Time away from it all proves valuable
After being immersed in music for a decade and bouncing around the big cities of the world, Peter Jack Rainbird decided to stop—all of it.
“I decided to stop playing music and stop writing and didn’t tell anyone I played music, I didn’t record any music, I didn’t write any music, I didn’t pick up a guitar, not a kazoo, not a triangle, I didn’t play the pennywhistle, I don’t think I even whistled.”
He accepted an invitation and retreated to the Discovery Islands making his home on Quadra. A good place to do some reassessing, he said. Rainbird now spends most of his time in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area and can often be seen performing around our towns.
Rainbird was born in England where his parents worked for the British Government and then the country’s navy. From the age of two he travelled around the world with his parents as his father was consistently being relocated to exotic places. Along the way his mother insisted he spend some time in actual schools, no matter where they were, for some culture-building.
“So if we were in Morocco, Malta or Sri Lanka, she would find a sympathetic teacher who spoke english and she’s throw me into a school for half of my week.”
About eight years later they returned to England and Rainbird took a trip up to Ireland to stay with his father’s family just outside Dublin on a working farm. At 10 years old, Rainbird said he was in heaven in the wonderful place called Castle Farm, which was actually a real castle with horses, cows and chickens, where he was aloud to ride dirt bikes with his relatives. So he took a semester of school there which turned into three years.
When he returned back to Oxford to live with his parents he distinctly remembers making a life-changing discovery up in the attic. His parents owned and ran bars and clubs at the time and had collected all the 45 rpm records from when they were swapped out for new hits in the jukeboxes.
“I suddenly got lost and what happened was I became fascinated by this invisible force that fills the room and changes everything. And that’s what music is.”
Rainbird joined a band because of a fleeting request from a buddy at school. He was 15 when his best friend Adrian asked him to carry his electric guitar back to music class, because he had forgotten his case and was embarrassed. So Rainbird held his first electric guitar, and not just any guitar, “a mustang red Fender Stratocaster.
“So I’m carrying this mustang red guitar and I had to walk through the playground and you just start swaggering when you’re carrying something like that. You can’t walk like a normal person, things start taking over and you become 10 feet tall and you get noticed,” he laughed.
One of the other students approached him and asked if he wanted to join their band, and Rainbird quickly agreed. Luckily they were looking for a singer, since he didn’t own a guitar, but he took up guitar shortly after since he needed to be able to play and instrument as well.
After a stint to Paris where he lived with a French girlfriend, he decided to go on a bit of a pilgrimage with an American DJ to what he considered to be the “Mecca of music”: Hansa Ton Studio in Berlin. There he befriended some top notch sound engineers and ended up recording some demos. From there he was offered a job in Los Angeles working with bands on developing their live shows. He cruised around in his sky-blue 1963 beetle rag top, played in clubs and coffee houses, and made some more demos.
After a year and a half he returned home to England to see family, and ended up making the move to London. It was there he hooked up with Canadian musicians, producers and sound engineers Daniel and Robert Lanois, among other music greats, and starting recording more demos with them. This forged the foundation for his first full-length album. At this point Rainbird was about 30 and was invited to check out Toronto.
From there he travelled back to all the places he had been to record pieces of the album, this included Berlin, Paris, London and L.A., and involved about 100 people. With that music he worked incessantly on forging a cohesive album called Fragments From a Journey.
After all that work, Rainbird took a break and realized he was utterly and completely burnt out. He packed a few things and headed for the West Coast ready to put music on the backburner. After about a year and a half he went to the Vancouver Island Music Festival in Comox and got his “heart blasted and mind blown.
“I came away from that weekend and it just took me over again.”
Rainbird had friends send him out a few essentials, his 1967 Gibson Firebird guitar, an amplifier and a half dozen pedals. He started small, playing on Quadra Island and suddenly felt compelled to share what he was doing on a civic level, he said. Rather than busking, he wanted to activate and turn on public spaces by sharing his music, he said, and one of these places was Qualicum Beach’s Glassford Sqaure.Rather than the bluesy, folk rock-style music on his previous album, he was playing soul stirring instrumentals.
“I had no ambition to make an album, it was just an exploration of sound for me, and just loving sharing it with people in that moment.”
After awhile it seemed natural to record an album on Protection Island, he said, an album that was a reflection of the Island, sounded like the Island, and was made by Island people. Rainbird has performed around the Island, in Vancouver and he joined the Wanderlust Festival in Whistler last year.
This summer he’ll be traveling and performing with that festival in places like Vermont, Colorado and California and finishing off in Whistler.For more on Rainbird and to see him activating public sqaures in our area visit www.peterjackrainbird.net.