Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler (Pete Mroz): "The Rhythm That Comes Out Of Me"

by Traci Nubalo

I was totally thrilled when I learned that Pete Mroz was willing sit down for an interview for The Word. I’ve been a fan of his since my earliest days in Second Life. I’ve always considered him to be among the best we have to field. He’s a stunningly-clean and passionate guitarist, and boasts the voice of an angel.

He appeared in my office in the SECOND TIMES building that afternoon, along with his lovely and highly-professional manager, Jemma Bonne. Usually, these interviews are done one-on-one and I suppose they could sense the question mark forming over my head. “Pete thinks he’s broken a finger. He can't type very well,” Jemma pointed out. So the process would be that Pete would relay his answers to Jemma and she would type them in. (Remember later that we discussed this).

TN: Let’s start off easy, Pete, kind of warm up with some tech talk. What guitar(s) are you using in SL these days?

PM: I play Taylor acoustic guitars because I have an endorsement through them.

TN: Six-string? Twelve-string? Both?

PM: 6 string.

TN: Straight into the board?

PM: No, what I do is record with one microphone. I've tried different ways, but I've found the best way is to use one vocal mic and capture the room sound.

TNL Do you use any effects?

PM: No effects. I have a small room reverb on it but it's very, very minimal.

TN: Your sound is so direct and clean. You must be using a killer microphone.

PM: I use a pretty good mic. It's a Sterling S-5000. It's a good condenser mic. I've tried to use much deeper systems, but it all gets too confusing so I've found simpler is best.

TN: Pete, your guitar skills are up there with the best I've seen here in SL. What kind of background do you have?

PM: Background wise, it's important to know I've always sung, but guitar playing is most important. I feel like I've fallen short in the area of guitar playing. It's something I've toiled and worked hard at, while singing is just something I just do without much thought.

Guitar playing is a labor of love. I'm always striving to improve my guitar playing to get much better.

TN: You aren't self-taught though, on either guitar or voice?

PM: Yes, I'm self taught, but in a sense I'm not because I've learned from the best guitars players in the world.

Let’s stop here for a moment. It’s all well and good for him to say that he’s basically self-taught. But I’d like to go on record as saying that Pete Mroz is among the finest, tastiest, and most complete guitarists that I’ve heard in either world - bar none. While not a speed demon or in-your-face soloist, he exhibits very strong rhythm and chording skills, almost perfect intonation, and has a very well-developed sense of fluidity in his movements along the fretboard.

But there’s another even more powerful muse at work here. Pete knows how to put this remarkable package of skills together in an almost playful sense of service to the song. In other words, I hear in his playing an uncanny ability to make use of precisely what’s best for the moment. Sometimes, that might be the simplest of moves: a passing note, or a slight change in chordal coloring. At other times, this might call for a flashy, artsy run or set of power chords. The ability to assess what is needed and the courage and accuracy to play that particular flourish at that exact moment is the mark of a serious musician.

(I also realize that in his modesty Pete will give me no end of grief when he reads this, but - oh well!)
There’s yet another aspect of this same argument that I raised in the interview session:

TN: Your guitar and voice work are very closely complementary. It reminds me of Van Morrison's sax work, where his alto saxophone takes on tonal colorations that sound very much like his singing voice.

PM: Thanks. I've worked really hard to get them to be as equally as strong, but I never really feel like I'm there. I'm my own worst critic, really.

TN: Pete, how did you first break into real life music?

PM: Well, I started singing when I was 16 in church. When I was 19 I moved to Nashville to sing country music. I had never really written anything until I moved to Nashville, and after some time there I began slowly moving away from country back toward my gospel, blues and soul music background.

TN: Did you play in any groups along the way?

PM: No. I've played in bands that backed me up, but never really played in a group that wasn't backing me. I was never really in a band per se.

TN: So how did you make the jump from basement to live public performance?

PM: I played a ton in Nashville and all around in bands that backed me up. I played shows, festivals, and parties. I've had a lot of time playing my guitar - just me, my voice, and my guitar and have found that's always what works best for me.

It starts with a song - that's just my voice and a guitar. That's just what seems to always work best for me.

TN: Any early writing/performing influences?

PM: Yes. My earliest influences blues-wise are Eric Clapton and BB King.And Robert Johnson. My biggest interest in Christian music is Steve Green. And as time went on people like like David Wilcox, Indigo Girls, and Sheryl Crow.

TN: What kind of shows were you doing?

PM: Festivals in Nashville, shows all around Nashville, college concerts, all around. Wherever the gig took me.

TN: So, somewhere along the line you discovered Second Life. How did that happen, Pete?

PM: I released a record called “Detachment” and found a website called thesixtyone. A listener from thesixtyone told me about SL. I resisted for a long time thinking "whatever", but they sent me a link and it tripped me out when I checked the link out.

TN: What was your impression of SL when you first got here?

PM: My impression was it freaked me out; it really freaked me out. I started talking to my computer, saying hello and my computer talked back to me and it really tripped me out.

It still really does. It trips me out that I'm sitting on a chair talking to someone asking me questions. It still trips me out. But it's an interesting world and I thoroughly enjoy my experience here.

TN: Where did you play when you first arrived here?

PM: Merry Pranksters. Bebe Ballinger found me and invited me to SL.

TN: Do you recall about when that was?

PM: Oct. 17 of last year. Then Tangle Giano took me under her wing, showed me all around. She showed me Trax. Bones Writer* and Tangle both took me in and nurtured me. Kat Vargas from JoyKat productions managed me and showed me the SL music scene and really facilitated everything until Jemma took over and has taken it to another level.

TN: Any interesting/fun SL stories?

PM: The most interesting story is probably when I hit 'Remove All Clothing' and thought, “OMG, I have a mangina!”

