I first became aware of Pete Tonti from a video someone took at the Sandy Mack Sunday jam. I can't remember who all the players were, but I remember the song was Hit The Road Jack and there was Pete Tonti kind of tucked in the back ripping out an amazing solo. I started watching videos and learning more about the Sunday jams pretty religiously from that point, and no matter who the featured artist was there was Pete rocking out and keeping up with every one of them. It wasn't until 2018 that I finally got to see Pete perform in person at the inaugural Pack The Bowl festival at the Sea Girt Lanes. Pete was playing a solo acoustic set and he kicked into this beautiful breezy rhythm that just caught my undivided attention. As he began to sing an original song that I would later come to learn was called Ode To Oblivion, singing out "will I be the man I know I was meant to be.." I realized beyond being just an amazing musician he was an incredibly deep and heartfelt writer. And standing just to my right was his mom and dad, Gina and Rich, beaming with pride. It was a unique moment because I found myself right in the feelings between, understanding the anxieties you can feel bearing your heart onstage yet still pouring it out for love anyway, and the feeling as a parent of how whole a heart can be seeing your child making the magic Pete creates. At that moment I was hooked.
Pete has been writing songs since at least a young teen. But you'd never know that if you read his lyrics. He writes with a maturity well beyond his years, and he hides nothing. He spills his heart into every single word and shares his struggles, his dreams, his aspirations, and his ideals. For me my ideal song always begins with honest and thoughtful lyrics, and the more that Pete began to share of his catalog, the more I realized I was listening to greatness. If you took his song "Tuesday's Are Rough" and told me it was an old undiscovered John Lennon tune, I'd believe it.
One day in the summer of 2020 I mustered up the courage to ask if Pete would be willing to play some acoustic shows with me focusing on our original songs. Much to my surprise he said yes right away, and what transpired next would be nothing short of magical. We got together first in Bradley Beach sitting in the kitchen with our guitars, of which I'm pretty sure we strummed maybe one or two tunes. Instead we talked, and that would become the theme of all of our "rehearsals" going forward. It's become an amazing bond sharing advice with each other, and sharing in honesty about things we struggle with. Pete's music heals, and most importantly to me is that he understands and believes in that. The struggles we face as humans is the burden we must bear if we are to understand and respect how important and sacred the music we create is for those who listen. You can't speak to and heal someone else's pain quite the same if you haven't felt it yourself. Pete's music is as authentic as it gets because Pete is as authentic as it gets, and coupled with his amazing musicianship I think he's going to go on touching a lot of souls.
We finally did play that duo, and just before we went in to start Pete looked at me with all the reassuring confidence in the world and said "I think this is gonna be a really incredible night" and we proceeded to play what will always be one of my most favorite shows I have ever been a part of. What people may not know is as amazing as Pete is on guitar and vocals, he's just as great at banjo, mandolin, and piano. He probably can play a bunch of other instruments too. I was honored that he added both banjo and mandolin for my song, My Destruction. His melody and rhythm takes the song to a whole new dimension and I can't wait for you to hear it!
(video of Pete tearing it up on my guitar at a Sandy Mack jam)
You can catch Pete live with his band, the self titled Pete Tonti Band, where they bring absolute fire with an impressive catalog of originals and creative covers brought with amazing intensity and energy! You can follow them in the link below. You can also catch Pete playing solo acoustic shows on a regular basis, and most certainly you'll catch he and I playing together. Pete's just a dear friend, and I can't wait to see all the joy he's destined to spread through the music he creates.