Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Peter Jack Rainbird. Peter Jack Rainbird is a solo guitarist whose music evokes sounds that would seem to require a full symphony. He plays a vintage electric guitar with an assembly of handmade pedals to create uniquely powerful, emotional landscapes in music.
With Sounds True, Peter Jack Rainbird has released a brand-new studio album called Unravel: The Extended Suites. In Unravel, he carries listeners on a sublime exploration of sound and stillness, ideal for yoga, body work, meditation, or simply for deep relaxation and unwinding. Peter Jack Rainbird will also be a featured presenter at this year’s Wake Up Festival in Estes Park, Colorado.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Peter Jack Rainbird and I spoke about the unusual sound of his music and how it was born from interacting in public spaces with people, architecture, and nature. We talked about the process of finding one’s gift, activating it, and expressing it. And finally, we listened to two excerpts from the new album Unravel—“Ariel” and “Crystalline City.”
Now, before we move to my conversation with Peter Jack Rainbird, I want you to listen to a short excerpt from the first track of Unravel so you can get a feel for yourself for the unusual sound of Peter Jack Rainbird’s music. This is an excerpt from a track called “Signals:”
[Excerpt from musical track “Signals” plays.]
TS: And that’s just a brief excerpt to give you a sense of the unusual sound of the guitar music of Peter Jack Rainbird.
Welcome, Peter Jack. I want to begin by talking with you a little bit about your process of making music. To begin, help us understand [how] you took a hiatus, actually, from being a musician. Tell us a little bit [about] what went on during that hiatus and then your emergence, creating the type of music we hear on Unravel.
Peter Jack Rainbird: Well, I took the hiatus because—I think for a lot of people, when we’ve been involved in any aspect of our lives for around a decade, there comes a point when we need to take stock of that and reconsider the weight of that and what the next step will be. So, I had been involved in music and live music and touring and making records for about ten years. I decided to step away from that.
So, I came to the west coast of Canada and I took a hiatus—whereby I didn’t play music [and] didn’t tell anybody I played music. I kept that part of my life really silent. I just needed to let it breathe and let it decide whether it wanted me to go back. I think we decide we’re either going to step back into that game and it can’t be the same, or we’re just going to walk away.
It was an interesting time, where you just sort of surrender. I had surrendered myself to whatever the decision would be, that I would accept that, and move upon that.
So, after that two years—I didn’t give myself a set [length] of time. I just let it go. And then after two years, it just started to emerge back out. But it was in a way that it hadn’t done before. Before, my world was more to do with rock n’ roll. I loved that. I was raised on that. But then the music of Unravel started to emerge itself.
Before, the way I had crafted music was often a solitary process—by myself, writing, crafting. Working out pieces in private, and then presenting that to the world.
But with Unravel, I just decided to go out into the world—into cities, onto the islands—and just play for people, not wanting anything from them. I would just play for hours and hours on end. I’d find these beautiful spots—wherever they were.
So, rather than try to craft the pieces in a very personal space, I decided to make it a very public experience. The process of playing it live began to inform its own evolution. And then the music informed itself. I did that for probably a couple of years. It’s been the most extraordinary experience of my life.
Rather than pushing to make something happen—like making this record or going on this tour or making this thing happen—I sort of let that go. Then, rather than pushing to make something, I started being pulled into making something happen. Being pulled into participating in events. Just trying to find the most generous posture to take. How can I shock myself with how much I can give? And also shock myself with how willing I am to receive. That has started this kind of extraordinary experience, which is now leading to all these incredible events and people.
TS: It sounds, in a sense, that your music after the break that you took—the two-year break—has come more from an interactive or interpersonal space. You’re interacting with the people who are listening in some way and also the outdoor setting. Would you say that’s true?
PJR: Yes, absolutely. I would often be asked about being an artist and [if] I was an independent artist. I would think about that term “independent artist” and I’d think of all the people that were involved in what I was doing—whether they were helping to get me to where I wanted to play, or the many friends and families that would host me. I decided that I wasn’t an independent artist—I was an interdependent artist.
That was because it was important to me to deliver that gift to the world in a way that wasn’t convenient. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t easy.
You know—you’ve got equipment. You’re dragging it around. I wasn’t necessarily looking for locations that were highly populated. But there was some kind of apex of architecture, civic engineering, and then nature. There would often be this apex where human architecture and culture met the architecture of nature. So, I would try [to] find these points and then play from that place.
