Showcase Festival “Tomorrow Comes Today”, Porto – Portugal, October 12th – 2017
The Groningen – Porto Report
Round about half September this year I received a very surprising invitation from Nelson Graf Reis, a very talented and energizing singer-songwriter from Porto in Portugal. Nelson and myself met during the big Eurosonic Festival earlier this year in Groningen, The Netherlands for an interview, please check it out if you haven’t already, just follow the link!
Nelson was organizing a small festival, the Oh Lee Music Showcase, inside a bigger showcase in Porto and he invited me to join! This smaller and free access event, featuring local Portuguese bands and artists in acoustic sets, took place in a very beautiful club in Porto downtown. The place is called Casa Do Livro and is located at Rua Galerias Paris 85. Check this place, if you can!
Nelson Graf Reis and his team were organizing this two days lasting showcase in partnership with a conference festival with the very beautiful and inviting name Tomorrow Comes Today.
“Celebrating life through music and people connecting with each other” was the main motto of this event. Nelson’s event was kind of a warm-up of the main conference, where people like James Stirling (BBC Music), Jon Eades (Abbey Road Red), Josh Saunders (Warner Music) and Paul Pacifico (Association of Independent Music) were discussing their opinions and perspectives regarding the music industry nowadays and in the future.
The Oh Lee Music Showcase was presenting these very surprising and amazing artists: O Mau Olhado/João Cardoso, Giant’s Magazine, To All My Friends, Emmy Curl, We Bless This Mess, Fast Eddie Nelson, Tio Rex and Mojave.
Earlier, 60Minuten already presented O Mau Olhado/João Cardoso in an very impressive interview, please check it out, just follow the link!
Today I am very happy to present to you my talk with Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine. Please enjoy a very fascinating open interview!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Dear Pedro, please introduce yourself!
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: I’m Pedro Melo, I’m 23 years old and I’m from Braga in Portugal. In my opinion I don’t have a regular story of “singing since I remember”. I always loved to hear music and I bought my first guitar when I was 14 years old. Then I learned how to play just by myself. A few years later I thought “what if I try to sing-along?” That’s how I began to show interest in music as something more than just a hobby. I started to upload some covers I played on YouTube. As a result of this I got invited to participate in “The Voice Portugal” (Portuguese reality show) and after this, I was sure that I really wanted to live from music. I picked up some lyrics I wrote through the years, tried to compose something and my own songs began to appear.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: What are your main music influences so far?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: All this happened when I began to get really into indie and folk music. That really shaped my work. I spent my days listening to The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters And Men, The Tallest Man On Earth, Damien Rice and Patrick Watson and I tried to learn as much as possible from these influences.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: What in general are your songs about?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: At first, the music I wrote looked like some loose stories. Until one day I saw the movie “Big Fish”, that inspired the song “The Storyteller”. With this song in mind I arranged all the other songs to look like a story: It started with “Tartarus”. This song works like a prologue and talks about not letting ourselves get lost in the errors of the past. The real story begins with “Pete, the little giant”. It tells a story of a little boy, who arrives at a new town, ready to become memorable. Then it all rolls on – he meets a girl, they are happy together until she disappears and after a long adventure of self-knowledge, they finally meet again and live happy forever. However, as you listen to “Storyteller”, you realize that life isn’t as blue as it looks like sometimes. Our only chance to become epic and memorable is to tell the stories in our own way. All these songs that I have and that I hope to see recorded in an album someday are kind of related to a period of my own life, so it’s like I’m telling my own story through metaphors. The epilogue and final message of this story is “Rise”, where I wrote kind of a message to myself, so I can read it every time I think that I can’t go further: “Fall now, so you can rise again. That’s the road to become a stronger man. Don’t be the lamb that they once knew. Rise as the lion that’s sleeping inside you”.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Why do you sing in English?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: I sing in English because I think, I sound a lot better. Portuguese is a really tricky language and every singer knows that – and it’s even worse when you try to write something in Portuguese without being cheesy and predictable. Besides this, I think my pronunciation is kind of acceptable and I feel really comfortable writing in English. I would love to travel the world while I sing my songs, and the best shot I have to do this is to sing in English (laughing)!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How busy are you in Portugal?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: Right now I’m finishing a course in Economics at the University of Minho and I’m also teaching guitar besides some other small projects.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Other projects?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: Currently I’m working with some non-musical projects to gain experience and some money, especially with youth associations here in Braga.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Do you have plans to tour outside Portugal in the future?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: About the future, I hope it will be all about music of course. As Pedro Melo, Giant’s Magazine, Peter Folkman (a soon to be announced project) or any other name. I just want to sing and play for the rest of my life! As I said before, my dream is to go out and see the world with my own eyes. I had a concert in Poland once, by accident, and it was the best experience I had. Since I couldn’t talk that much during the concert like I use to do in Portugal, I tried to focus on the music and its feeling – and it was so good! I want to feel that again and again, wherever I am!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Tell me a bit more about your “The Voice Portugal” experience please!
