This outlaw is his own orchestra!

Pete Briley will be familiar to many readers as the banjo-wielding third of country hard rockers The Outlaw Orchestra. However, Pete has many more strings to his bow, and today we met up to chat about his debut solo release 'Album #1' which came out on 24 November.

The idea for the record dates back to band-mate Ryan Smith’s wedding in October last year, at which Pete was talking about plans for the future with the Outlaws’ manager, Mike Hughes. As Pete explains, “We were just kicking ideas around and we talked about working with other artists. But then I said, you know I’ve got a big catalogue [of songs] that I’ve not done anything with. It’s not quite right for the Outlaws, but it’s there and he really got excited about it. He was like ‘you should really think about putting it out’. So, I started properly working on it, putting all the demos together and putting all the tracks together. We released the first single [Rhonda] in April, and since then we’ve been dropping singles and the album came out a couple of weeks ago.”

Although the album has only been out for a short time, feedback so far has been very positive. The sound is quite distinct from that of The Outlaw Orchestra: instead of their infectious mix of country, Southern rock and humorous lyrics, Pete’s music evokes the wide-open spaces of middle America. There is a Tom Petty-like quality to Pete’s vocals and the music dives deep into that Americana sound filled with self-deprecating tales of the average guy. As Pete says, “These are classic songs for the underdogs. Songs for the forgotten generation who are not pretty enough to be Instagram models, of which I’m a proud member.” The songs talk about the reality of living through the ups and downs of recent years, and how hard it has been for many people with the acknowledgement that it’s okay to struggle at times. It’s also important to Pete that he writes about something that he knows and is relevant.

“Writing lyrics is a tough thing. It’s hard to write songs, so a lot of people focus on love and that’s an understandable thing to write about. But then it’s hard to find something new to say about it. And then there are lots of songs about drinking or about driving. So, you kind of bring it home and think, well what do I know that I can write about? When I was 18 or 19 I was doing folk, and all of the lyrics were made up of old legends about dragons turning up and that kind of thing. And it was fine, but I always felt like it wasn’t very personal. With this album I kind of feel like, after the tough times of late, that it’s okay to say that it’s harder. That’s kind of what I was trying to land on.” While it’s true to say that the lyrical content of this album is more serious in tone than those of The Outlaw Orchestra, it doesn’t mean that the listening experience isn’t enjoyable. The songs make you think while at the same time the melodies bring a certain joy to the proceedings.

This collection of songs has come together over a number of years. Pete takes up the story: “…some of them date back to 2018-2020 but then others were written in 2023. Some of them came out of nowhere. The first track on the album [Elvis] was actually not even originally designed to be on this album; I was always thinking it would be on the second album. I did a video of me just playing the riff on TikTok and it kind of went viral. I got 50,000 views in about 3 hours, or something stupid like that, and all of these comments. Mike said you’ve got to put this on the album; it’s got to be the next single, and then it’s got to go on the album. You can’t sit on it if it’s hot.”

As anyone who has seen The Outlaw Orchestra live on stage will know, Pete plays a multitude of instruments including banjo, lap and pedal steel and keyboards, so I wondered if he played everything on his album too. “Most of the stuff I played, but one of the big things I didn’t play so much is the drums. I do have a drum kit here in my studio and I did put some simple drums on a couple of the tracks. But for one of them [Rhonda] I got Ryan from The Outlaws to play. Dane Campbell from Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons is playing on a couple of tracks [Somewhere and Go To Bed] too.  And then there are a couple of other tracks with my brother, who lives in Australia and is an amazing drummer. He played on a couple of tracks, but actually they didn’t make the final cut of the record. There are some trumpets that were put on by someone else [Nebojsa Pavlo on Highflyer] and then there’s a couple of tracks that were produced by a guy called Jonny Moody at Mood Market Studios. He did a lot of extra instruments on Elvis and Sick and Tired: great guitar player, great bass player. So I was lucky; I chose good collaborators for this one.” Now that the album is out and attracting a positive response, I asked Pete if he will be touring the songs or if it would remain as a studio project. “The touring side of things is difficult, you know. When you are blessed like The Outlaws are, you know a few people in every town that you can rely on to come out to shows. Then touring’s a lot easier. But I think there are a couple of irons in the fire at the moment, although we’ll have to wait to see if we can start doing some live shows next year. It’s okay if it’s just a studio project, but I’d like to play some of these songs live.”

“Mike said you’ve got to put this on the album; it’s got to be the next single, and then it’s got to go on the album. You can’t sit on it if it’s hot.”


The idea that a song may only exist as a studio recording and never see the light of day in a live setting led us to an interesting discussion about the difference in mind set between playing in the studio and live on stage. I was intrigued to know how a musician feels about songs that, for whatever reason, don’t get played live and once they have been recorded remain preserved in a pristine state. For Pete, the studio and live settings are two very different experiences. “When you’re in a recording studio, you’re in a different headspace. You’re constantly thinking we’re making something that someone is going to listen to again and again and again. And they’re going to be the only people listening to it when they’re listening to it. The state they’ll be in is more attentive; it’s more concentrated, it’s more enjoying the actual music. And then, when you’re live, it’s all about we’re now creating a whole atmosphere. So the music’s a part of it, but actually the whole performance needs to come in. In terms of performance, you can get away with murder sometimes. People go ‘good gig, I think they’re amazing’ and you come off stage thinking ‘Oh, God! I made so many mistakes! I can’t believe we got away with that one’. But that’s because what you’re there to do is to create a feeling. With the record or live the recipient is in a totally different place. So when you’re making the record, you kind of really craft it, so when people listen the tenth time you want them to think ‘Oh, I never noticed that there was that weird whatever, or oh have you heard there’s a harmony there’. But then live you simplify, simplify, simplify and it’s all about creating that energy in the room itself. They’re almost like two totally different songs. If you take a song that’s live, and a song that’s on a record you kind of don’t even see them as the same song in a way.”

The Outlaw Orchestra live experience is very much about generating that party atmosphere. That is achieved through Dave Roux’s tall tales and the onstage chemistry between the three band members, as much as it is by the upbeat songs. “The Outlaws are a party band. You know that The Outlaws set out to make everyone happy and have a great time; that’s kind of our thing, that’s what we do and we love it. When we play live, we do have a couple of slower numbers, but what we really want is for people to go away thinking ‘Oh, yeah, I just really loved that set; I had a great time. I was with my friends, and we had a few drinks’ and to come away feeling really uplifted. Then, when you make a record, you want people to feel that as well, but you can explore a bit more. So making this album, it was thinking more about what is the statement this record is making, how do I want people to receive it? Then when it comes to playing it live, we’ll worry about that as a separate item”. How that more thoughtful approach on Album #1 translates into the live setting remains to be seen; but hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

As the conversation comes to an end, we talk about the financial struggle facing all grassroots musicians in the era of streaming and falling gig attendances. Pete remains philosophical. He knows that he’s unlikely to become rich playing music; but as a creative person, song writing and performing are deeply embedded in his soul. The music has to find a way out whether that’s on stage in front of thousands or just for his own satisfaction in his studio at home. Thankfully, there are enough of us out there willing to support Pete and others in their creativity to encourage the bands and artists to keep going.


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