Billy Pettinger: There Is Only Right Now Remarkable 31 Songs in 31 Days project results in Canadian singer-songwriter’s 17th release
When Canadian singer-songwriter Billy Pettinger signed-off her 2019 album, Look At Me, I’m Fine, with: “Always knew I’d disappear and build myself a quiet life”, fans were left wondering if the folk-rock troubadour’s wanderlust spirit had been sated by a newfound contentment teaching music in her relative solitude of Huntsville, Alabama.
Had a professional music-making career, approaching 20 years and 16 releases, finally been satisfied… after all, at some point, doesn’t everyone crave that quiet life?
Well, when a global pandemic unexpectedly hits and self-isolation means survival, what is an artist to do when plunged into a silent world with only the sound of a ticking clock for comfort? Like countless others around the globe, Pettinger found herself home… alone.
On January 1, 2021, she announced to her fans the ambitious challenge of 31 Songs in 31 Days. Writing on Patreon, she said: “I stole the idea from The Beatles. Someone asked them how they had so many songs, and they admitted to just locking themselves in a room and not leaving until the song was done. I am committing to writing an entirely new song, every single day, from scratch. This really is my idea of the perfect life. If I could do this every day, I think I’d be happier.”
Within a week, the songwriter admitted, “31 of anything is a lot: 31 flavours of ice cream, 31 books,
31 movies. 31 days is 1/12 of a year.” However, seven demos had still been created, including I Want To Be Happy (Day 2), A Quiet Year (Day 3) and Ashes (Day 5).
In the outside world, disgruntled Trump supporters had violently attacked the Capitol. It was an event which spawned several reactionary tracks such as Eugene Goodman, Toxic Positivity, and Proud Moms. These dramatic recordings might not appear on the completed release, but they still exist to reflect a highly volatile moment in history when the world was already delicately balanced on an inflammable tinderbox.
Remarkably, by February 1, she had completed
31 demos and handed them over to her fans to pick their favourites. As the votes came in the songwriter reflected: “The most surprising thing about all of this is that the more songs I wrote, the more votes they got. Maybe it means I improved, or maybe it just forced me to write in different ways. This has been an illuminating experience.”
Having whittled 31 down to 12, Pettinger honed the tracks in her home studio before enlisting the trusted talents of James Menefee (bass) and Nigel Powell (drums), who fleshed them out remotely. “Two of the songs I never thought I would ever hear again,” she revealed. “At least one was so unlike anything
I’d written before; I was sure people would hate it.” She had not need worry. On September 3, nine months after setting out on her creative quest, There
Is Only Right Now was fully finished and made available to download… and what a remarkable record it is too.
As the poet Keats once wrote, “a thing of beauty
is a joy for ever”, and this magnificent new collection of songs proves an impossible delight.
Losing You and Some People have a familiar fragility, while Days Go By and Stay, possess an honest vulnerability. On the darkly atmospheric Elijah and its haunting holla back, Let Me Go, we find Pettinger lost within a sumptuous gothic melodrama. Conversely,
the brilliant blues-rock stomp of Goodbye, Brooklyn contrasts dramatically with the sensual smokiness of Waste My Time.
Pettinger said: “It’s an album written and recorded during a pandemic, that’s not about a pandemic. It’s about choosing to live in a moment, and get your butt back in that studio, no matter how futile it may seem while the world outside your window is burning.”
Testament to Pettinger’s voracious creativity, the finished collection is completed by two new additional treats in Someday and Timelines. The former is an upbeat ode to that carpe-diem mentality and the latter eloquently concludes the record in reflective fashion: “Nothing’s ever been built to last, right now
is where I leave who I was in the past… and it’s just another timeline.”
So, as the world tentatively steps out of lockdown, we can embrace a new normal and a new Billy Pettinger album. Who knows which timeline we will find ourselves on, or where we’re headed, but maybe we should all just stop what we’re doing and collectively seize the day, after all, there really is only right now.
Beautiful in their fragility, the poignant pen letters see Billy articulate her anger and address her anxieties, emerging on the other side with some sense of peace.
“Every time I looked at the news, it was just story after story of all the terrible things that human beings do to each other,” reflects Billy. “I know it’s easier to just not care, it’s hard work to care, now more than ever… Racism and sexism still exists like I’d never thought possible in this day and age and I started thinking about how exhausting it is to just keep up with all the terrible things out there.
“But, I do care… Too much, perhaps. I’ve vowed to hold onto this at times damaging belief that I must continue to fight against the darkness, because if not me, then who?”
Look At Me, I’m Fine is the result of five years hard work that has seen the Vancouver-born artist relocate to the creative quiet of Alabama. Back in 2014, after a stream of independent releases, namely The Lost Cause (2008), Ours (2010) and Stars, Exploding (2012), Billy signed to Xtra Mile after a chance encounter with English troubadour Frank Turner. The result was the compelling Horseshoes & Hand Grenades album and subsequent live shows saw Billy tour with the likes of Chuck Ragan, Billy Bragg and Against Me!
