Photo by Jared Schlemovitz
PT Walkley performs at Joe’s Pub on May 18.
All around Downtown with PT Walkley
Composer’s taste in music, food, film gives ‘eclectic’ a good name
BY PAULA ROSENBERG
“I’ve been making music all of my life,” commented songwriter and musician P.T. Walkley as we sat down at Bubby’s Restaurant near his Tribeca studio to discuss his latest projects.
Walkley wrote the soundtrack and score for director Ed Burn’s latest film “Nice Guy Johnny” — which premiered at last month’s Tribeca Film Festival. The two first met when Walkley was working at Ludlow Guitars. “We became fast friends.” Walkley gave Burns a song for his film “Looking for Kitty” and has collaborated with him on his last six films. “There is no better marriage of two art forms,” opines Walkley, “than music and film.”
Walkley and Burns also formed a band, The Blue Jackets. “We all have our own careers, but this is something we do for fun.” The Blue Jackets have opened for Coldplay at Madison Square Garden and for Weezer at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The band was flown over to Ireland by Jamison in 2006 to close at the Dublin Film Festival (were Burn’s film “The Groomsmen” was featured). “We’ve had a couple of thrilling experiences,” Walkley recalls.
For “Nice Guy Johnny,” Walkley provided 12 original songs as well as the film’s musical score. “I knew the gist of it [the screenplay] and I let my gut reaction play the biggest role,” said Walkley of his process for composing songs for the picture.
Walkley first recorded songs on his I-Phone and played them for Burns before taking them to the studio. “It was a great, casual atmosphere.” A couple of the songs were tailor-made for the film, while others were songs Walkley had previously composed which happened to work for particular scenes. “It was fun experimenting with existing beats.” Walkley said of the tone of the score and soundtrack. “There was a slight melancholy, but it was still summery and upbeat. It was a good chance to show my versatility.”
Walkley is an artist with a wide repertoire. He recently released an EP titled “Whats What” — featuring three songs from “Nice Guy Johnny.” He also has plans to release another EP in the near future. In 2009, he released the concept album “Mr. Macy Wakes Alone” — which he refers to as “my pride and joy.” The album’s songs follow three characters: trust fund hipster Audrey, her father (a record executive named Mr. Macy) and Calvin, whose family owns the funeral parlor around the corner. The album ties together different genres and features an eclectic group of collaborators including Sean Lennon and Larry Campbell, whom Walkley referred to as “Probably the best guitar player I’ve ever seen.” His favorite collaboration was with arranger and composer David Campbell. They all became interested in the project after hearing Walkley’s demo tape. “The response was overwhelming and flattering,” said Walkley. Walkley also released animated music videos for three of the album’s tracks (“Audrey Macy,” “Calvin the Coroner” and “Sanitarium”). He describes the experience in the studio as “a total love fest” and says what emerged from those sessions has the feel of “a neighborhood party record.”
In addition to recording his own albums, Walkley has composed and performed in various commercials and writes songs for Nickelodeon’s new show “Team Umizoomi.” He enjoys this experience and describes it as “preschool punk.” The show premiered this winter and has been the number one kids show its time slot since then. He also shot music videos of three of his songs for Sundance/Buick and they have been airing on Sundance Channel’s “Live from Abby Road.”
Walkley enjoys being able to do what he loves. “I feel so lucky to make music everyday and have outlets for the songs in my head.” Although it was in college when he played with his first band, Walkley said “I’ve been making music all of my life.” That love of music was instilled by his parents. “My family still comes to almost every gig.” He said, “They have great taste in music.” His father even provided some of the vocals on “Mr. Macy Wakes Alone.”
Today he records his music at Frisbie — a studio in Tribeca founded by Mary Wood. Walkley, Wood and Scott Hollingsworth make up the studio’s core production team. “I’m there almost every day.” That everyday routine frequently includes visits to many of his favorite spots—which, happily, are located near the studio’s White Street address. Those favored spots include the coffee house La Colombe Torrefaction ; sandwich shop Columbine; and Smith & Mills restaurant. “Tribeca has been pretty bullet proof from Starbucks. It still feels organic.” One change he has noticed is an increase in young families moving to the neighborhood. Some of his other favorite spots are wine bar Another Room, and of course Bubby’s. Walkers Restaurant happens to be a favorite of The Blue Jackets.
Tribeca isn’t the only neighborhood Mr. Walkley frequents. Since 1999, the Long Island native has lived in Williamsburg and the Upper West Side — and moved to the Lower East Side five years ago. Some of his favorite restaurants near home are Little Giant, Doughnut Plant and Donnybrook (which has, he says, “the best ham sandwich in the city.”). He still frequently visits former co-workers at Ludlow Guitars. He acknowledges the growth in businesses on Orchard Street, but still considers the area to be a “semi untouched neighborhood.” Any of the changes he has noticed on the Lower East Side are “progress, all good stuff.”
Aside from hanging out at favorite neighborhood spots, he also enjoys the music of other local artists. Some of his favorite groups are Undersea Poem and Weird Owl. As for being part of New York’s music scene, “I try to play live every month or so.”
Walkley’s next gig is at Joe’s Pub — which he describes as “hands down my favorite place to play in the city. They have a great atmosphere. You can get away with playing mellow, heartfelt songs and then move into rock.” The upcoming gig at Joe’s will feature the Kings Highway String Quartette — who performed on “Mr. Macy Wakes Alone.” Walkley plans on performing songs from that album along with some brand new ones.
PT Walkley performs at Joe’s Pub (425 Lafayette St.) at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 18th. For tickets ($12), call 212-539-8777 or visit www.joespub.com. For more information on Walkley, visit www.ptwalkley.com.