All of us artists have something that drives us. For some, it’s the pursuit of fame and for others, it’s a longing for glory. Yet, for me, there’s a higher passion that fuels my music making and drives me to connect with others to share the intrinsic truth they’re loved and not alone, challenging them to use their gifts to make the world a better place. It’s a mission I’ve spent a long time exploring and one I don’t take lightly.
How did you guys get came together and created this band?
My journey began in Wellington, New Zealand, growing up the youngest of six boys who grew our own food as money was tight. I made do with hand me downs and thrift shop outfits, so my humble upbringing allowed me a deeper appreciation for simpler things which soon gave birth to my music.
At around 10, I’d sing radio songs for neighbors on the back steps and was drafted into school choirs. But at 14 I witnessed Randy Stonehill in concert as he wrestled a raucous rhythm from a Martin D28 acoustic guitar and spun the stories of life in his lyrics… I was hooked on singer-songwriter guitar driven alternative rock right then.
What are your music influences?
Fueled by my challenging childhood influences and loving bands like U2, The Police, and Larry Norman, I dove into music, learning and creating along the way. My explorations saw me study under teachers such as Pat Pattison and Jason Blume and complete a Certificate in Songwriting with Berklee College of Music. As my songs began to take shape and my popularity grew, I got to travel the globe, playing in far-flung festivals, concerts, and cafes everywhere from the US to China and Bulgaria.
How do you see the music scene over there in New Zealand?
Here in Aotearoa we’re known more for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings than for Crowded House. But our crazy Kiwi creativity means we have an eclectic array of bands. Venues however are hard to find… we’ve only got 4.5 million people in a country the size of Japan! The trouble with living in paradise is it’s a looooong way from the rest of the world so I’ve ended up travelling to play in America, Russia, Romania and more countries but being a creative Kiwi and a geek I’ve also found opportunity on the web and Social Media. Come and see what I mean at http://www.facebook.com/peterwoolston or on Twitter @peterwoolston.
What’s your method at the time of writing a song?
When I first started writing I used to grab a pen and my guitar and beat myself to death for hours trying to write. In the beginning song ideas come easy but when you’ve made music as long as I have your head gets filled with so many lyrics and chords you have to find better ways to tell your story in a fresh relevant way … otherwise the audience just get up and leave. I headed back to school completing a Diploma of Songwriting with Berklee Music. It’s meant I’m now writing my best songs ever and music critics agree too. I follow a process, use destination writing and harness prosody as springboard tools which results in great songs. I’ve also worked with Professor Pat Pattison too. Most musicians say songwriting is “easy” because “you get hit with inspiration and it just tumbles out” but as wonderful as this is it’s an infrequent occurrence (but it makes for a good interview story). The truth is that most of the time it’s really hard work to take something that’s ‘good’ and turn it into something that’s the ‘best’. Pat says “songwriting is a blue collar job – you punch the clock, sit down and sweat till it’s done”. Let’s be honest 90% of what anyone writes is not their best 10% – and the audience deserves our best 10%!
So tell us about your new album. Can you give us any details/insights about it? Any official title, release date in mind?
Art is still at the forefront of what I pursue so I’ve been compared to performers like Jon Foreman, Bono, and Martin Smith as I weave my signature-styled alt rock tales. I’m comfortable in that genre, and music critics have said I’ve drawn from my collective work to create great music each and every time. Lyrically, the new songs on ‘Hope On My Horizon’ run the gamut from offering up personal tales of success and failure, with “Dead Man Walking” reflecting upon a desire to be accepted through material things while “I Believe In You” reaches out to listeners with a heartbeat of encouragement.
Reviewers from across the board have responded well to my work. Challenge Weekly New Zealand shares that through my “motivating guitar-driven songs and gutsy vocals, Woolston’s positive influence goes deeper than his music,” delivering “a high energy performance,” according to the NZ Baptist.
What’s the message you want to spread with your music?
My songs tell the stories of life – the good and the bad – pointing to hope and courage with lyrics distinctive to how I write as a songwriter. I connect with every fan, one at a time, in an honest and authentic way. I try to see how I can encourage people, and inspire them to take what they’ve got and make a difference in the lives of people around them.
Through it all, the songs stand strong and maintain my intent focus, a focus on sharing truth and hope.
Artist to Mercy Ships. Tell us more about this and what do you do in here?
Mercy Ships New Zealand and I bring life-changing health care services to the extreme poor through the global voice of rock.
The commitment to both my music and my mission has led me to being named the Musical Ambassador for Mercy Ships NZ. It’s a task I’ve tackled with gusto with my first order of business was to offer the title track from my latest CD, Hope On My Horizon, to the organisation to use in promo reels with sales helping pay for surgeries onboard Mercy Ships for some of Africa’s most vulnerable children.
Mercy Ships is a world leader in using hospital ships to deliver free world-class healthcare services to the poor. Founded in 1978 the volunteer crew onboard have performed more than 1.7 million services, with a value of approximately NZ$950 million and directly benefited more than 2.2 million people in more than 70 ports – ALL DONE FOR FREE. All volunteers pay their own way with Mercy Ships allowing surgeries, dental work, well drilling, and other services to be provided free of charge to the most destitute in West Africa’s most impoverished nations.
What has been one of the funniest moments you have been or took part while touring?
Missing flights or changing a flat tire is normal touring stuff. Once an audience member set fire to a stage prop while I was playing – all he had to do was say he didn’t like the song!
I also got stuck in a flood that had overrun the roads and had the Police Rescue Team watch on as I tried to get back to safety.
Another time I had to slip away from AK47 carrying Russian Police to leave another team member “negotiating” with them so as to avoid arrest.
I’ll never forget playing in a maximum security prison in Bucharest, Romania to murderers and violent criminals. I was a little nervous but doing OK until I turned to grab my guitar and heard the door clunk closed behind the only guard in the room… talk about pressure to play well and keep that audience happy! I laugh about it all now…
Are there any plans for the future we should be aware of?
I’m gigging in support of ‘Hope On My Horizon’ right now with current New Zealand dates confirmed and international dates being organised. To get me to come and play for you almost anywhere in the world just visit http://peterwoolston.com/house-concert-interest/
I’ve gotta say that I used to freak out the older I got worrying about my life disappearing but since I’ve stopped worrying about myself and focussed on helping others instead through Mercy Ships NZ and the global citizenship gigs I do, I’ve found myself loving life. I’ve hit a point where I’m not worried if people like me or not – I only care about whether my music is doing something to make people’s lives better… whether it makes your life better. Come and find out at http://peterwoolston.com/free-track/