Yes—it’s been extraordinary meeting people. I just feel that that’s my job, and that people that want to participate and want to get involved will sort of show up. And you just have to trust that—and to not try to do everybody else’s job. I’m the musician—that’s my job.
It’s the place where—if I’m going to inspire people—that’s the place that happens. If I’m in that place as often as possible, hopefully other people will meet me in that place. And they have, and continue to.
Yes. You get to meet people that you would never necessarily meet in one’s own social circles—from all manner of different classes, religions, beliefs, or social structures. It’s been incredible.
TS: You used this very interesting phrase: going from “pushing” in your life to letting yourself be “pulled.” I’d love to know more what that experience is like for you—what it feels like to be pulled. How do you know you’re being pulled in any given situation?
PJR: Yes. How do you know you’re being pulled? Because it’s not effortless. It’s definitely effortful—but full in that you’re being—well, my experience has been that it comes from when I have done everything I possibly can to create the most generous musical position, so to speak.
So, I’ll be playing and it’s like you don’t have anything in mind for anybody. You’re not trying to get anything from anybody or from the environment. You’re just trying to expand the experience of the environment to people and oneself.
Before, you would be kind of—you’d have a five-point PowerPoint presentation plan in your own mind. “I’m going to do this. I’m going to meet that person. And then they’re hopefully going to decide this, because I’m going to do this. And then we can go here and do that.”
There really wasn’t a blueprint for it at all. There was just, “I’m going to do this. This is what I do. And this is the best place for me. So, hopefully that will then pull me into these experiences.”
What does that feel like? It just feels like a very intelligent, joyful, expansive place. There’s a lot of serendipity. There’s a lot of coincidence. It just shows up. What’s interesting is that when we talk about it, it’s as though we can only really talk around it. We’re just dancing around that thing—that stuff. We can’t really put our finger on it, and I don’t think we really want to. We just enjoy this dance and try to be as effective as we can in dancing with it. Then, that starts to reveal itself as one’s life and experiences.
TS: I want to understand a little bit more about this inner posture, if you will, that you’re taking. You mentioned giving with your full generosity and also receiving in a certain kind of way. So, I’m curious to know more about that—the giving and receiving.
PJR: OK. Yes. I would often have these conversations with people where I’d be out playing somewhere and the weather was not conducive in any way. Either there was a strong wind or it was cold. I would play throughout the entire year—even if it was snowing [or] raining. I didn’t care. I would just be in this very ecstatic place.
I started to realize people would often ask me, “Why are you out here? Look at the weather! What are you doing?” And I started to realize that there was a barometer inside of me that had nothing to do with the external circumstances. I realized that a lot of people are completely preoccupied with external circumstances and what I call “the weather of one’s life.”
The weather will never be perfect. The conditions will never be perfect, because they’re actually perfect all the time. Just like the weather—it’s constantly changing. And the moment we think it’s perfect is the moment it changes. So, there has to be some other kind of barometer that is dictating our own conduct, our own conditions, and the way we choose to operate.
It would be this joke of it—“I just don’t want to talk about the weather. I’m just not interested in the weather.” There’s another kind of barometer, and that’s what I’m interested in.
So, if I was finding myself making choices based on the weather—based on circumstances external to myself—I knew I wasn’t in the right place.
One is often referred to as being “somewhat eccentric,” too—because, again, people are looking externally. Like, “Why are you doing this? Why are you out here? Shouldn’t you be at home, doing something else?” I always thought it was funny when someone would say, “Why are you here? There’s nobody else here.” And my response would be, “Well, you’re here!”
[Tami and Peter laugh.]
PJR: So, I can’t be the only crazy person that’s decided to come out.
The pulling was definitely from an interior. It’s like an inside job. You ever watch the great bank heist movies? Whenever it’s done well, it’s always an inside job.
There would be this term my friends and I would use, which [we would call], “A safebreaker move,”—which is whenever you see the bank heist, there’s the person dialing in the numbers on the safe, and they’ve got all the numbers. They’ve got the little stethoscope up against the door. Have you ever noticed when they dial in the first numbers, they’re the big, easy numbers? They spin the dial and they spin it three or four times, but the “safebreaker moves” are those last finite gestures. They can be really subtle shifts. A few degrees on the compass. One or two digits on the dial. And then we’re in. We’ve cracked the safe.