TN: I recall you wearing open toe sandals to one beach gig and someone took a snapshot of your toes. Passed it all around the audience. LOL

PM: LOL Yeah. I had that flip flop feeling. I have such good toes in SL.

TN: Yes, you do! But instead of discussing them, I'm going to discuss a couple of your songs, if you don't mind.

PM: Oh okay. Sure.

TN: “Heartache and Lace” - what's behind that one?

PM: I wrote that song with a great friend of mine named Steve Allen, then I kind of forgot about it. I started playing it one night and a friend said, “I like that song.” So it reminded me how much I liked it and so it made the cut.

The story behind the song really is just the feeling of this person that needs to let go of something that feels maybe like he‘s behind the 8-ball in a kind of a way. Someone that can never get out of their own way.

TN: Yes, it’s a lovely song and a delightful recording. Where was it done?

PM: A good friend of mine named Robin English sang on it with me and it was done at Blue Planet Studios in Nashville. That song really set the tone for the whole record “Detachment”. We recorded that one first.

TN: Another of my favorites is "Phone Calls and Photographs".

PM: I wrote that one with Robin English, but I wrote that song about six months before I recorded it. Before I got to Nashville I hadn't finished it. So Robin met up with me and gave me the rest of the lyrics and the first time I sang that song to record it, I had never sung it in entirety before.

TN: Wow. To me, that song sort of epitomizes the Pete Mroz sound.

It does. Part of why it was so easy to record that is because it’s who I am. Everyone has their own way of singing blues and that one shows that's my way of singing it, the rhythm that comes out of me. Yeah, it was really meant to be. It came out and I left it exactly as it was.
TN: There's one more i wanted to ask you about - co-written with (leafing through my notes) a…Mr. Moonwall?

For the regular reader of The Word you know the admiration that this writer has expressed for Buckley Moonwall*. I was the first (and wonderfully not the last) pundit to compare Moonwall favorably to Bruce Springsteen. In my opinion he and Pete Mroz share some very special musical and personal honors both as performers and gentlemen.

PM: “Someday Soon“. Gordon (Buckley Moonwall) wrote that song. I just have the pleasure of singing it. He wrote that 10 years ago and forgot about it. I started to tinker around with it and added it to my set. Gordon wrote both “Someday Soon” and “Hey Lorriane”.

TN: Did you two meet here in SL?

PM: No, I've known Gordon for 15 years.

TN: Are you two as tight as it seems to us listeners?

PM: A lot of people don't know how close we are. We are tighter than people think in SL. We grew up in Nashville together; spent hours and hours playing music, drinking beers, hanging out. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent with him.
Gordon and I we have a special bond. I respect his music. He's one of my biggest musical influences.

TN: Awesome.

PM: He is awesome

TN: Pete, when you write, what's the process? Music first?
PM: The process for me usually is that I pick up my guitar and heal myself. Usually the guitar first, yes. Picking it up and finding a musical pattern I like. I've tried to write with words first, but it tends to be too much like process to me. I'm a big melody person. I'm all about the melody of a song.
To me, a melody supersedes any lyrical content. Melodies are what stick in your head. How many songs can you just start humming that you know without even knowing the words?

TN: What might inspire you to write a song, Pete?

PM: Life. Not to be cliché, but life. I write to heal. It's my healing process. That's why I don't write a lot. I don't hover in a negative place for long periods of time. Once I think something through and pass it through my spirit I move on.

TN: Do you have any favorite Second Life musicians?

PM: There are no other musicians in SL except for one - BUCKLEY!

PM: u
PM: c
PM: k
PM: l
PM: e
PM: y

TN: Too funny! Here's one you might choose not to answer. At the end of your set, just before you cut the stream, you whisper something personal. I hear it as "goodnight Traci". LOL (Don’t kill my dream here, Pete!)

Well, I say, “Goodnight Gracie” because as a kid growing up there was the George Burns Show and at the end of the show he would say to his wife, “Goodnight Gracie”. And I always thought that was so sweet. He would say, “Goodnight Gracie” and she would say, “Goodnight George”. It always seemed like true love to me.

TN: So, what's next for Pete Mroz?

I'm going to record another record, probably an all blues record. Get back to my roots and play what I always wanted to play but never felt like I deserved to play. Now I feel like I love it enough and am a good enough ambassador to represent it well now and present it in a good enough light.

Who knows, maybe it won't be blues. Maybe I'll go to record it and something else will come out!

TN: Here in SL, you certainly have an incredibly devoted and vocal audience. This is your chance to speak directly to them. What would you like to say to them Pete?
Yes they are wonderful. They are awesome. That's what so enchanting and alluring about SL is the fans. The fans are wonderful; the people who come all the time to listen. It's touching.

I've spent a long time playing music. I've played all around the country to all kinds of people, and SL people have been the most devoted, charming, loving fans in the world. It's motivated me and gotten me to play again when I was putting my instrument down. This recharged me and got me to play again and for that I am completely thankful.

At this point in the winding down of the discussion I felt it only appropriate to bring Jemma into the mix. So I asked her one question and was surprised to see Pete (damaged finger and all) attempting to co-op her answer, providing a moment of high hilarity for us to end the discussion on.
TN: Jemma, since you're here, is there anything you as Pete’s manager would like to add?

Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: I would like to say
Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: Pete is awesome
Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: he is the best
Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: :)

JB: Just that helping Pete has really been a blessing to my life. His friendship and music have touched me and helped me get through tough situations in my real life. Helping him is one of the best experiences I have had in SL.

TN: Thank you Jemma. And good try Pete! That finger sprung right back to life didn’t it? LOL

Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler: hehehheheheh You know dat’s right!

* Bones Writer and Buckley Moonwall (Gordon Vincent) are wellknown SL musicians.

*** Kat Vargas


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