Peter Pashoukos – McKrell’s – Interview
Written by Staff on December 20, 2023
Peter Pashoukos – McKrell’s – Interview – by Liam Sweeny.
I lent my ear to Peter Pashoukos, guitarist for the McKrells and others, and he lent me his time and wisdom. We had an interesting conversation, as follows.
RRX: There is more than one metric to gauge the life of music. One is what’s played and heard, and one of the path that got us the notes in the first place. You’ve been in the military, had to deal with a rough childhood, addiction. What drove you to music from all of that? And how did some of those things affect the way you built your chops?
PP: Very true. I would say the same for life in general. I believe that we are the sum total of all of our experiences but moreover what we allow ourselves to learn from them. I think that, for some, there can be experiences, hurt, traumas that one is able to make peace with and others that will never really find complete resolution. However I also believe that those experiences can be channeled into a more acute awareness. I started modestly playing at the age of 20 while in the Navy. Until that point I had never really felt that anything “clicked” for me. So it was not just the realization that I had some aptitude for it but the mental relief it provided me. To be able to put in the time and see the results. Life isn’t always fair but this was. I get what I put in. It helped quell the endless hamster wheel in my head. I didn’t know what I was doing but just kept doing it. I know a bit more now but not much else has changed. I still rehearse at least 4 hours a day. Probably 90% of time just improving fundamentals which (on a good day) allows me to let it all go and tap into all those emotions. Otherwise I just try to maintain the mentality of a long distance runner. Try not to concern myself with the other runners and simply concentrate on shaving a 1/4 second off of yesterday’s time. So to speak.
RRX: You play lead guitar and vocals for the McKrells. I interviewed Kevin many years ago (four or five being “many”.) I was fascinated by the time that the band spends in Ireland. I’m here asking you the same, because it may be different now, all we’ve gone through. Do you have a music story that could’ve only happened in Ireland?
PP: While I’ve been a part of the band (3-4 years) we have not performed in Ireland. Kevin regularly visits and hosts groups trips but finding a way to bring the band over these days just hasn’t been economically viable. That being said there is always talk and we do see it on the horizon when the time is right. To answer your question though I would say that I have numerous stories that could have only happened in Ireland. Only that I’ve never been to Ireland. Have I mentioned that I haven’t had a drink in nearly 13 years? There are good reasons.
RRX: You played The Egg in December, which for a lot of bands who may be reading, is a big deal, or a destination for their own band. But the McKrells play big places all the time. What is different about bigger venues, aside from just more people? Are there any tips for a band with a big venue in their dreams?
PP: Yes. We just wrapped another sold out show at The Egg for which we are always grateful. The work that Kevin and previous/current band mates have been putting in for decades allows us to perform at some amazing and historic venues as well as festivals, and events. I should first preface my statement with the fact that no two performances are alike. Every single performance whether they be amphitheaters, festivals, events, all have a different dynamic. All of which I absolutely love. I feel so comfortable in those moments. The amount of time and the level of preparation I put in on a daily basis allows me to just be present and able to express myself through my instrument. Often I will play completely different solos on the same song from night to night based on what I’m feeling from the crowd, the band, and my own life. As far as advice for other musicians/groups I think the best I can come up with is to take your job seriously. Don’t ever be satisfied. The things that you connect with will always be easier for the audience to connect to as well. Most of all be patient and grounded. Life is not a straight line. Last night The Egg, tomorrow night solo happy hour at the bistro. Just keep putting the hours in.
RRX: Before the McKrells, you were one of the original members of Soul Session and one of the members of Tequila Mockingbird, which was award-winning. The McKrellssounds like a departure from that. Was it? Did you have to change up genres, and if so, what made that worth it for you?
PP: Haha. I don’t think that I’ve ever been in a band that I didn’t have to change genres. I don’t really pay much thought to genres though. There’s only so many notes and so much of music is formulaic. It’s not like the difference between being a welder and an accountant. Usually for me I just need to put the time in and allow the dots to connect from what I already know to what I’m learning. I believe having to learn and process information in my own way throughout my life helped me to see music very broadly without feeling the need to dissect it so much. As well as having lived a diverse life that exposed me to a wide range of people and music.
To me, soulful is just soulful. No matter who is singing/playing, what category someone decides to put someone else in, or label themselves. I see it so much simpler.
For me the worth is in the learning. The value is that with every new piece of information it allows me to express myself better. I take solace in the fact that there will always be more to learn. An unending well.
RRX: Being in a touring band is rough on musicians. Some are away from families, and even those that aren’t have to be “on point” for multiple days a week. I’m guessing the McKrells tour pretty heavily. Is there anything you do on tour, on the road, that helps you relax or reconnect with home life?
PP: Actually The McKrells haven’t toured since I’ve been with the band. We have very busy times of year punctuated by summer festivals and events but as I stated earlier about Ireland in this economy it just wouldn’t be economically feasible for us in addition to the family personal life aspect. One member of the band is a full time educator. Kids, grandkids, other musical endeavors. Just getting a rehearsal together for a 6 piece band is nearly impossible let alone a tour. Again, that being said, I don’t think anything is off the table. It’s just got to be the right thing. I will also say that when we perform at festivals and such for a few days I find that playing my guitar is the best way for me to relax.
RRX: Being a lead player, assuming you see yourself as more a lead player, you’re bringing something to a song. But what of songwriting yourself? Were you writing songs for Soul Session, or Tequila Mockingbird? And if so, can you tell us about a song you wrote, “that” song, the one that you may never have recorded but you love it to death?
PP: In the McKrells and in some of the other groups I have performed with I have been the lead guitarist and believe that’s what I’m generally thought of. If anybody thinks of me at all. Ha. I do also perform solo about 150x times a year as well so I’ve worked hard to become a well rounded singer and performer as well. Up until a few years ago my soul focus was always becoming a better instrumentalist. I have composed instrumental pieces that I’ve performed on guitar and ukulele at various festivals and events. Most notably at the 13th Annual Aloha Ukulele Festival in Seoul, Korea. However I wasn’t ready to explore the things that I wanted to write about until I was able to look back into my own life honestly. For me that took sobriety, time and perspective. A good deal of it. So I’ve been writing consistently since the pandemic and look forward to recording and sharing what I have to offer. I’m very excited about jumping into something new. It’s what I do best.
RRX: This is where you answer the question I didn’t ask. Remarks? Comments? Educate, enlighten, emote – the floor is yours.
PP: I believe that it’s important for one to define what success is to them. For me despite obstacles, sometimes in spite of myself, I’ve been able to take care of my family with this guitar and keep moving forward. That’s something that I let myself be proud of. I don’t anticipate anything ever being easy. Nothing worthwhile should be. I just keep shaving 1/4 second off my time.