And that safe is an internal safe. What’s housed inside of that is the wealth of one’s own gifts and one’s own resources, and really tapping into that. Then, not embracing those gifts but actually releasing them—and releasing them into the world in whatever unique configuration you choose that to be.
That’s what it feels like. My process of going and playing constantly in a very ritualistic fashion was dialing that in—literally dialing that in every time. Sometimes, it would change. It needed a little something else.
Sometimes, I’d play for six or seven hours. Sometimes, just three or four. It would be, “OK, there it is.”
So, it served me as much as it did anybody else. You’re just trying to get—I mean, that’s the purpose of playing music. You’re just trying to share something with another human being. You’re trying to convey something to another human being, and you do everything you can to bring that about.
TS: Now, I want to make sure that our listeners have a good visual of you playing in some of these outdoor spaces for potentially six or seven hours. Do you have your guitar case open? Are you asking people to donate money? What’s the setting?
PJR: OK—so, the first thing is that there needs to be architecture. So that would either be in the form of a gazebo, traditionally—whether they’re in cities or more rural settings or in a park or on a beach boardwalk, or something like that.
I don’t know what that is, but I think it’s something to do with cultural expectation—that when we see an event that is occurring within an architectural structure—whether that’s a main stage at a festival or in a gazebo, whatever it is. Even when you go to the market, the store has its little architecture. And it’s somehow trying to show a sense of containment. This is the container and it’s being delivered from the container outside.
So, if you were to come along and see me playing, I would say about 70 percent of the time there would be no guitar case open for offerings or anything like that. What I was doing was I was challenging people’s cultural expectation. I would be standing there with my electric guitar, a few pedals, [and] a little power pack. It’s all kind of a nice, tight little rig that happens. I would be playing, people would have money, and they’d be wanting to give it to me or share it. There’s nothing. They’re looking around me for it. And there’s nothing there, and I’m just smiling at them.
They look confused, because they want to fulfill their part in that cultural exchange. They feel like you’re offering something, they’re appreciating it, and they want to show that gratitude in a way that they can immediately in that moment.
And it wasn’t always about that financial exchange. I’ve heard some of the most extraordinary stories of my life from people from playing. They would come up and open themselves in a way and share some of the most extraordinary, intimate stories of their lives. And we’d never met before.
So, that was a very rewarding experience. And I feel like the music is coming from a similar territory.
If you had seen me playing, I’d just be standing there playing. And then people would just choose to engage in the music, or maybe would just brush past [it] and then carry on walking. I didn’t even have any intention on making a CD. I just decided that I wanted it to be this experience in the moment for people to experience, and that was it.
But then I started getting harassed a lot [laughs]—in a very kind way. Like, “Would you please make a CD? We’d like to take this home.” So, eventually that came about. And then once that CD was there, it seemed like a natural evolution that I would then share that with people when I was playing.
So if I were playing and I had CDs with me, I would have them off to the side if I was playing. Not right in front of me. It was up to people—if they felt compelled, they would come up and they would engage in conversation. That was the general experience.
Yes. It was just interesting, challenging people’s cultural expectation. [They were] seeing a guy with long hair playing an electric guitar, and the cultural expectation in North America is for rock music when you see that. But if you’re not playing that, the back of the cultural reference part of the brain is going, "I have no reference for this. What’s happening?" So that was always exciting—to see people reevaluate their expectation.
TS: In your new album, Unravel—were all the songs composed in this situation? Where you were acting as an interdependent artist?
PJR: [Laughs.] Yes! Completely. A hundred percent.
The alchemic process was completely to do with everybody. It was about every single person that walked by, or stopped and listened. All participated in that process.
So, it was and has been very much a reflection on the environment. There are themes throughout Unravel, but when it’s performed live, there’s an improvisation and spontaneity within the track too—because I’m responding to my environment [and] to the experiences I’m having with people.
That was it also: I had certain creative parameters. I decided that the pieces would only be exactly how I performed them, for the record, and that I would only use a certain amount of equipment. All of that equipment had to be under a certain size and weight because I’m touring a lot, because I’m in airplanes a lot. I wanted to make sure that I could fly with everything. It went under my luggage limit for everything.
So, if I wanted to put something cool in the case—like some equipment that would make it sound extra fancy. If it tipped it overweight, I wouldn’t take it. What ended up happening was I started pushing away a lot of the whistles and bells, and started to really distill the sound into a very simple signal chain. From that, the melodies and the music started to reveal themselves.
