickstarted dealing with what I’ve held in for so long. And the thrill of letting it all out fueled me. It was also a feeling of knowing that it was all about to come out after 20 years. I knew once we got on the subject and they were getting me to open up that it was all about to go down. Finally. So it was pretty f**king emotional for me. I will never forget that day. It’s easily the most therapeutic song I’ve ever recorded. And the most I’ve ever opened about the subject. It’s a special song to me.

AXS: How important is collaboration to your writing process in working with Garrison Starr and AG on the new tracks?

Pacifico: It is extremely important. And relatively new to me. I’ve been co-writing now for a little over a year and I absolutely love it. It’s certainly the best way for me to learn and improve. Every writer brings something different to a session and working together to make the best final product is very rewarding to me. When everything aligns and a great song comes out I always lose my shit. I’m blown away by the magic. I take writing songs together with someone very seriously and it’s changed my writing process completely. There was definite magic during the sessions with Garrison and AG. The five songs revealed themselves to us and finding power in that immediacy is what is so special. The flow kept us going and I’ve never been so comfortable being outside of my comfort zone in my entire life. I can’t wait to make more music with them one day.

AXS: You recently received a licensing deal with Razor & Tie? What does that mean for you and the future of Ready To Run?

Pacifico: Yes, I signed a licensing deal with Razor & Tie Music Publishing a few weeks back. I really like the team they have and I have written with many of their writers and producers. It’s a nice fit and I can’t wait to see what happens. It means that the songs from Ready To Run and some others from my catalog will be pitched for placements in film, TV and commercials. I’m proud to have Razor & Tie representing me in that process as well as being assigned to write for certain projects. I’ll continue to co-write even more in the years coming up in Nashville and LA while still remaining an artist. I’m extremely happy where I am right now and I only want to hone my craft and continue to progress.

AXS: Viper Records has been releasing such great music lately. How did you get involved with the label?

Pacifico: Thanks! I’m blessed to be on such a great label. Back in 2005 I was kinda lost in many ways, especially musically, but I managed to record some acoustic demo’s of some new songs that I had written. I started working at Viper as a label manager in April 2004 and found the right moment to play the demo’s for Jonathan Stuart, the owner. He said if I could have the songs produced a little more with a band and a little more polished, he’d release them on Viper. That was all I needed to hear and I officially became an artist on Viper in 2006. I quit drinking alcohol, thank God, in 2007 to focus even more on my career and I couldn’t have made a better decision. It made me realize what I had in my hands by even being on Viper in the first place was rare. If I had continued drinking I would’ve pissed it all away. I’m so grateful that Jonathan Stuart and Immortal Technique (president) have believed in me enough to let me grow as an artist and songwriter over the years. I wouldn’t have any of what I’ve discussed about my career in this interview if it weren’t for those two men. I remind myself of that a lot.

AXS: What's next after Ready to Run is released? Will you head back into the studio or hit the road out on tour?

Pacifico: I head to Nashville after the release for a week of songwriting, I’ve got some summer shows lined up up on the east coast and there are plans being discussed now for a fall tour of Europe. So a little bit of both are in the works. But right now I’m focusing on writing the best songs I can. A Ready To Run Vol. 2 perhaps? I’m not afraid to throw that out there at all.


Ready to Run by P.J. Pacifico will be released on May 5, 2015 via Viper Records. Check out the AXS exclusive premiere of Pacifico's new track “While You Were Looking Away” above and click here to keep up with Pacifico on Twitter.

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