Bret Michaels Band Guitarist Pete Evick Talks New Music, New Book and More

Pete Evick is best known as the guitarist and musical director for the Bret Michaels Band, with whom he has played for the past decade.

But his relationship with Michaels extends beyond merely backing up the Poison frontman onstage for his solo work.

The 42-year-old Virginia native also serves as Michaels’ co-songwriter, and he has produced such albums as 2010’s Custom Built and 2013’s Jammin’ with Friends, which featured guests Ace Frehley, Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Gary Rossington and Rickey Medlocke.

But like most working musicians these days, Evick also has his hand in various other endeavors.

He runs his own namesake hard rock band, Evick, is recording a debut solo instrumental guitar effort, produces and mixes for other acts and has started his own all-digital record company, Potomac Records; he even owns and operates an eco-friendly scented-candle company, Shining Sol.

Evick also recently became a published author, penning a self-help book titled The Moments That Make Us.

The tome chronicles his lifelong obsession with music and also takes a hard look at the some of the outcomes, positive and negative, of that obsession. In the latter category would be the dissolution of his marriage, which came as a result of his constant touring schedule. Evick tackles the topic with refreshing candor, in particular in the moments where he unflinchingly turns the critical eye back on himself. It’s an insightful and brave effort, laying bare the realities of what can happen when the rock and roll fantasy life crashes hard into the real world.

Guitar World caught up with Evick while the guitarist was in Nashville with the Bret Michaels Band.

Michaels is riding high on the success of his country crossover hit, “Girls on Bars,” and had just completed a live performance as part of the CMA [Country Music Association] Music Festival. From there, the band is getting set to head out on another summer packed full of live dates.

“It’s like the never ending tour,” Evick says, estimating that they perform upwards of 200 shows each year. He credits the intense schedule to Michaels’ tireless drive. “I’ve been with Bret 10 years now, and he’s as passionate and fierce today as he was the day I met him—and that was already 20 years into his career! But he just keeps going.”

Not that Evick would want it any other way. “I’m constantly amazed and thankful that I get to play music I love for a living, and I get to do it with someone I admire, and for people all over the world,” he says. “It’s just an awesome thing.”

GUITAR WORLD: What led you to write The Moments That Make Us?

The inspiration for this book was the fact that my marriage had broken up. And while I was dealing with how that event was going to affect my children, all I kept hearing over and over from people was, “Oh, don’t worry. Kids are resilient.” That’s all anyone says. And it just started to make me mad, to be honest with you. Because I feel like that’s something adults say to each other to make them feel like what they’re doing to their children is okay. And the more I thought about that, the more I started thinking about my own childhood.

My parents weren’t divorced, and as a kid I always thought I was having this wonderful childhood. But the older I got the more I realized that my family situation was pretty messed up. So the conclusion I came to was, yes, kids may be resilient, but as adults we carry that stuff with us and in the real world that’s where we become screwed up. In fact, the original title for the book was going to be Kids are Resilient…But What About the Adults They Become?

In addition to discussing your relationship with your ex-wife and your children, The Moments That Make Us tells the story of your path into the music world.

Sure. At the beginning of the book I’m five years old, and already I’m crazy about Kiss. And all throughout the book I’m talking about Kiss, Van Halen, all these bands. I was bitten by the rock and roll bug at the earliest stages.

And there’s a chapter in the book where I talk about the differences between being eccentric and strange—because one thing that happened to me early on in life was, I was in the Cub Scouts, and one of the leaders called me strange. And how I dealt with that was by accepting it.

Like, okay, if I’m strange then I’m strange. There was a power in that. And that put me on the path toward being an artist and saying, “I’m allowed to be eccentric.” Because when you let yourself be weird then you can express yourself differently. That was my vindication, and it enabled me start to pursuing a rock-and-roll career as early as elementary school.

And now you’re playing in a band with a guy whose music you listened to as a kid.

The last chapter of the book ends with me hearing [Poison’s 1986 debut] Look What the Cat Dragged In for the first time in my life. I’m a 13-year-old kid riding my BMX bike with a buddy one night, and he puts on the cassette. Now, I love all types of music, but there are only a few bands that have been life changing to me. They are Kiss, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister and Poison. And when I heard Poison for the first time that evening, riding my bike on the street, it blew my mind.

The song was “Cry Tough,” and over the years I’ve played that song in talent shows, I’ve played it in all my bands. I was a huge Poison fan. I even auditioned for Poison when C.C. [DeVille] left the band in the early Nineties. So the ironic thing is, here I am now and I’ve been playing with Bret for ten years. It’s been a twisted path, and it’s ended up almost right where it started.

So it’s certainly been a unique journey for me. And I’m not saying I would have ever given up, because rock and roll is in my blood, but there is that point in your life where you stop chasing that dream, and maybe I was almost there. You say to yourself, “Okay, I’m never gonna hit the big stages…” And right when I was approaching that moment, the opportunity came to play with one of the biggest heroes I had growing up.

