Since 2004, Pete McDonald has been performing throughout the Cleveland, OH area. With the independent release of Here and Gone, Pete’s second full-length album of original material, in November of 2005, Pete stepped confidently into the Cleveland music scene. The Cleveland Scene Magazine called Here and Gone “immaculate” and the Cleveland Free Times said that Pete’s “creative song-writing will strike a chord with any music lover.” Pete was nominated for Best Male Singer-Songwriter in the 2006 Cleveland Free Times Music Awards.
Pete performs his original music with various line-ups. Solo, duo, or full band performances include Pete on acoustic guitar and harmonica usually accompanied by harmony vocals or electric guitar. During full band performances, Pete and the band move nimbly from spare and haunting folk-rock ballads to straightforward rock n’ roll. Full instrumentation includes drums, bass guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica, keyboards, and vocals.
Pete has also performed throughout the Cleveland area with The Waxwings Stringband, an old-time band based in Cleveland, OH. The Waxwings include twin sisters Lisa and Laura Cyrocki, and brothers Nate and Pete McDonald. Lisa and Pete married in 2009. The group released a self-titled album of traditional songs in January of 2011. Pete also performs as a guest musician in the old-time band One Dollar Hat, based in Burton, OH, and other old-time stringbands.
Throughout Pete’s performing career in the Cleveland area (mostly thanks to the Beachland Ballroom and The Barking Spider) he has opened for acts like The Avett Brothers, Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Lucy Kaplansky, Abigail Washburn, The Greencards, The Weepies, Stacy Earle and Mark Stuart, Greensky Bluegrass, Paul Thorn, Hillbilly Idol, Blonde Boy Grunt & the Groans, and other local and national acts.
In addition to performing and recording original and old-time music, Pete is also involved in promoting traditional music. Since 2006, he has directed the Raccoon County Music Festival.
Since 2006, Pete has worked for Western Reserve Land Conservancy, a regional land trust serving northeast Ohio, and uses music to help promote the Land Conservancy’s mission of protecting farmland, natural areas, and revitalizing urban areas.
The songs on Here and Gone, Pete’s 2005 album, sound like a folk-rock fusion between Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young spiced up with elements of Dylan and more contemporary singer-songwriters like Ryan Adams and Josh Ritter. Pete’s songwriting reflects a deep love of the great songwriters of our times and a background of Appalachian music, family, farming, work, relationships, and travel. In the up-tempo rocker "On the Radio," Pete packs in lyrics like early Springsteen, painting a picture of the Utah landscape in the first verse and then moving on to cover themes ranging from environmentalism to coming to terms with the pains and confusion of childhood. In Evangeline, a haunting tale about an unusual death, Pete transports the listener to the central plains of America, simultaneously capturing the landscape, farming, family life, depression, love, and loss with vivid imagery and a bare bones instrumental arrangement.
In addition to his own material, Pete teamed up with novelist Elise Huneke Stone (who also wrote for Pete’s first album) to co-write six of the fourteen songs for the new release Here and Gone. Elise brings an edgy poetic hand to songs like "Can’t Be True" and "American Dream," a tale evoking the Great Depression, but modern at the same time. As a novelist, Elise applies her understanding of character and voice to help create songs that are a blend of her life experiences and Pete’s life experiences, but rendered in such a way that the emotional truths resonate with Pete as the singer. In “Wearing the Blues,” Elise writes gutsy lyrics that cut right to the core of pain and confusion, and Pete’s arrangement and lead vocals take us on that intense emotional ride. The production of Here and Gone varies from simple acoustic performances to full band rockers that include bass, drums, acoustic and electric guitars, organ, harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, and piano. The music is simple, but it’s simple in the best kind of way. Instead of trying to fit too many chords and meandering melodies into his songs, Pete returns to simple chord progressions and memorable melodies with raw lyrical images that cover a wide variety of themes. Some songs are slow, quiet, and dramatic and other songs simply rock.
Here and Gone was recorded in various northeast Ohio studios, but the bulk of the recording, mixing, and mastering was accomplished at Harvest Studio in Streetsboro, OH, a beautiful rustic studio built in an old barn.
As for some history, Pete grew up on a farm in Chardon, OH, a small town east of Cleveland, and he’s been writing songs since he first picked up the guitar at age 16. He comes from a family of musicians and a life of music. He started out playing at open mics and participating in family old-time jams, and since the younger years he has played in college rock bands, at pub sessions in Scotland, on the streets of Ireland, in old mining towns in Colorado, at notable Cleveland, OH venues (Beachland Ballroom, Barking Spider, The Winchester, House of Blues, Grog Shop, etc.), and anywhere else where he can take an instrument. Pete started writing songs from the moment that he picked up the guitar, but in January of 2002 Pete’s songwriting took on new energy when he teamed up with one of his co-workers, at the tiem, Elise Huneke Stone to write the half of the songs that would appear on his first self-released album, After the Rockies (released Summer 2003). Many of the songs on After the Rockies tell the stories of pivotal moments in people’s lives, and their aftermath. Like Here and Gone, the production of After the Rockies is simple and raw ranging from solo acoustic studio performances to bare bones folk-rock songs with drums, bass, some fiddle or mandolin, and the occasional lead electric guitar. Pete recorded, mixed, mastered, and produced the album and played most of the instruments.