I first heard the PawnShop Kings when I was attending college. Sweaty, tired, and covered in oil paint, I walked to the cafeteria after class when I notice a band checking their mics on stage at the outdoor amphitheatre. I was more than intrigued.
I was new to college and didn’t realize there would be live bands every week. I came from a smallish town where there wasn’t much live music and it was rare that a band came to town, so a live show was a treat. The fact that it was so accessible now was beyond exciting.
There they were, two bothers with a full band to back them. One of the brothers played an acoustic guitar and the other sat down at a keyboard to start the first song. He pushed the keys downs and opened his mouth to sing and it was over. A rich, soulful voice formed words about Carolina and leaving things behind. They harmonized perfectly, and electric melodies rushed through me. I was in love.
They played songs off their Locksley album, which I eagerly purchased along with one of their t-shirts after their set. I had found my new favorite band and a reason to pick up and learn the dusty guitar in my apartment.
I managed to strum a few chords and learn “Fake Plastic Trees” but that was pretty much it. I shortly forgot about guitar. Then, a few months later I saw a girl wearing the same PSK t-shirt I bought while in line at Disneyland.
“They’re friends of ours!” She exclaimed.
I put on the CD and reminded myself how amazing their music was. I wore out the Locksley CD. I was obsessed with it. Their songs told stories and I was starting to feel like trying to tell my own.
A year or so passed, and I had been writing music and legitimately learning guitar- nothing special, just basic chords, but I had several songs in my repertoire now. I was sent an e-mail that the Pawnshop Kings were playing a show in Newport at a little club called the Commonwealth Lounge. I convinced a friend to go with me and she was happily surprised at their polished and energetic acoustic performance. I nervously introduced myself and asked to buy two of their new EPs, Gospel and a self-titled disc; new music, all wonderfully melodic and telling of their improving songwriting skills.
Scott and Joel are real guys. They are kind, genuine, and interested in each person they meet. They have a motto that they tend to throw out there once in a while. I heard it a few times but I keep it with me- “Give Love”.
After that show I didn’t see them perform for a while. I didn’t see any emails in my inbox, but as I found out later, it’s because they were busy starting families, so… they had a good excuse.
I began taking myself seriously as a songwriter, and played more around Orange County. My friend asked me to join her at a show one night. She suggested I get to know the owner in hopes of playing my own set there in the future. Business is not my favorite. It makes me feel tacky and I get caught up in having to promote myself- I forget why I like the make music in the first place. But as I walked up to the venue’s door, Scott and Joel were standing outside talking.
An unannounced show, those rascals. I would have never known, it was pure beautiful luck.
It was like coming home to old friends who never let me down, and I instantly felt a powerful “presence”. They didn’t know me, really, but I didn’t care. Their music had lead me all this time to where I was, and I could never thank them enough.
Then, they sang.
The new songs grabbed my adult self and shook it a little. The brothers locked in, and wove stories with nostalgia and bittersweet memories. It was so real and honest and…magical. I asked Scott if they had any new albums or EPs. He caved and said he had an EP that they didn’t sell online but would let me buy it. I bought two. One for me and one for a friend.
It quickly became the CD we played in the car, singing at the top of our lungs. When I had a “lost week”- feeling utterly agitated and confused with life, I would intently listen to “Written on the Inside”. Their song “Fall Apart” instantly put a smile on my face. Every song knocked it out of the park and moved me. These guys made songs to cure, not just entertain.
I wanted to ask the ever-prevailing duo in my life, what is the secret to their perseverance and success. If you are an artist these words may especially enlighten you but I believe it’s for everyone:
“There really is no secret, no quantifiable rhyme or reason, to “making it happen.” Wouldn’t that be great if there were? It’s clearly a passion for all of us pursuing it. But the pursuit must suffice. The likelihood that any of us will find enough success to subsist on our artistic expression alone is astonishingly miniscule. Therefore, it must be about the pursuit and the art itself combined with an honest willingness to do “other” things, a Plan B as it were. It sounds depressingly practical and unromantic, but putting the pressure on our passion to yield most or all of our income can be detrimental. Of course, many successful artists would disagree unequivocally with that statement, but we aren’t talking to the overwhelming minority who has found success. Rather, we are talking to the rest of us who Love the expression and aren’t yet getting paid enough to survive on it alone.
Enough of the reality! From this point, we are free to create the Best art possible, and we’ll never have to stop creating it. It is our Art that will reach people and cross barriers. We live as diligent and ambitious and creative as we know how, and if the expression is going to get out, move people, speak loudly and boldly to many, then it will do just that, and almost always on its own timeline. We simply concentrate on the expression, and whatever is going to happen will happen. There can be confidence in that. Great art has a way of finding audiences. Oh, and get people you trust to speak into your art. We are way better off when refined than when alone!”
“My advice to people who want to pursue the arts is rooted in one thing- you really have to LOVE what you do. I mean REALLY love it. You have to love it so much that you would do it, at least on some level, no matter what. The thing that I respond to the most in any artist is when I feel that deep love and belief in their art. I can be just as inspired by the authenticity of an artist as I am by his/her art. In fact, if the artist is authentic, I can be inspired in spite of their art :))
Art is such a hard career path. It can’t be about money. It is certainly wise to make sure there is legitimate forward momentum, but it really goes back to loving what you do for the simple sake of doing it. That is where real art is cultivated.”
Very recently the boys have been signed to a new label and have a new website up with new video and new photos. It’s exciting for everyone who knows them and loves that they do and give. They deserve the buzz and to be heard more than ever before.
I want to share their music with you, I’m fairly sure you will not be disappointed. So go on, plug your headphones in and take a listen. And give love.
I dare you.
Here’s a video for you:
You can purchase their new EP here: (it’s gonna be goooood!)