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Pete Mancini

Singer-Songwriter Q&A

Photo credit: Dave Rokos

How old were you when you started playing guitar?

I was 16. It felt like I was starting late, but I was all in from the get go.

What was your first guitar? Did you buy it yourself? Do you still have it?

I believe it was a starter pack Epiphone Les Paul, which I split with my mom. Unfortunately I don't have it anymore.

Did your parents or grandparents play any instruments? If so, what did they play? Did you ever get a chance to play with them?

My mom plays piano and my dad used to play oboe. We had a very musical household growing up, which had an effect on me.

Pete's mom playing piano.

What are the guitars that you play? Do you have a favorite? If so, why is it your favorite?

I am a Telecaster guy through and through. My favorite is my MIM Tele, which looks like it has been through the war. I got it for $250 used at Guitar Center.

Pete Mancini and the Hillside Airmen.

My current #1 acoustic is a Recording King Series 11 Parlor.

Photo credit: Steve Klamkin

What strings do you use (brands and gauges)? How often do you change your strings?

I use D'Addario 0.10s on electric and light gauge on acoustic. I don't change strings as often as I should.

Do you use a pick? If so, what brand and thickness?

I have always used Herco Flex 50s. They are pretty flexible for rhythm playing but have enough thickness for lead. I love the grip on them too. Good enough for Neil Young and Patterson Hood, good enough for me.

Do you use any effect pedals? If so, what are your favorites?

I am always swapping out effects on various boards. Right now I love my Maestro Phasor and Electro Harmonix Slap Back Echo. At the moment I am using a Boss Blues Driver for dirt. I also use a Janglebox JB Nano extensively live and in the studio.

For acoustic, I love my Fishman Aura Spectrum DI. Effects are fun but at the end of the day tone is in the hands. A good tube amp helps.

Do you work on your own guitars or do you bring them to a guitar tech? Are there any guitar techs that you would like to recommend?

I generally set up my own guitars and bring them in for various jobs above my pay grade. Joe Pichkur in Floral Park does the best fretwork anywhere. Chris Morell in New Hyde Park is making some great instruments and has helped me with a few projects.

Do you have a favorite guitar shop? What makes it a good shop?

Joe Pichkurs Guitars was where I started teaching lessons, and as I've said, he does the best fretwork anywhere.

Joe Pichkur

At what age did you start writing songs?

I started writing at 18 after hearing Wilco's Theologians. It was the perfect song at the perfect time, and it felt like getting hit by lightning. My life has had a singular focus on songwriting ever since.

What is your songwriting process? Is it the music or the lyrics that usually come to you first? Do you write old school on paper, or electronically?

It depends on the song, sometimes it's lyrics first, sometimes it's music. Generally though, lyrics come to me on the fly, and I write them down in the notepad app. When I get home I start to work on the ideas and record demos in the voice recorder app. I started on paper but I have gone digital. Overall the process varies but the important thing is documenting and recording your ideas.

Photo credit: A Dude Named Al

Who are the top three musicians or bands that have had a major influence on you?

I have had many influences over the years, but I picked up guitar after seeing Jack White play at the VMAs, started writing songs after hearing Jeff Tweedy, and learned a lot about songwriting and guitar playing by listening to Gary Louris of the Jayhawks.

If you could jam with one person, living or dead, who would it be?

Alex Chilton, though he probably wouldn't want to jam with me.

Pete covering Big Star's The Ballad of El Good, written by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell.

What are your top three “desert island” albums?

Being There by Wilco, Rainy Day Music by The Jayhawks, and #1 Record/Radio City by Big Star (I don't know if that's technically cheating since its a twofer).

What was the first concert you attended? What was the last concert you attended?

First concert was George Thorogood, last concert was Bruce Springsteen.

The Beatles or the Stones?

Grew up with The Beatles, but I love the Stones too. I grew up a Yankees fan but I still hope the Mets win a World Series.

Where and when was your first paid gig? How much did you make?

I don't remember but it definitely wasn't much.

What has been the highlight of your musical career so far?

There have been some great highlights over the years but getting to know and open for Jimmy Webb has been truly special. Honored to call him a friend.

Pete with legendary songwriter, Jimmy Webb.

What has been your worst gig so far and why? (You don’t have to name names).

My former band played a spot in Philly (which has since closed) that had terrible sound. There was nobody there and we sounded awful. That was discouraging.

Pete's former band, Butchers Blind.

What are some of the venues you enjoy performing at the most? What things make the venue enjoyable for the performer (location, equipment, setup, organizers)?

I have been fortunate to play some great rooms over the years. When the sound is great and there's a good crowd, it doesn't matter where you are. That connection with the audience is what makes a venue special.

How do you work out your setlist?

I have 3 solo albums and an EP on the way, I try to make my setlists a good cross section of all those records. I am trying to also get a few tunes from my former band Butchers Blind in the set every now and then.

Is there any advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out in the music business?

YES. Don't get distracted by the partying and "rock and roll" lifestyle. Write, record and tour as much as you possibly can. You can recoup money, but you cant recoup time.

Photo credit: Bill Bryant

Do you have any suggestions for a guitarist or songwriter who might be stuck in a musical rut?

Try out a new instrument, which will open up some new neural pathways. Don't force songs, go live life and pluck them out of the air.

If you weren’t a singer-songwriter, what would you be doing for work?

I don't know but I would probably be making more money. A lot more.

Please list some of your upcoming shows, plug your music and provide links to your merchandise.

Tour dates, music, merch and more are located at

Photo credit: Ehud Lazin

Pete covering one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs.


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