TS: Now, I want to give our listeners a taste of Unravel, and we’re going to listen to a song called "Ariel." But before we do, maybe you can introduce this song and say a little bit about what you think is the distinctive of the sound that you’ve created for Unravel.
PJR: Oh my gosh.
Well, "Ariel" is the second track off of Unravel. It became emblematic of the whole album. That’s through the melodic and sonic qualities that it has. It would be the song that I would find myself humming a lot when I was not playing. It was the song that people responded so warmly towards.
So, that’s it. I don’t know how else to describe it, really.
TS: OK, let’s take a listen. This is "Ariel" from the new CD from Peter Jack Rainbird, Unravel.
[The musical track "Ariel" plays.]
TS: Peter Jack—that song is so awesomely beautiful.
PJR: Thank you! [Laughs.]
TS: So unbelievably beautiful.
PJR: Thank you. It’s not often that I get to listen to it, if that makes sense.
We had an amazing recording session for those in Vancouver with Adam Samuels being our chief engineer on that. Actually, Adam Samuels is an interesting character. I met him about 10 years ago. We’re about the same age. I’d wanted to work with him and it took a decade for us to get into the room together. I’m so glad that that has happened for this record because Adam and I have a shared lineage in a lot of the musicians that we’ve worked with in the past. It’s really nice to see us come together on this one.
TS: Now, the guitar sound—I’m presuming that’s created through the pedals that you’ve mentioned. That’s very unusual. I’m wondering: had you heard another musician play something like that, and you were like, "Oh, that’s what I like. I’m going to imitate that in some sense." Or did this just come from inside you somewhere?
PJR: I don’t actually listen to that much music. I actually don’t have a device that has any music on it—like an iPod or anything. It’s not because I don’t love music. I adore it, you know? One of the things I did during the hiatus was I also decided to not listen to music in that time.
I’m very fortunate that I have a couple of incredible pedal guys that make incredible guitar pedals, and then they share those with me. In a ways, part of the sonics that are being created are not being made anywhere else because there’s only one of those pedals that exists. A lot of those pedals are in my signal chain.
It’s really important to me that the whole signal chain—that every part of it is absolutely the best of what it can be. That’s my voice in the world. That’s the way I express myself.
But it’s very simple when you see what’s there—when you see what I’m carrying with me. It’s not enormous, elaborate amounts of equipment.
TS: So, the pedal is being operated by your foot, obviously. It’s a pedal! OK. And so—
PJR: Exactly! I call it the "gas pedal," but it’s actually technically what’s called a "volume pedal."
Just to get a bit geeky for all the trainspotters that might be listening, there’s several stages of volume from the instrument to the amplifier. There’s volume on the guitar itself. Every single pedal that it goes through has its own volume setting. There’s a volume on what’s actually the volume pedal, which you see me using a lot. And then, of course, there’s the volume on the amp.
Now, the space between what the volume is at and what it’s capable of—so, let’s say you’ve got it turned to 7, but it can go to 10—that space is technically called "headroom." When you manipulate that space, you can find what are called "resonating fields." They’re frequencies that are not necessarily loud in terms of volume, but they do carry with them the qualities of resonance.
I just sort of became obsessed with the principles of these various stages of volume—what color could be expressed and what statement could be made with these very simple techniques. I guess I’m kind of obsessive in my nature.
So, yes. That’s sort of where it came from. It just started to emerge out of the technical exploration of these various stages of volume.
I mean, when I first heard music—really heard it—I was around 13 years old, I guess. I stumbled across my parents’ record collection, [which] was stored in the attic. I remember climbing the stairs of the attic into the lightlessness of the attic, gently sweeping the air for the cord that was attached to the light bulb, catching the string, wrapping it around my finger, and then pulling the cord.
Then this bare, 100-Watt light bulb just flooded the room with light. Everything was like an overexposed photograph. Slowly, the aperture of my eyes started to regain focus. Suddenly, what was before me was like a photograph in developer—when photographers would put their film through the old-school way. The image in front of me in the loft—as it slowly started to expose itself, as my started to focus on what was in front of me—was hundreds if not thousands of vinyl records that my parents had collected for years and years.
At that point, I was lost. That was it. I was gone. My sister had a small portable 45 record player—you know, 45 singles—and she never saw that again. I basically requisitioned her record player.
What I became fascinated with was not just music, but sound itself. What is this invisible force that is filling the room and changes everything? What is that?
