An interview with US Songwriter of the Year, Gary Pratt

by | Aug 15, 2021

In addition to being the front man for several local bands in the Pittsburgh area, Gary Pratt has had the experience of hitting the Nashville club and showcase scene. He has had the pleasure of singing at the Tennessee State Fair, Rocky Gap Music Festival and CMA Fest. Gary has been the opening act for such greats as Dwight Yoakum, Pam Tillis, Lorrie Morgan, Ronnie Milsap and Crystal Gayle, to name a few. 1 In Music met the musician. We interview the seasoned musician a day after he becomes The International Singer Songwriter Association’s US Songwriter of the Year.

1 In Music: Many thanks for joining us. Let’s dive right into it. What is unique about you and your music?

Gary Pratt [GP]: I have been told that my voice is unique. Many people, including my producer, Bryan Cole, have said that I have a signature sound. The songs I write usually take negative situations and turn them into positive outcomes. I want people to look at the good side of what’s happening in their lives. Is the glass half empty or is it half full? I have been told they are songs of Hope and Encouragement. That’s what I am all about. In some of my songs you will hear reference to God and Faith. That’s a big part of me. On projects and performances I like to mix those songs with messages with songs you can just sit back and sing-a-long to and just enjoy the moment. I like to make each project a journey.

1 In Music: What or who shaped your music and who supports you?

GP: My life shaped my music and the person I am. I was a very quiet and backward kid. I didn’t like to socialize much. I think that’s why music has played and continues to be such a big part in my life. It used to be a place to go and be someone else and now it lets me be who I am and express it through music.

It took a lot of growing up,
making good and bad decisions,
and learning from mistakes,
to be the person I am today and to write the music I do.

One of the most devastating life-changing events that shaped me musically and personally is the unexpected loss of my Brother. When I decided to record a new project, I wanted to dedicate in his memory. The Album turned out to be a journey and a life story from the beginning until the end. It consists of so many positive messages and things we should do and not do in life. My Family is very close and we miss my Brother. Not a day goes by that we do not think or talk about him. It has changed us forever.

1 In Music: Tell us more about this album you dedicated to your brother…

GP: The new Album has plenty of life in it. We have only released one song as a single so far and I am enjoying the ride.

When I was recording the current project, I wasn’t sure how it was going to make sense to dedicate it to my Brother. I was happy with the songs and how they sounded, but something was missing. It bothered me until my Producer let me hear a song titled “Something Worth Remembering“. Then the light came on. It reminded me of my Brother and the things we all face in life. I knew then what song would be first and what song would be last on the project. It was perfect. This song became the title song of the Album. It is collaboration of 6 songs I wrote and 5 songs by well-known writers. The title song was penned by the great Tony Arata who wrote “The Dance” for Garth. I am so proud and blessed to have his work on a project of mine.

When choosing a single as the first release, we wanted a song everyone could relate to. My promoter, Michael Stover of MTS Records and I both thought the song, “A Song You Can Drink A  Beer To“, would be perfect. After all, who doesn’t need a song to drink a beer to!!!!! It doesn’t matter what you are facing in life, good or bad or if you are celebrating or trying to get over a broken heart; we all need a song to drink a beer to. It is proving to us that we made the right choice. We are currently discussing which song will be the next single. I want to thank Michael Stover (Promoter/MTS Records), Adam Ernst (Instrumentalist/Arranger), Bryan Cole (Producer), Douglas Kasper (Tonic Studios/Engineer), Matt Westin (Vocals), Savannah Nider (Vocals), Joe Monroe (Piano), JK Northrop (Masters) and everyone involved and those who continue to support my music! Thank you all for making this Album and my music career what it is. God Bless!

1 In Music: Who supports you in this journey?

GP: My parents have been my biggest supporters through this musical journey and they continue to be supportive. When I was a teenager, they helped me form a band of older musicians. We practiced in my parents’ basement and played gigs everywhere on a weekly basis. I was a quiet school kid during the week and an energetic Entertainer on the weekend. I guess I was living two different lives with two different personalities…LOL. We would load the equipment and go from gig to gig and club to club. Of course I was . However, we never had a problem as long as my parents were there. They took me all over the place to sing, including Nashville many times.

Through the years, I have been in bands of all genres. The 2 bands I need to give a shout out to are CC & Company and Blu River. The people in these bands are like family and are forever friends. I have never stopped performing, except for one year in my life. That was the year I moved back from Nashville. I was so discouraged with the music business. I thought I was done with it. I found my self being miserable in life. It was like I lost half of who I was. Something told me to start singing and writing again. I didn’t care if it was in a basement or garage for the rest of my life.

It [Music] gave me a different outlook on life, a positive outlook.

God gave me this love for music for a reason. It made me happy so why should I stop.