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: I was invited twice to participate in this contest. They saw some of my YouTube videos and decided to contact me, to challenge me to take the auditions. Although I gave up in my first try. I passed the castings but decided to give up before the blind auditions. But then I got another chance and repeated the castings one year later and passed the blind auditions with “Cannonball”, a song from Damien Rice. Then I had the battles, I think this is the English name for it and sang Ed Sheeran‘s “Photograph”. My participation ended in the Knockout Rounds, when I sang a Portuguese song called “Morena” by the Portuguese singer Tiago Bettencourt. I’m not the kind of man to appear on tv because there I had to deal with a lot of stress and pressure. Normally I’m a really calm guy. But it was a fantastic and big surprise for me, to take part in this adventure. I have to recognize that it made me mentally stronger and it worked like a boost to my confidence. It opened my eyes because it made me see that I could have a chance in this music business.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: What is the meaning of Giant’s Magazine?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: Giant’s Magazine was born 4 years ago when I was playing and singing with two friends. We thought about giving this project a really special name. We were all into indie and folk and we thought, this could be a great idea. The first song we wrote was “The Storyteller”. Although it was just a draft, we talked a lot about small people becoming giants through their lives. Our conclusion was that our little project should be named “Giant’s Magazine”, because we were going to tell the life of someone who wished to become bigger and greater. It was like our own diary turned into music. Shortly after that, we all were attending different universities and our project got lost. As I said, my passion about making my own music only became relevant again after my participation in “The Voice Portugal”. There I used my own name Pedro Melo, to be more visible in the aftermath of this contest and it really helped me in the first months after. For example I launched my first EP after this contest. I have to admit that being connected to a TV show can help a bit when you want to promote your own work. Later I realized, it did not make sense to sing original songs in English while using my Portuguese name Pedro Melo, it does not really relate. Unfortunately, in my opinion, our country does not have the music culture that it should have. Then there are just two ways to make your path: Either you sing in Portuguese and try to create a steady fan base with some good catchy songs, or you use a totally different name and hide the fact that you are Portuguese. So I decided to use the name of my previous project as my own stage name to sing my own songs in English, Giant’s Magazine. As time went by, I began to feel it was a good choice, but still it didn’t made me fulfilled. It sounded more like my own story instead of being my artist name. You know, every artist has his own flaws and confusions, and this was mine. Then, with the help of some people that have been helping me for the last months, I decided to settle my work with two separate stage names: Pedro Melo became the public name, very useful for singing some cover versions and eventually even sing some original compositions in Portuguese. Then I started my original project called Peter Folkman. Giant’s Magazine is the lifelong project that I will always use as an inspiration for my work.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How important is the reaction of the audience, do you talk with them, do you feel their energy, are you annoyed when they do not listen?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: Well, I think everyone wants to feel their work appreciated. When I have some time, I really love to interact with the audience, to explain the meaning of the songs I wrote. I really don’t expect anything else besides attention because normally they don’t know my music, so I’m trying to do my best to leave a good impression. I have to say, I had a lot of fun playing in this Showcase here in Porto, everyone was so quiet and concentrated, without phones to distract them… it’s difficult these days, right? I like to live the moment, so I expect that everyone is going to act like I would too.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: You mentioned, you want to sing and play forever. What is the general message you want to give to people who listen to your music? Is there a general message?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: Well, my general message is really simple. Every single person can be a little giant, even if they think they are not worth it. We all have our problems, we all have our limitations, but there is always a way out. There’s always something we can do to overcome ourselves and be great!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How does it feel for you to teach guitar, how old are your students, how is it going?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: For now, I have young students, they are between 12 and 17 years old. I already gave guitar lessons to younger kids once in my parish, some years ago, and I also gave some lessons to a couple of adults. I don’t have any kind of studies in music, I’ve learned everything by myself, and this is the first thing I tell them. I like to remember them that I’m not there only to teach, but to give them guidance and some hints. It’s easy and fun to teach the ones who are beginning to play guitar, with all the easy songs with 3 or 4 chords, but what satisfies me the most is to teach the ones who are already playing some intermediate and advanced songs. Sometimes I have to learn something new at home to teach them in the next lesson, which makes me develop my own skills! But there are two major rules that I’m always telling them: They can’t be afraid of falling, because they will, and that’s the way to develop their skills. And they have to practice a lot at home. It’s really simple!