The joke in my family was that all of our rooms were carpeted except for Peter Jack’s room—because I had vinyl flooring. You’d open the bedroom door and the floor was always covered in records.
It’s sort of a combination of a more recent exploration of technical elements of sound, like with headroom and volume—but then also just from being a boy being fascinated by sound as an actual form in the universe, really. That’s been my investigation of the mystery—[it’s] been through music.
TS: Now, there’s a description [of your music] that I want to read to you. It’s described like this: "Peter Jack Rainbird is a solo guitarist whose music evokes sounds that would seem to require a full symphony." I liked that. I thought that, in a way, summed it up.
PJR: Well, what’s happening on the record is: that’s a live take. There’s no multi-tracking. That’s what you’re hearing from me in that moment. There’s no mixing really required in that it’s exactly like what happened in the performance. I’m playing a part, then I’m looping that part, and I’m slowly building these melodies.
It’s a very generous description. My parents grew up on a sort of heady mix of opera and Motown. I even had dogs who were named after operas. We had three dogs—one of them was called "Carmen," one was called "Tosca," and one was called "Butterfly." I often hear parts—even though I can’t read or write music—I hear parts classically. I hear symphonic arrangements.
I’m not in any way inviting the idea that my music is symphonic in that sense. I just hear cellos. I hear violas. I hear French horns. And that’s me kind of trying to find a way of expressing that with the guitar.
TS: Now, when I first heard your music—I remember somebody at Sounds True started playing a track for me, saying, "Take a listen to this." I was like, "Is that—what instrument is that?" I don’t think I even said, "Is that a guitar?" I think I said, "What instrument is that?" I couldn’t even tell. Do you hear that from people?
PJR: Even when I play live, people ask me that. They’ll come up and say, "Is that a guitar?" And it is! It’s actually just a very standard-issue—it’s a 1965 Gibson Firebird.
What’s interesting too is—I didn’t even realize this—but my guitar and my amplifier and my motorcycle are all from 1965. I don’t know if I have some kind of relationship with 1965, but it doesn’t line up with anything in my life.
But yes, I’m just playing a guitar—an electric guitar.
TS: Of course, I could talk more about where I feel your music transports the listener. But I’d be curious instead to hear you describe what kind of state of being, if you will, you [are] in when you’re playing.
PJR: I’m pretty much gone. It’s an interesting experience for me. But there’s a big difference between playing in a civic space and playing for an audience.
When I’m playing, I lose absolutely all concept or sense of my physical environment. I have no idea how long I’ve been playing for. When I’d be playing outdoors, I’d have no sense of what the temperature was—of the atmosphere. I even looked even more eccentric, I’m sure. Most people would be shivering or running for cover or wrapping themselves up, and I would just be playing.
As soon as I would stop, Tami, suddenly my hands would get cold. Or suddenly I’d feel the extreme heat from the sun. Or [I’d think], "Oh my gosh, I’m hungry." Or, "Wow, let me get some water. This is great." So, I had to sort of take care. I had to make sure I was taking care of myself in that regard.
When I play for an audience, I’m really listening to the room. It’s a balance between an internal and an external experience. I’m really just opening myself up so that I can hear the room. And then what I do my best to evoke is the sound of that room. That’s what keeps it unique for me every single time I play because it’s completely unique to that audience and to where we are as a room—as a group of people.
That’s sort of what it feels like. I don’t necessarily feel ethereal or anything like that. I definitely feel very real. Any surface voices in my head or chatter completely disintegrate, for sure. There’s a sweet openness inside. That’s how it feels.
TS: Is there anything that you do intentionally to generate that state? Do you have to shift something inside?
PJR: Oh, OK. Well, you mean before I play? Before I step up?
PJR: Yes. Let’s see.
Well, certainly I’ll go and I’ll set up my equipment—whether this is for an audience or for a civic space. Then I’ll walk away for five minutes. But that’s because I’m changing hats. You know—I’m changing hats from being basically the roadie and then I’m stepping back in, and then I’m the musician.
But there’s nothing ceremonial that occurs. Not to my knowledge.
I mean, one definitely invites—there’s definitely an invitation to making oneself available to what wants to come through. Usually within the process of playing, I’d sort of evoke the invitation of being open to what wants to be expressed or heard.
I don’t necessarily go in with a question or anything like that—if I have a question about anything for myself. Usually, if there is any inquiry on my part, it happens afterwards because, when I come out, I’m in one of the clearest spaces I can be.
