WAM INTERVIEWS: Pete Byfield
West Australian Country Music Awards winner, Wheatbelt road safety ambassador for the RAC, and now, newly appointed WAMbassador Pete Byfield, is the latest artist to join the Wheatbelt Touring Circuit: Tour #3, launching his latest single, Atmissphere. Previous to all of this, Pete’s song Wialki featured on the WAM Sounds Of The Wheatbelt CD in 2014; 2015, he released his first album 1 (ONE), produced by Joel Quartermain, winning him Album of the Year at the WA Country Music Awards 2016. Currently, Pete’s song Ashes (Album 1), has been nominated for WAM Song Of The Year 2016, as well as two tracks soon to be released recorded with Joel Quartermain.
Regardless of busy times, Pete was able to put aside some time for us to fill us in on his thoughts of the Wheatbelt’s music scene versus the Perth scene, memories of his band’s ‘The Who’ moment, the fuel behind his passion for country road safety awareness, and his plans for the future.
Alternate Country. Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Neil Young, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison to name a few.
How would you describe your new single, ‘Atmissphere’?
The atmosphere has thin proportions but a vast impact on our ability to live. Imagine you drive down the highway for ten minutes – not much changes really. Imagine you travel vertically for ten minutes – you break through the liveable zone. This is my perspective in looking after it.
How long have you lived in the Wheatbelt, and what keeps you there?
Most of my life. Things that keep me here – family, scenery, contrasting seasons, musical colleagues, access to everything is great, great parking, close to the city.
What are your top 5 must-do-things or must-go-to places in the Wheatbelt and why?
– Wialki – north Bonnie Rock. My first song has its origins there
– Boyup Brook – home of the WA Country music Festival – where I received album of the year
– Grass Valley – a mecca for many muso’s over many years
– The Link Theatre in Northam – many a great music/theatre event
– Home – there’s no place like home
How do you think the music scenes in the Wheatbelt differs to that of the city’s scene or other regions – what makes the Wheatbelt unique?
Wheatbelt music scenes are not exposed to what is available in larger centres that has both positives and negatives. I think the Wheatbelt contains a high number of families with a historical connection to the land, and this bleeds into the songwriting. My musical collective essentially were not songwriters and I think we lacked the skills, role models and mentors in this area. A lot of our children grew up in supportive musical environments and became writers through their own initiatives with more exposure to other influences, possibly through the internet. I must say that I have come to know most Wheatbelt songwriters through WAM initiatives, which tells me that there is a need for this assistance. With WAM’s assistance the number of venues is increasing and crowd awareness and appreciation of original music is on the up.
Most surreal/random/funny thing that’s ever happened during your gigs in the Wheatbelt?
Back in the 70’s my lead guitarist went to Perth and came back with some lights he hired for our biggest gig of the year. He spent an extra hour setting it all up, then half way through the first song he stomped on the strobe button to commence his epic lead and immediately passed out, banged his head on the end of my guitar as he went down. The crowd thought it was The Who revisited. All he said when he came to was, “I’m never doing that again.” He’s still a bit gun shy when strobes and lasers are around.
Anyone in the world, who would you most love to share the stage with and why?
Joel Quartermain. Joel saw something in me when we met on WAM’s Sounds Of The Wheatbelt project, he was the guest producer for my first song Wialki. He encouraged me to write and record and is still a guiding light. When I achieve this then I may look further afield.
Why did you decide to become a WAMbassador?
Being a WAMbassador is a logical flow on from my role with RAC as a wheatbelt road safety ambassador. I wrote a song called The Country Wave a couple of years ago. The song encourages drivers to keep their heads up and do the Country Wave (one finger raised off the steering wheel) instead of looking into their phones while driving. RAC became aware of the song which fits neatly into the second phase of the Elephant in the Wheatbelt road safety campaign which encourages wheat belt people to contribute to solutions to the problem.
This dual role fits neatly, just like two hands on a steering wheel and I’m looking forward to driving home the messages of road safety and great original music in the wheatbelt.
Do you know anyone who has been effected by a car crash, and how did this impact you?
I have lost a number of very close friends to road accidents over a long period of time and I still live with painful memories. Factors involved have been alcohol, speed and experience. In recent times inattention has become a new scourge due to the use of phones and other devices whilst driving. Education and cultural change has reduced some of these factors, however I think constant vigilance and awareness may be the key. Start with the very young I think – they’ll keep their siblings and parents honest.
What’s happening for you in the near future?
I have just recorded two new songs with Joel, Outta Space Outta Time & Dark Train, both soon to be released– stay tuned. AS well as WAM’s events Wheatbelt Touring Circuit TOUR #3. Various solo gigs around the traps which will end up on my website and social media as they happen.
w/ PETE BYFIELD & BAND
(Single Launch Tour)
+ DARCY HAY
– Above headliners all dates, plus w/ supports as listed below –
Thursday 15 September – Quindanning Inne, Quindanning (w/ Narrogin Musicicans Association pres. Tides2Music) – 7pm start, Free Entry
Friday 16 September – The Tivoli Room, Cummins Theatre, Merredin (w/ Mhindel, Duo) – 7pm start, Free Entry
Saturday 17 September – The Moora Agricultural Show, Main Oval (w/ guest TBA)