Singer-songwriter Chris Pierce gained national prominence with “We Can Always Come Back To This”. His hit aired on 3 episodes of the #1 NBC primetime series ‘THIS IS US’, then went on to peak at #1 on the Billboard Blues Chart, and #12 on iTunes Top 100. Pierce patriciated in worldwide headlining tours and has performed on stage with: B.B. King, Seal, Al Green, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Cold War Kids, Colbie Caillat, Keb’Mo’, Blind Boys of Alabama, Aaron Neville, and others. 2022 highlights include a solo/acoustic concert at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a duet with Sara Bareilles, a commercial with Miley Cyrus & Dolly Parton and a performance/interview segment on NPR’s WORLD CAFE which aired on 200+ AAA / NonComm stations in February.
Interviewed by Rancho La Puerta Folk Festival Co-Producer, Co-Host, and Commentator Carissa Stolting.
Your music addresses social and racial justice issues in an immediate and resonant way, drawing parallels between the civil rights movement and today. Can you talk about how music and activism are connected within you and your work? Which artists/activists have inspired you?
It’s important to not give up on reaching out to those who have stayed silent for too long about the issues that affect marginalized groups and communities. Complacency is an addiction that plagues our society. My hope is that the music that I write, record, and perform can offer a message of resilience and empowerment and will remind us to never give up the fight for equality and representation for all. I’ve been influenced by so many. Richie Havens, John Lewis, Shirley Chisholm, Joan Baez, James Baldwin, Roberta Flack, Peter Seeger, Harry Belafonte, Sam Cooke, and Odetta to name a few.
An interviewer from Rolling Stone says your music is “the sound of everyone who’s hungry for change, steadying themselves and marching toward a common goal.” In your experience, what makes music effective at uniting people around a common goal? Do you think there is a particular resonance between folk /roots music and activist community-building?
I do believe there is a direct link. It’s the power of music and the human spirit. I believe that as we face both our comfortable and uncomfortable history, we have an opportunity to add to the collective greater voice and higher consciousness. Being a voice against inequality, injustice, and oppression pumps deep through the veins of my life’s work as a songwriter and performer. My own horrific experiences with racism began at the age of five and continued through adolescence and adulthood with violence, intolerance, arrests, and accusations. I’m honored to write music in the spirit of all those whose lives have been affected by abusive, excessive, and inhumane force. Music for those who may need a reminder that our authenticity and roots make us strong, beautiful, and soulful. My hope is that my music sings truth to power as it’s written as a call in the enduring hope of a response.
You have overcome tremendous challenges to be an artist, including working through a rare disease that affected your hearing. You have written lyrics like “we see the music move you as you lay your burden down.” How has music inspired your own quest for personal healing?
I definitely consider myself a ‘work in progress’ and I have overcome tremendous challenges and I am honestly thankful for that. I believe in the power of our spirit and our capacity for renewal. Being a warrior for my love for music through the shock of severe deafness at such a young age allowed me to face one of my worst fears head-on and embrace the mountain ahead of me. Rediscovering my voice after only partially effective inner ear surgery renews my joy of music and communication on a daily basis. Deafness and becoming a professional musician has reminded me that we are limitless. My personal journey has helped me explore the miraculous ways I can use my voice as a source of motivation, change, dissent, and healing even when only the faintest of notes ring through.
We hope the Rancho La Puerta Folk Festival will also serve as an artist retreat to deeply relax and re-energize. What would make this a good week for you? If you had to share one mantra or guiding principle for the week to help yourself achieve what you need, what would it be?
I’m honored to be a part of the Rancho La Puerta Folk Festival. My hope for my time there is to simply continue the sacred and ancient energy exchange through the human voice and healing power of music. I look forward to the time with everyone there and discovering our collective chorus of humanity.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Rancho community? A sneak peek into an upcoming project or something you’re excited about now?
In addition to my album “American Silence” and catalog, I have a new album titled “LET ALL WHO WILL” to be released later this year.
Carissa Stolting is an artist & event manager and the founder of Left Bank Artists, a music management company supporting the careers of several internationally-celebrated musicians. She is also the co-founder of Unmanageable Arts, a 501(c)(3) non-profit with the mission of supporting large-scale creative works that are rooted in anti-racist, feminist ideology, and that connect across culture and community. She was the Managing Director of the beloved Big Ears Festival (2018 & 2019), and began her work in music-supporting live concerts and festivals at AC Entertainment. She currently lives in Nashville, TN.
Learn more about our talent packed Rancho La Puerta Folk Festival June 17 – 24.