Passions: Pentley Holmes
Life can be strange sometimes. Peoples’ lives cross in unexpected ways. When we were kids, Pentley Holmes and I shared a bus stop at the half point between our houses. Then he moved to P’burg and I didn't see him for a long time. Around high school, I started to ride BMX and I started to see Pentley around again since he also rode at the time. After a few years, he started to get involved in music and really immersed himself in playing and honing his craft. At this point, it was a rarity when I would catch him out somewhere. I eventually started photography, he was one of the first people I did some photos and videos for while he performed in a little basement venue. This past Saturday, I met him at the State Theatre in Easton, PA and shot photos and videos for him in the nicest venue in town. He’s had an awesome journey in music thus far and I thought he’d be a perfect person to talk with.
What are you passionate about?
I'm passionate about music first and foremost because I've always literally felt connected to it and felt as though I was always able to escape through it. When I'm performing or writing, I'm literally in another place and I think that's why people say I've got soul or that I get into it. I think it comes through the most in music, it is everything to me and it's my language. Even back to when I was rapping, I created a song for Eddie (a close friend who died at the age of 21), I think making that song back then and connecting with people helped develop that passion. That was literally the first time I made something and people were walking up to me, who I'd never met and probably would never see again. Something I did helped them or touched them on a level way deeper than music that I didn’t fully understand at the time. I would say I’m passionate about creative arts. Anything that allows me to express myself in a form that people can understand without words. I've always enjoyed art and see alot of things as art and creating is a release of energy that people can interpret in their own ways.
I love how you expressed that. Your lyrics are very personal, do the subjects of your songs still effect you in the same way after performing the songs over and over again?
I think the songs grow into something all of their own the more that I perform them and the more that I listen to myself performing them, if that makes any sense. It's like I understand the song more. Kind of like how two people hear a song and can have different interpretations of it.
I don’t always understand the the song all the way, even though I've written it depending on where my head was at at that point in time. And I think that's why I'll experience different emotions or may change the way that I perform a song sometimes. Even when I do covers, I perform the song the way that I interpret and feel it. This is the same reason I have a hard time playing with a band. The songs all mean something to me and a lot of times the band will just hear chords or be like yeah I know the song. Then it affects my performance, because as much as I try, I can’t help but feel a personal connection to the songs I'm playing.
So I would say yes, they affect me more and more each time, the songs grow deeper on me or into me.
That's why sometimes I'll just stop playing a song altogether because its hitting me the wrong way.
“It's like you miss waking up, looking out and seeing them in the distance reminding you how small you are or that we are all a small part of something much much bigger.”
I've definitely noticed a difference between your solo and collaborative performances. What made you want to start touring the country solo?
Touring was really something I've always wanted to do... like I havent really been outside of my hometown and wanted to see what the country looked like. I feel like we’re told a lot of shit and if we don’t go see it for ourselves, we’ll keep believing what everyone tells us. Since I was young, if my hair got too long, someone would say man you need a haircut or some shit and that's why I let my hair grow and have felt more connected with myself since doing so.
Traveling alone, a lot of it is truly about self discovery, like who am I outside of the Lehigh Valley. I've felt like for a long time I didn’t know who I was and I feel as though I’ve truly discovered myself. I've realized honestly that there are different sides of me that will do things that conflict with myself when I'm around people, whether I'm at a social gathering; happy, depressed, emotional etc… That’s all been repressed because we aren’t allowed to show it, kind of like how a man is considered weak when he shows his emotional side even though it exists in all people and slowly I've been discovering these sides of myself.
The other part is, I wanted to gather material for a practical guide to DIY gigging and help others do it even for just touring at home. Because ever since I started playing in bars, people have been asking me how I got started or how I get my gigs and stuff. It's like a fucking secret that no one will tell you. If you ask someone who's been gigging for years in the Valley, they will give you some vague ass answer like just keep doing what you're doing and hit open mics or something. That's kinda true but not really…
I feel the same way about traveling, it definitely helps with self discovery. Where was your favorite place you’ve played and why?
Yeah it's like I hadn't seen a mountain my whole entire life until I was 34 years old.
Everyone asks me what my favorite place has been and I can’t really answer that question. I think it really depends on my experience with the people in the place I'm at. For instance, in Montana I drove through a mountain pass to get there, once I saw the welcome to Montana sign I just started crying and and cant tell you why; simply because I don’t know. But I could feel racism there or that I was a stranger each and every place that I stopped, but every place I emailed in Montana replied to me and booked me. So I went and played but never truly felt welcome. So I wouldn’t go back there, but I thought it was beautiful.
Oregon and Washington were the two most beautiful places I've been and the people there are so fucking nice like it’s fake or it's all a show but it's not, they are just like that out there. But I don’t think they are my favorite either.
I really fell in love with Taos, NM, there aren’t many black people there and they all seemed to like me.
Texas was really cool place. I had this experience where I was at the Cadillac Ranch, I turned around and there was a heard of cows passing by. I was holding my gimbal with my camera on it and I could tell they were afraid of it lol, you know the way it moves and stuff, they all just stopped watching me to see what I was going to do. It was like I could see people inside of them, trapped inside the cow bodies and they knew we kill and eat them. I had been eating brisket every where I stopped in Texas but after that trip I couldn’t eat another piece of meat and don’t think I ever will again. But if I had to pick a place, only because I had to, I think I would say Oregon. I can’t tell you why really, but I think it's the genuineness I felt there or the mountains are calling me or the reason someone told me they moved there. I didn’t understand what that meant at the time but now I think that I do. It's like you miss waking up, looking out and seeing them in the distance reminding you how small you are or that we are all a small part of something much much bigger.
Pentley’s performance for Stage on Stage at The State Theatre in Easton, PA.
Alright last one, where are you off to next and where can people catch you performing locally?
I'm performing at Blue Mountain on Valentine’s Day, after that I’ll be in Harrisburg and then at Colonial Pizza in Easton on March 9th. After those, I'm headed out west again for one final trip, at least for a while. I'm going to release a new song and a video. But then take some time to start the book.
I'm headed to Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Salt Lake City, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming again. At least that's what's booked so far, I'll have a lot of time off In between but I'm going to be gone for about two months. I don’t really have much booked after that.
To find out more about Pentley and to hear some of his music, head over to his website. WWW.PENTLEYHOLMES.COM -NH