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Do you also play electric guitar?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: You know, my Christmas wish list for the last 2 years has two bold words: Electric guitar. I hear a lot of indie music, and a sound that I really love is the raw strumming sound of some hollow guitar bodies. I think it could suit really well some of my songs, who knows?
Bernd Ihno Eilts: How did you get invited to this showcase in Porto? You know Nelson for a long time?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: I got invited to this Oh Lee Music Showcase by Nelson and what can I say about him? He is a great guy! We met because I was sending some emails to find someone that could help me with my music. He answered really quick, saying that he liked my songs and he wanted to talk with me about my work. Since then we have been in touch and we are always asking if the other needs something. The fun fact is: I met Nelson in person for the first time here in this showcase! But he is such a cool guy that is was really easy to talk with him, all he wants is to help everyone spreading what they love. That’s why I think this Showcase was the beginning of something really great, maybe this will be the Kick-starter to some regular meetings between artists, without all the social pressure and competitiveness.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Please tell me about your videos. You often record them while you play outside in the nature, where we can hear even the sounds there too, like birds, cars and so on. Can you tell me a bit more about these choices?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: It was really funny. I never spent a lot of time with the technical work, with all this sound editing and production. I just decided to record with the old fashioned “press the record button and sing” process. No microphones, no editing, just me and my guitar. And with this ease in transporting the required material, it felt right for me to go out and record in the moments, where I feel I’m really free to do what I want. It all felt more natural and I could say that it was me playing and singing, not some worked pre-recorded audio playing over a fancy video.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Who are you in private, when there is no music around?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: I am a funny and nice guy I guess and I’m always relaxed. Besides my volunteering work in my parish and in some social and charity organizations, I really like to read, although I don’t read as much as I would like. The last book I read was “Walden”, by Henry David Thoreau. Then I have “War and Peace” in my desk for two months now, waiting for me to gain some courage (laughing)! I like to watch movies and go for really long walks. If I could, I would love to walk for hours with no destiny, just smiling while I watch the nature and smell the freedom. It’s not that weird to someone to see me walking more than 10 km every day in the city or in the woods. Also, I consider myself a geek: While I have this philosophical side that claims for freedom, I am also a comic book lover and a long time gamer. It is somehow funny to live in both worlds at the same time, but I think I can combine them very well.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: What are your future plans?
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: At the moment I’m concentrated in these classes while I wait to work on my first long length album. It’s a good way to collect some money and experience. After the recording process of this album, and I hope it will be kind of succesful, I intend to present my music worldwide, as I said earlier. Maybe with a band to make the experience even better. I already have songs for my second future album, but those will have to wait. This is my full-time dream. Beside this, I don’t really know. I would like to create my own foundation here in Braga, I have a lot of ideas for this. I am close to charity works and social events, due to my long relation with the church and everything I have done in my parish so far, it’s something natural for me to help the others in the most creative ways. It’s something I definitely will work on with some help from my friends.
Bernd Ihno Eilts: Thank you very much Pedro!
Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine: My pleasure!
For more information: www.facebook.com/GiantsMagazineOfficial
Cover picture captured at Oh Lee Music Showcase: Pedro Melo/Giant’s Magazine, Casa do Livro, Porto, Portugal – october 12, 2017
© André Henriques
Interview: Bernd Ihno Eilts