After moving to the US in 2016, Billy made the decision to return to her DIY roots, independently recording and releasing 40 songs across three titles: I Have To Do This, You Can Have It All, and Pick Up Your Tiny Burden.
Whilst building a career teaching music to the next generation of singer-songwriters, Billy was inspired to record Look At Me, I’m Fine. Billy said: “In the past year I kept coming across album titles from friends and strangers alike that kept making me kind of shake my head. They would come with a story, usually about going through some kind of a trauma, a struggle, a transition, a realization that they were flawed and had to make some kind of change.
“For some it was the realization that they had to address their depression or anxiety. For some it was releasing themselves from a damaging relationship or work environment. Some of them straight out admitted that they maybe had not been great people in the past, but they were all better now.
“But, you don’t get to the other side of depression. You don’t get to the other side of a damaging relationship and just totally recover like it never happened. You don’t get to wake up one day and shout: ‘OK I see now that I was a terrible, terrible person… But I’m better now!’ All that stuff sticks with you.
“It’s important to understand when you have a medical diagnosis of something as debilitating as depression, you don’t just ‘get better’. You just learn how to live with it better, and some days it feels like it’s never going to end.
“I admire the admitting part, but I see the rippling damage in the ‘I got help and now I’m all better’ PR campaign. I respect getting away from a toxic person or environment, but it doesn’t absolve the guilty party, nor does it erase the trauma caused. You might make a public statement that you’re on a mission to be a better person, but that doesn’t take back all the hurt you caused.
“So this idea of ‘Look At Me, I’m Fine!’ kept coming back to me. You’re not fine… And neither am I. And that’s ok.”
- 2020: There Is Only Right Now
- 2019: Look At Me, I’m Fine
- 2016: Pick Up Your Tiny Burden
- 2016: You Can Have It All
- 2016: I Have to Do This
Billy the Kid
- 2008: The Lost Cause
- 2010: Live at the Verge
- 2011: Demo-Lish
- 2011: Ours – Acoustic
- 2012: Stars, Exploding
- 2013: Perspective
- 2014: Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Billy the Kid & The Southside Boys
- 2011: Ours
Billy the Kid and the Lost Boys
- 2002: Strong Like Prawn
- 2004: Breaking Down the Barriers That Break Down Your Music
- 2005: Breaking Down the Barriers That Break Down Your Music Remastered
- 2006: Yet Why Not Say What Happened?
- 2008: Off The Map
“I have a feeling this kid doesn’t know what “impossible” means.” – Alan Cross, The Ongoing History of Music
“Billy the Kid is an amazing talent.” – Patrick Zulinov, Shore FM
“Her music is the perfect combination of edgy sweetness that ventures into the grittiness of the life in the city.” – Tamara Stanners, The Peak FM
“Precociously gifted.” – The Georgia Straight
“One of Canada’s rising stars.” – See Magazine
“Prolific and incredibly talented.” – The Leader-Post
“Billy is a DIY poster girl.” – Vue Weekly
‘Lost – a phenomenon, not a trend.” – The Cambridge Voice
“It’s not enough to say that Billy The Kid is a talented artist. It isn’t enough to say she’s successful. It isn’t even enough to say that Billy and her band of Lost Boys have a stage–presence worth seeing over and over again. Billy the Kid exemplifies the essence of the independent spirit, charisma and inspiration for artists on the rise or for those hoping for the chance to make it that far. “ – Echo Weekly
“Always stood apart from the pack with true street-level integrity, an almost Mennonitish indie-rock work ethic and outstanding musicianship.” – Nerve Magazine
“With her popularity spreading and in no sign of waning, her many musical endeavours are beginning to pay off and no one deserves it more. After a chat with this winsome pixie, it would be difficult to dislike her.” – The Gauntlet Magazine
“I bought her independently produced CD on the spot and have been trying to find out as much as I can about her because I know she is going to be huge one day soon.“ – Canoe Live
“One of the best female guitarists I’ve ever met.” – The Daily Nar
“(Billy)’s the kind of thorough, do-it-yourself poster girl that will go to hell and back in order to put out a good record.” – Beatroute Magazine
“Bespectacled singer/songwriter and D.I.Y. poster girl Billy the Kid possesses an impressive arsenal, including an enchanting voice, strong musicianship, and well-crafted tunes. Expect Billy to wear her heart on her (tattooed) sleeves.” – A Lawyer
“If you need any inspiration to keep your New Year’s Resolution “I shall cast off the shackles of procrastination and actually do something with myself…” look no further than a young lady who goes by the name of Billy the Kid.” – Chartattack