Q: Where do you still want to travel?
RP: I’ve never been to Africa or Asia, and haven’t really explored very much in South America, so all three of those continents are high on my list. I’ve also never been to Greece or Italy, so both of those countries are places I’d like to make my way to soon.
Q: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened or that could happen to you on stage?
RP: I saw Ben Gibbard trip over an assistant and fall down on stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but he played it off really well, did a somersault, popped up and kept on rocking. As long as you play it cool on stage, you’re fine. Trip, fall down, sing the wrong words…whatever…just keep on going and the crowd will love it. When something silly like that happens, it shows that you’re a real human being; I’d imagine that might be more troubling for artists with a glossier image than me, but my fans seem to dig knowing that I’m an actual person who sometimes makes mistakes or falls down.
Q: You’ve been making music professionally and independently since 2003. What do you think keeps you afloat in a sea of sunken ships, so to speak?
RP: I just keep on going. Even when making music wasn’t my job, I treated it like a job. That prepared me for when it actually did become my job. Out of all my friends in college who played music, I certainly wasn’t the most talented, but I was the one most willing to apply myself on a daily basis. It’s tough to accept that you have to be in the music BUSINESS to survive, but it’s not just music music all the time…if you aren’t willing to do the work and deal with the business, you can’t survive in the industry today. Also, I’ve always tried to make sure I’m doing something I genuinely believe is good. Every day, I’m trying to create the very best work I can manage. I think that you have to be honest with yourself and be willing to self-evaluate. If you’re not creating something worth listening to, all the press write ups or radio interviews in the world can’t help you. Step one: Start by creating something good. (Otherwise, the rest of your efforts will be useless.)
Q: What are some perks of remaining an independent artist versus joining a label? Cons?
RP: I like that my team and I can run our own show. If it seems like my fans are ready for another tour or a new album, then we go ahead and do it. I don’t have to ask anyone for money or permission. All of those things are wonderful parts of being independent; there’s no middle man between my fans and I. The positive of being on a motivated, organized label is that they can get you access to major media in a way that you couldn’t possibly do on your own. It would be next to impossible for a totally independent artist to have a hit on top 40 radio in the US on their own, so labels can help with that in a big way.
Q: What song(s) would you consider your baby? That is, what song(s) do you have the deepest connection with?
RP: I try to only release songs I believe in; otherwise, why would I put my name on them? I’m proud of them all. At the moment, the song that resonates the most with me is called “Silver Spoon” and it’ll be on my upcoming album (which will drop early in 2014). The song started as an experiment of sorts, and by the time we were done producing it, it came to define everything I wanted from my new album. Writing that song sent me on an almost spiritual quest that lead me to four continents over the course of a year and caused me to completely redefine what I was trying to accomplish with my music. That tune is very special for me; it marks a turning point in my life.
Q: We know you tour a lot and that you’re constantly on the move, so how do you make time for friends, family and your fiancee?
Q: Have your fans done anything over-the-top for you?
RP: There’s someone flying from Perth, Australia all the way to New York for my show next month. That’s pretty over-the-top. Another Aussie fan actually flew to Europe and attended a number of my shows in different countries last year. The tattoos continue to blow my mind. First, fans would get lyrics tattooed on them. Recently, people have been showing me tattoos of my signature. That’s pretty intense, to say the least. The world traveling and the tattoos are both pretty overwhelming gestures.
Q: We know you are in the process of creating a new album; What about this album will differ from past albums?
RP: After a year of work, I just finished my new album, thank God! The new album is very experimental. There are songs with movements like classical pieces, big orchestral sections, electronic elements, a choir, uptempo tunes, down-tempo tunes. It’s a wild ride, and unlike anything you’ve ever heard from me in the past.
Q: What do you want your listeners to take with them when they listen to your music?
RP: With my new album, I’m hoping that people can see that I wanted to challenge myself, rather than resting on my laurels and creating a “Daylight Part 2” or an “Atlanta Part 2.” I want to keep evolving and finding new ways to stay excited about my work, and I hope that translates to the fans staying excited and engaged with what I’m doing.
Q: Is there a specific kind of audience you want to touch with your music?
RP: I’d like to connect with as broad an audience as possible. Some of the best music ever made was also some of the most popular. (Beethoven? All hooks! If ‘Moonlight Sonata’ wasn’t so memorable, we probably wouldn’t still be talking about it 200 years later) I just want to touch everyone I can with my work. I’m not one of those artists who believes that commercial success and artistic validity have to be mutually exclusive.
Q: Are you planning on staying full band or doing more acoustic music like both Daylight and Goodbye, Goodnight albums?