And now we’ve played all over the world together. It’s become so much bigger than I could have every dreamed. I have a friendship with a guy I’ve looked up to my entire life, and we get to write and play music for people everyday.

There’s a lesson in there for aspiring guitarists about never giving up on your dreams.

Yeah. I mean, I started playing with Bret when I was 32 years old. And I did a lot of things in the music business before that. So if there’s anything inspiring I have to say to other guitarists, what I would say without a doubt is don’t give up. Always play music. Always hope. But—don’t lie to yourself. Don’t fake it. For me, as different types of music came in through the years…I mean, I appreciated grunge. I appreciated nu metal. I’m a fan of all that stuff. But I don’t bring that to the party. That’s not what I do. And I could never fake that.

At the same time, I could never do anything but music. So I learned how to produce. I learned how to record. I consulted with other bands. I was an agent. I ran sound. I did anything I could do in the industry. But as a guitar player, I never faked it. And if you stick to your guns and you believe in yourself…at the end of the day that’s what gave me an entire career in music. I’m well into my forties and I am a professional guitar player. That’s what I do for a living.

How do you see your style of music fitting into today’s landscape?

There’s always an avenue for every kind of music. But in the early Nineties I watched an entire generation of my friends switch to the flannel and the combat boots, you know what I mean? All that did was burn them out quicker and end their careers faster. But we go out now, and we’re touring all the time, and I see bands from the Fifties and Sixties, even the old Sha Na Na types of groups, and there’s still an audience for all that.

So for fans of Eighties music, of bands like Guns N’ Roses and Poison and Bon Jovi who together sold 35, 40, 50 million, maybe even 100 million records, those people didn’t just disappear. They’re still there. You just have to change the way you may deliver the music to them. At 21 years old I was all about going into some dingy bar and watching rock bands. At 42, and with two kids, I’d rather to a festival or an outdoor venue. You have to evolve with your genre and your generation. And again, the way you do that is by not faking it.

The Bret Michaels Band has been enjoying success with a country crossover hit, “Girls on Bars.”

That’s the new single, and I was very fortunate to be able to play guitar on it, as well as engineer, produce and mix the record.

And the thing is, Bret had had a rough winter, man. He was in and out of the hospital a few times, we had to cancel some shows. So for his own soul he was wanting to write a feel-good, take-me-back party song. And Luke Laird, who’s a Pennsylvania guy like Bret, and also the hottest songwriter in Nashville right now, reached out because he was a fan.

So they got together and we all sat around in this room and they wrote the song. I got to watch it happen. And it’s just a fun song. Very “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” in terms of attitude. One of those, you work hard all week, when the weekend hits let’s go have a party and blow off some steam.

So we recorded this song and took it down to Nashville. And Bret made all the calls to people personally. He took it to CMT and Sirius XM and iHeartRadio. He hand-delivered it to everybody. He believed in it that much. And everybody embraced it—all the big DJs down here in Nashville. Satellite radio. When CMT put it up on their website, it became the single most-viewed debut video they’ve ever had. And we just did a Superfan concert here in Nashville yesterday and the song went over great. So it’s been really cool.

You’re also working on a solo album.

I am. It’s called Awakened, and it’ll be out in about six months. But the first single, which is also the title track, will be released June 23. It’s an instrumental solo record, and I’ve never done anything like that. But as a kid growing up it was all about guitar to me. I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. I wanted to be Randy Rhoads. I wanted to be Steve Vai. But then as you get older you become a singer, a songwriter. You start worrying about songs more and the shred stuff becomes a little less important.

So for a long time I’ve been more focused on just writing a really good pop song. And I don’t know what it was, but about a year ago I was inspired to play guitar again, the way I did when I was a kid. All of a sudden I was listening to a lot of Passion and Warfare. A lot of Eat ‘Em and Smile. A lot of 5150. I just became completely infatuated and excited about the guitar again.

So I started writing this instrumental record. And I would never compare myself to Steve Vai, but I would say it’s most influenced by that Passion and Warfare / Eat ‘Em and Smile era of his playing. And there’s also lot of Van Halen in it, because I live and die for everything Eddie does.

Actually, it might have even been Van Halen’s A Different Kind of Truth record that kicked this whole thing off for me. When that came out [in 2012] I hadn’t sat down and learned to play a record in years, probably going back to when I was young and I had to sit there and lift the needle off the record to figure out the licks. But when that new Van Halen record came out, I just had to know how to play it.

So that might have been the start of it. After that, I just woke up one day and wanted to shred again, and play the guitar in a way I hadn’t in years. And that led to me writing an instrumental record. There’s always new things to get inspired by and excited about, you know?

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.