When he steps onto the stage Pierce Pettis is as unassuming a person as you could ever run across. He has a quiet, dry sense of humor that is easy to miss if you aren’t paying attention. In contrast, however, his music opens a gushing artery, with melodies that ring and lush guitar chords that cascade. And his lyrics are storytelling at its most masterful. Rarely do I fall in love with a song the very first time I hear it. They usually have to grow on me a bit. But the first time I heard (or had even heard of) Pierce Pettis was in 2014 at the 30A Songwriter’s Festival in Seaside, Florida. He played “Little River Canyon” and I was hooked before the song was done. It’s about his high-school-days summertime hangout near his home town of Fort Payne, Alabama. But it’s really about the simultaneous awkwardness and joy of adolescence. “…totally insane, with heads more full of hormones than brains…So deep into that landscape, we did not realize, that we had been talking in accents all our lives…”
I got to see Pierce Pettis again, a couple weeks ago, at The Hideaway Café, a small but devoted listening room that caters both to acoustic guitar singer-songwriters and to jazz performers. He was as terrific as I remembered. There is a new (2nd annual coming up) Opelika (Alabama) Songwriters Festival, March 27 – 29, and Pierce Pettis is going to be there. Opelika is the next town over from my old college stomping grounds, so I may just have to take a little road trip up there.