It’s not like a meditation practice, where somebody may have a series of steps and preparations. It’s something else. There’s not really that around it.
TS: Now, tell me about this title, Unravel, and what that word evokes for you.
PJR: It definitely fits for the record. It came about as a title through finding the work of Ariel Malka, who is the artist whose work is for the album cover and is also going to be in a series of videos and things.
I was looking for a topographic landscape of an enclave—[the reason being], very specifically, that I was looking up what an enclave was geographically. I found that it’s a territory that is considered to be a haven, but is surrounded by hostile territories. So, what I liked about this idea of an enclave was that it [has] a geographical quality, but it also has an emotional and very physical quality to it as well. The idea that there could potentially [be] hostile territories around, but within that enclave is actually a sanctuary and a haven.
So, I was looking for a topographic image of an enclave. Through that process, I came across Ariel Malka’s work. His [work] is topographic landscapes that start—topography is normally isolated rings that radiate out from peaks and troughs within the landscape to mark the altitude. But with Ariel’s work, it’s a single point. And that single point unravels.
Imagine a spiraling black line that sort of spirals around. This landscape starts to emerge out of it. It just naturally informed itself. Like, "Oh, look at this landscape unraveling."
Then I thought about the music I was doing and how it starts with a single note. Then, that single note starts to unravel and then build this landscape. I thought it was great how, within Ariel’s landscape, it’s this black line. I thought of that like my guitar cable. It’s a single signal that goes from the guitar and then it starts to build into this landscape.
Yes. That’s how the title Unravel came from the artwork of Ariel Malka. It was his work that inspired the title. It just fitted so naturally. It became the most natural choice to call it.
TS: When I hear word, I think of some kind of surrender process. Was that part of what you thought the meaning might imply?
PJR: Oh! Let’s think. Well.
I certainly felt that—as I performed the pieces, when I finished them—there definitely was an unraveling that occurred—whether it’s from one’s own thoughts or on a physical level or an emotional level.
Also, what’s happened is—with the pieces of music—the structure of them isn’t necessarily like a traditional song. Culturally, we have some expectation with music. We’re like, "Oh, this is the verse and here’s the chorus and then the song’s going to finish soon." But because the pieces are quite long, when you’re listening to them, you have to kind of let go of that expectation and that song structure in your mind. So, once you let that go, that’s an unraveling itself. You just have to kind of surrender over to the music.
I didn’t know how long the pieces would be when I started writing them. They just informed themselves.
Yes. I definitely find for myself [that] I’m in a different state after I play. I’m definitely more [laughs] unraveled. Absolutely.
TS: Let’s listen to one more song from Unravel. This is "Crystalline City." Do you want to introduce this at all, Peter Jack?
PJR: The reason this is actually called "Crystalline City" is because when I started writing it—or when it started writing itself, however you want to call it—I literally would start to—not consciously visualize—but I would start to see a city in my mind. [A city] where all the buildings and all the streets and all the squares were all made of crystal. They were translucent. They were completely transparent.
Whenever I play it, I’m reminded of that. So in my mind, that’s sort of what I see when I hear it. So, that became the title of the song.
TS: Let’s listen.
[The musical track "Crystalline City" plays.]
TS: Another absolutely beautiful transport, Peter Jack!
PJR: Thank you!
TS: Now, I know you’re going to be with us at Sounds True’s Wake Up Festival, August 20–24. You’re going to be onstage. One of the things that you and I talked about offline, if you will, is the humility—the paradox that it actually takes humility to actually get up onstage and be outrageous. I’m wondering if you can talk about that. What do you see as the humility it takes to get up onstage and be big?
PJR: [Laughs.] To be outrageous.
To me, humility is about bringing it. Humility isn’t about a false modesty. And humility won’t get you to the main stage.
When I think about the most humble people of the last few hundred years—if I was to think of Martin Luther King or Gandhi, for example. They brought it when they came in the room. They weren’t false or shy about it.
In a way, it’s because you feel there’s something that is emerging out of yourself that we feel compelled to share with people. So, we’re trying to get ourselves out of the way and let that step forward. I just think that when I think of individuals like that within every culture, that humility is really about recognizing one’s own gift (whatever that is), activating it, and then delivering it to the world.
Now, when I say "the world," it could be just with one’s own world. And that can be your gifts within your place of employment, when you walk into your home, when you walk through your community. When you go to the local market—whatever it is.
