Loving Hard and Feeling Harder with LA Chanteuse Beck Pete
What if instead of saying "I'm good, thanks!" to all those fleeting moments of "How are ya?" you admitted you were having a tough day? That it was a battle just to get out of bed this morning. That you're still hurting from your breakup. That your anxiety feels alienating. That your loneliness feels crippling. That you need a little help. What would happen?
Beck Pete wants to know, but she's pretty sure it would feel like healing. That's why the Los Angeles songstress is working to break these barriers of lukewarm courtesy -- the ones that prevent us from getting real with the people who love us and the people who could -- by using her music as a vehicle for honesty and vulnerability. Hungry to "normalize feeling and normalize heartbreak," Beck is barreling through the classic compulsion to be "fine" with a new normal in mind.
Powered by her own truths, she's making music designed to put a spotlight on our fears and insecurities. Combining various elements of pop, rock, and soul, she crafts a sonic medley you'll dance to, cry for, and revel in.
After undergoing a major musical epiphany and rebranding to become Beck Pete, the LA-based powerhouse dropped "Lonely," her debut single. It's not your typical chart-topper or even your go-to anthem for late night road trips, but it's so much more. It's transformative, the kind of gut-punch you endure only a few times in a lifetime. When we heard "Lonely" for the first time, we were struck with a vocal power and emotion we didn't know existed. Our arms were polka-dotted and pockmarked by goosebumps. We were heaving chest-wracking sobs. Yeah, we love music, but when a song does that to you, it becomes less of a passion and more of an immersive healing experience. Magic, one might say.
"Lonely" opens right away with Beck's vocals, a ghostly, gritty hum above tender keys paving the way for a more complex arrangement waiting in the shadows as Beck sings the first verse, stripped-down to bare-bones delivery while that piano moves like a heartbeat. She sings the hook then -- "I'm not lonely, I'm just haunted all the time" -- with a heartbreaking ache in her voice as the first crush of multi-instrumentation kicks in. A veil of deep percussion and quick strums join the arrangement, sweet rushes of sonic layers that know when to step out and let Beck's emotive, pained vocals tell her story, backed by echos of soft harmony. The track continues like this -- the back-and-forth moments of minimalist production with a spotlight on Beck's dreamy aria followed by thoughtful eruptions of moving melodies.
There are endless instances of lyrical prowess here, so raw and revelatory in their futile inquiries: "Will you come back or should I give up hope?" The sheer honesty with which Beck writes and performs "Lonely" is agonizing. It's crushing, because this isn't just a song you can relate to once or have a quick conversation about in passing. It is the song to break your heart -- you can feel its very foundation start to crack courtesy of those desperately vulnerable lyrics, but Beck's voice, emphatic and fueled by pure feeling alone, makes the fissures bloom until you're left amid the rubble of your own undoing by the end of the track.
See what we mean below, but if you're a true masochist, test your soul endurance with Beck's live acoustic take here. With one mic and flanked by wildly talented friends, she delivers a devastatingly gorgeous rendition.
Beck Pete's newest single, "Gently Break It," thankfully lays off the heart-hurt. Well, the instrumentation does at least. Lyrically we've still got those important themes of nestling comfortably into vulnerability. Here, Beck gets real about toxic relationships -- specifically, what happens when we deliberately seek out ways to self-sabotage. The musical accompaniment, though, tackles a deliciously flavorful rock pattern.
"Gently Break It" kicks off with in-your-face punches of rollicking electric riffs before her dark, soulful vocals come in crooning. From the very beginning, the track pumps along at a cloudy creep, accompanied by rich crescendos of harmony and high-powered indie-rock eruptions. There's a playful component here, danceable in a sinister sort of way (thanks to those versatile vocals playing with texture and power), but don't be fooled by its cool throb. Beck's still holding us accountable for our unhealthy behaviors. Thank god -- somebody has to.
With Beck's two new singles, we get warring soundscapes driven by identical ideologies. In this way, it becomes clear that because she feels too hard and too much and too fervently, she is capable of anything. Armed with a powerhouse voice and a life lived both obediently and obstinately, Beck Pete inches the divide between inner truth and the outside world. In one fell swoop, she offers expertly crafted indie gems and urges listeners to humanize the very things that make us human.
We were truly so honored to conduct a quick interview with Beck about normalizing heartbreak, her time spent in advertising, the fruits of collaboration, and a whole lot more. Read below and enjoy.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourself and your music?
Beck Pete: Man, this question never gets easier for me to answer. I’m Beck Pete! I believe in beauty in extremes and I believe in feeling feelings. I believe that life is diluted when you don’t allow yourself to experience these things in the way that they are intended -- which is fully. I believe that fear is the biggest thief that exists in the world. Because of those beliefs, my music leans into the most vulnerable sides of who I am in order to persuade others that they should lean into the fear associated and do the same.
I guess maybe I should also tell people what kind of music that I make, sonically. I make pop music of the indie variety that intersects with soul and rock 'n roll when it feels right… and I would say it almost always feels right.
TMM: You’re based in Los Angeles -- a wildly saturated hub for creativity. How has LA influenced your work at all?
BP: Living in Los Angeles has influenced my work immensely. Not only have I found myself and who I am as an artist through forcing myself to be fully independent and start over in a place where I truly did not actually know a soul, but I am also constantly surrounded by phenomenal art.