1 In Music: So at what point your passion for music turned into a career?

GP: Music has always been in my blood. I guess you can say I am “Country To The Bone”. I could dance before I could sing. I have always known I would be doing this the rest of my life. I just didn’t know the roads I would travel to get here. I use to sit and watch all the award shows and think someday I will be getting a music award. After my stay in Nashville, and my year off, things started happening locally. I started performing at many venues and opening up for some known Artists in different Theaters around the area. I eventually started my own retail business, on a very limited shoestring, with the help of friends and my parents. This business was a God-given gift. The reason I bring this up is because this business actually funded my music career. If it was not for me moving back from Nashville and getting this business started, I would not be doing the music, doing the recording or even doing this interview today.

1 In Music: You are getting us more curious! What is that other God-given passion you turned into the business that financed your music?

GP: It is actually a Floral Design Center and Store. I am a creative person, I like landscaping and designing homes. Working in the store gives me plenty of opportunities to be creative. I like creating the arrangements. Each piece is a work of art. The shop specializes in one-of-a-kind designs.

1 In Music: What else do you do?

I also like designing webpages and Marketing. I have a Bachelors Degree in Business and Marketing. I love animals, but currently don’t have any, due to the fact I have no time to dedicate to a pet. I do Volunteer for the Animal Society for different events. I am also a beach person, I love it. I plan on retiring in Florida someday. I love to walk daily, exercise, do yard work and most of all spent time with my family and friends. That is something that is priceless. I have to give a shout out to my friends “THE KICK IT UP DANCERS….I love you!

1 In Music: Like most musicians, you’re a music fan first. What kinds of music do you listen to?

GP: I listen to all kinds of music. Even though Country is my number one type of music, it sometimes depends on what I’m doing. Right now, as I am doing this interview I am listening to Classical music. I often listen to Classical when I am doing some kind of office work or when I am out in my yard or on the back porch. When I am at my store, it varies between Instrumental Piano, Christian or Country Music. When I am traveling ….the Country will be mostly blasting or I will switch to Dance/Pop , Jazz, Classic Rock or whatever I am in the mood for. I love all kinds of music and have been in all types of bands. I even was in a band that played 1930s and 1940s music for a short time.

1 In Music: Which of your favourite musicians would you say are most undervalued?

GP: Right now, I think Justin Moore and Ashley Monroe. They both have signature voices. Even though they are well-known, I don’t think they have been represented on the music award shows as well as they should be. I know there are a lot of great talents out there. These are two of my favorites.

1 In Music: How do you prepare for your performances?

GP: Practice, practice, practice. The more you know your show and the songs, the better expression and feeling you can put into the show. I drink lots of water. I don’ t drink coffee or take-in caffeine a few days before a show. The new thing I have been trying I got from Katie Perry. She said she eats potato chips before going out on stage. I have been trying it …..I think it works and helps vocally for some reason. I exercise and I try to look my best. I also like to know what I will wear on stage before that day. I usually pick out something black, a cool pair of jeans and

I have to have my boots. I can’t sing without them…LOL.

Even in the studio I need my boots to sing. I feel every performer needs a look. The ball cap and T-shirt thing is not my style. We always pray before a show. We thank God for the opportunity to do what we love to do and to Bless those who are there with us.

1 In Music: Success to you is…?

GP: Well….. In Life- Success is being happy. Being happy where you are at this particular moment in time. If you know you are doing your best, striving to be a better person, helping others, reaching for your goals, are telling those who you care about that they are loved. and you are living life and not just existing, that is Success. Musically- Success is performing a song and people actually listening to where you can hear a pin drop. It’s that moment of silence when you are finished and the applause afterwards. That is a feeling that is hard to describe. Yesterday, I was awarded “US Songwriter of the Year” through The International Singer Songwriter Association. Success was when they announced my name. I could not believe it. I was quiet and I took it in….I had tears and a smile of gratitude at the same time. To be honored by Fans and Professionals in the Music Business just validates my music and what I am doing. I am so blessed. That is SUCCESS!

1 In Music: Congratulations on that achievement! It took that journey you mentioned to arrive where you are. What do you wish you were told when you started out and that you think would help anyone who is starting out?

GP: Never give up on yourself or your dreams no matter what people may say.
God put that something special in you for a reason.

Always strive to do better. 0You are worth it and you can do it.
Be self- disciplined …learn that musical instrument.
Write, write write,
the more you write the better you will become.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions…put it out there!

1 In Music: What do you see in your next musical adventures?

GP: In the future, I’d like to co-write with some experienced Nashville Writer’s and with my duet partner, Kate Szallar, who is always included in all my shows. I want to continue to write the country songs, however, I have a few Christian song ideas I’d like to explore in the co-writing sessions. I am always looking forward to that next show, looking forward to a new music project and trying to better myself.

1 In Music: Gary, thank you very much for this interview. Find more about Gary Pratt Music and his new album at:

http://www.garyprattmusic.com

www.facebook.com/groups/garyprattmusic

www.Instagram.com/garyprattmusic
www.youtube.com/user/garypratt1
www.twitter.com/GaryPra73985764
https://www.tiktok.com/@garyprattmusic