Doing whatever it is that is required for that. It’s usually nothing like what we expect it will be. Sure, if one were to read the stories of those individuals, they would be astonishing.
I find it interesting how also it can sometimes be that those individuals have come from adversity. Not that it’s essential—but that they don’t take their circumstances as the be-all and end-all of their lives. They’ve often transcended those circumstances. They invite other people to do the same thing. Again, there’s that barometer inside them [that] is dictating their conduct and their weather. They’re not worried about what’s going on around them.
But they do want to kind of let that part of themselves get cracked open and brought out into the world. That’s where all the intelligence is. That’s where all the excitement is. It’s where all the enthusiasm is. It’s right there. And why would we not want to be there all the time?
So, being humble and being like, "Well, you know, I’m just doing my thing. If someone else likes it, that’s OK." I mean, really. Come on. You want to get out into the world. You want to get out there and to be excited to share your life and your gifts with other people.
Why deny the gift that opportunity to be revealed into the world? It recognizes that everything it needs and requires is right there all the time. It’s just waiting to be turned on.
TS: I like this "recognizing your gift, activating it, and then sharing it with other people." Now, I might be able language what I think your gift is, but I’d be curious to know: here you took these couple years off, and at a certain point you recognized your gift. What was it you recognized?
PJR: I recognized that everything I needed or required for the gift to be delivered was right there. I didn’t need to have a whole bunch of production. I didn’t need to be working from some other place. I didn’t need to have people that were not around me around me—or I didn’t need to deny the people that were around me their role in my life.
That’s partly why I went and played in these public spaces. It was all about my intention. I find it really interesting how, when you look at a legal court of law and a spiritual court of law, they’re both interested in the same thing. They’re only interested in one’s intent. In a court of law, one can describe the circumstances of a situation that occurred. But those circumstances will be dismissed as quite literally circumstantial evidence. They’re not interested. What they’re interested is the individual’s intent behind what occurred.
And I think the same thing occurs in a spiritual realm—if you want to call it that. They’re not interested in the circumstances of your life. They’re interested in what one’s intention was and what one’s premeditation was. So, therefore if there’s premeditation, the quality of the action has to have meditative qualities to it.
Now, meditation can be whatever it wants to be. It could be that one wishes to be in isolation and go into an inner space. But also meditation is just to linger—to dwell on an idea, on a vision of what needs to occur—and then take action with that. And know that everything is right there.
When I went out and played in all of these places, I didn’t have a huge amount of equipment. I had to ask a lot of people for support. But everybody got so excited about it that it just started to happen and inform itself. Does that make sense?
TS: It does! It does, and it leads me to my final question for you, Peter Jack.
PJR: Go for it.
TS: I think there’s something about you—and I’m going to use this word—that’s kind of magical. I do! I think there’s something kind of magical about you.
What I’d love to know is—for you—what do you think invites magic in your life? What invites magic?
PJR: Ah! What invites magic? I guess you have to believe in something to invite that thing in. So, if there is a sense of that magic, then I would have to by proxy believe in that.
And it’s not just magic, but I think it’s a sense of—what I see in others is a sense of sorcery. As well as chocolate, of course. As long as we’re adding chocolate into the equation, that definitely makes my life better.
If there’s magic in my life—I like people a lot. I love people a lot. I see extraordinary gifts in people. I just do my best to celebrate those gifts.
Life is an extraordinary adventure filled with incredible people and extraordinary magic. If we’re open to that, it just becomes part of our life and part of our experience. It’s not like that all the time, but it sure is like that a lot of the time.
TS: I’ve been speaking with Peter Jack Rainbird. With Sounds True, Peter Jack has a new album called Unravel. Peter Jack will also be a featured performer at the Wake Up Festival, August 20–24 in 2014 in Estes Park, Colorado. You’re all invited to come and join us. For more information, WakeUpFestival.com.
Peter Jack—lovely to be with you. I love hearing your spoken voice and I literally do melt when I hear your music. I feel so proud that Sounds True has been able to release this album with you—Unravel. I really do. Thank you so much.
PJR: Thank you, Tami. It’s an absolute pleasure. I am so thrilled and excited to be in Colorado so soon and get to share even more of the music and hear everybody’s stories there. I think we’re going to have the most extraordinary time of our lives. So, thank you for bringing me into your world.
TS: SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.