I am a muse-based writer for my artist project, meaning I need to be influenced by truly feeling something in order to write about it in a meaningful way. In Los Angeles, I am immersed in a music scene where I have people very close to me creating necessary, beautiful art, and not to mention simultaneously living in the self-proclaimed most difficult city to date in the US, while seeking real, gushy love... so I am constantly inspired. I have never written so much music, I have never been pushed so hard to create great music, and I have never experienced so much heartbreak. What a powerful combo.
TMM: This isn’t really a question so as much as a fangirl moment that I’d kick myself for not revealing, so forgive me. When I heard “Lonely” for the first time, I broke down in chest-heaving-goosebump-inducing-lurching sobs, followed by an hour-long stint laying on the floor making my Alexa robot play it over and over. It was transformative (and the acoustic take nearly killed me). I don’t think I can name another song that has done that to me. Can you talk a little about the track and what you intended for it to mean when you made it?
BP: COME ON!!!! I am crying!!!!! “Lonely” is my musical child. “Lonely,” specifically, showcases the common tactic of being in denial of feelings in order to appear strong. I wrote it during one of my lowest times. I was lonely, I was depressed, and I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be. I was going through the world answering “I’m good!” when people asked how I was because that’s what I was “supposed to do.”
I think that the moment I wrote "Lonely" was when I realized what it was that I wanted to say to the world... that I had something to say. That I was meant to remind the world to feel.
I am so glad that you connected to the song. It is a love song, of course, but it's also meant to inspire self-reflection and allow listeners to feel a little less alone, and myself to feel that way, simultaneously. Your response did that for me.
TMM: What was the production process like behind your killer new single, “Gently Break It”?
BP: I haven’t actually told anyone the beginning part of this story. The demo for "Gently Break It" started off with very Top 40 pop production. Then, the initial demo producer told me that my voice wasn’t right for my song and that we should shop it. This song came from my heart and I knew I wanted to be the one to tell the story.
So I started over with producer Ben Matin and told him I wanted it grittier. I wanted it to have more soul. More feeling. Him and I sat in the studio for 10-12 hour days honing the right tones and playing around with the right parts to make it feel rock 'n roll and a little bit classic, but not cheesy. I wanted to make sure that there were scene changes throughout to take the listener on a ride that felt surprising but seamless. Ben let me be a part of every choice and let me force him to close all of the blinds while we worked and light too many candles in one room and really allowed me to be a partner in the process.
I finished the song with Ryan Gilligan, who also mixed the song, and added additional drums and vocals to truly give the song the finishing touches it deserved. He quickly learned how crazy I was. Luckily, he was okay with it and we finished this baby quickly and efficiently.
TMM: I read in an interview that you worked in advertising for a bit before diving into music. Are there any creative correlations to your music that you can trace back to your time in advertising?
BP: I mean, everything is connected, right? Although advertising is a creative business field, the tools that it gave me were more practical and business oriented, because creativity was always something innate for me. Advertising helped me figure out how to harness my creativity into a way that was cohesive to a consumer so that it could be easily received.
Advertising created rules in my mind for what is “right” when it comes to branding and introducing myself as a brand, that I sometimes choose to adhere to, and sometimes “gently break,” if you will. The specific agency that I worked for also stressed the importance of a creative idea often being fully realized through collaboration -- which definitely influences how I approach songwriting and brainstorming in my career.
TMM: You’re making a big push to “normalize feeling and normalize heartbreak.” I am so on board for this. Can you tell us a little more about what you mean by this and what you’re trying to accomplish with your music?
BP: In a world where strength is encouraged, and expression of feeling has been painted as the opposite of strength, I’m over here arguing that one cannot exist without the other. There is this idea that we always have to be “okay,” or else we won't be well-received. It is my opinion that we are strongest when we are honest with ourselves and with others. I know that I can offer all of those things in tandem to the world -- vulnerability. Honesty. Strength. Hopefully that will influence other people to be more comfortable with their feelings and bring them to light in their everyday life. That's why I'm here and that's why I do what I do: to serve as a reminder of how important those things are.
TMM: Seems like you really dig collaborating with friends and fellow musicians. What are the advantages and disadvantages to performing solo vs. with a bunch of talented pals?
BP: Two heads are almost always better than one, so advantages include allowing a vision to become something bigger than you. That can be so, so beautiful and eye-opening. However, sometimes something needs to just come straight from your experience and your mouth. "Lonely" was written alone and I didn’t edit it because I think it told the story just how it should be told.
When you perform solo, the words are just yours and so is the performance. People are truly feeling you authentically just as you are. Sometimes that’s necessary.
TMM: Who are three musicians you think the world needs to listen to ASAP?
BP: LEON. Incredible, emotive vocals. Honest, catchy, clever songwriting. I haven’t heard a single song by her that I didn’t like. [Editor's note: Agreed. "Surround Me" floored me when I heard it last year.]
Moses Sumney. Actually authentically creative. Incredible vocals and tone. Ability to lean into an extremely modern sound without losing the ability to make you feel. [Editor's note: Just heard him for the first time courtesy of Beck's recommendation... wow. Give a listen to his Tiny Desk concert here.]
TMM: What has been your most memorable music moment so far?
BP: Definitely playing The Troubadour was the most memorable. I got to connect with the most people at once that night. Live performance will always be #1 in my heart.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what’s next for Beck Pete?
Beck Pete: MORE MUSIC!!! All I want to do is keep creating and playing for anyone that will listen. You can expect more honesty, more feelings, and lots more songs. Also, hopefully you will be seeing me a lot more places!
Itching for more music magic? We've got you covered. Follow The Music Mermaid below.
Photo by Annabel Lee.