February 12th, 2020 9pm Stage 1
Celebrating Rockwood Music Hall’s 15-Year Anniversary!
On the heels of NPR’s tiny desk contest, Bob Boilen (NPR) and Rita Houston (WFUV) invited Phil Pickens and his band the Astronauts to play the legendary Hit Factory in the heart of NYC. NPR Music recalls his sound as “big-hearted” and “rootsy”.
There’s a push-pull in everything Phil Pickens says and doesn’t say, in what he sings and doesn’t sing. “The words I do not say speak louder than I want them to,” he sings in “Fool’s Gold.” Born and raised in Georgia, his crooked smile and royal blue eyes perfectly embody the double edge of kindness and menace in southern hospitality. Pickens has a bracing, expressive voice and a style that blends folk sensibilities and contemporary indie rock.
As a boy in Georgia, Pickens’ picked up a used guitar at a garage sale and learned to play southpaw from a wise lady named Miss Genie. His friends would come over to jam in his parent’s basement to best one another in the latest guitar lick on the radio and later on sneak into clubs to check out the latests local bands at Eddie’s Attic or The Tabernacle. Pickens began writing his own songs in college. Taking influence from playwrights, poets, and novelists of the beatnik era, Pickens began to create his own writing style with a backbone in landscapes, unexpected characters, and unique story twists.
After college in southern Indiana and a year in Louisville, Kentucky, Phil made his way north to New York City. Over the last ten years, he’s lived in every corner of Astoria and now resides in Harlem.
It’s not unusual to find Pickens devoted to a conversation after a set. Not in a rush, but not wasting time. And in each of his songs, there is the sense of a new conversation being had – of a questioning that comes from a musician who needs to make music. Mix in his southern roots, his time in the fire of NYC and the result is the unique indie folk rock music of Phil Pickens.