Singer-songwriter Aaron Pierce welcomes the changes a new year brings 

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New Year’s Eve is as much a time for reflection as it is a time for looking forward, a date to address the growth and changes you’ve undergone throughout the year before as a means to decide where you want to be a year late. Few Oklahoma artists have utilized 2014 the way that singer-songwriter Aaron Pierce has — he went from an almost total unknown to a standout supporting act and on to something even bigger and better.

Sitting on the cusp of 2015, he has a smile on his face as he imagines where he might go from here.

“It was the year that I came out in the Oklahoma music scene,” Pierce said. “No one knew who I was or anything about me. I felt like I established myself as an Oklahoma artist. Now, the plan is to broaden my scope and take my music to new places.”

Pierce’s journey isn’t unlike most. The Kansas-born, Oklahoma-bred musician started out as a hobbyist heavily under the influence of his parents’ record collection, which included Eagles, Jackson Browne and Tom Petty. That was levied with a penchant for tried-and-true blues from the greats — Albert King, Robert Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughn — and he found himself taking lessons to refine his craft.

“That was the music that, even before I wrote songs, I was attracted to,” Pierce said. “It is roots. As a guitar player, I was attracted to blues music. There’s not much to it — it’s like three chords — but what it’s actually about is the soul behind it.”
Like turned to love, and soon, an education at ACM@UCO beckoned, but after a few years, he realized that he felt a little creatively stifled and he might actually try writing songs and singing himself.

“When I was 20, I realized that I wanted to be more than a musician. I wanted to write them. Everything just led up to that,” Pierce said. “Not even on purpose, I found myself writing songs. I gave it a go, and the ball has been rolling ever since.”

As a songwriter, his modern voice and sensibilities — he voices a love of Frank Ocean and D’Angelo, amongst others — rest against his classically trained background and taste in all things vintage American. That forward-thinking look back — in the vein of genre-defying indie acts The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile and Oklahoma’s own Horse Thief — makes him a perfect bridge between the Sooner State’s past and future.

“Roots rock and Americana, it’s what I responded to,” Pierce said. “When I was writing, I didn’t set out to have that sound. That’s just what came out. It’s simple structures and song forms that have a groove and some soul.”

That’s all heard on Yesterday’s Changes, the young artists’ new EP (recorded with Trent Bell at Bell Labs in Norman) released in November. It comes only a year after his concerted effort toward becoming an artist of his very own, and songs like “Want to Want” and “Moving Town” are fitting statements of not only who he is but what many his age are up against.

“The undertone of the whole thing is being 21 and kind of having to see reality,” Pierce said. “There are songs where you’re coming to terms with adulthood but holding on to your innocence … and your optimism. When you’re older, the worries start creeping in, but you don’t want that to stop you from doing what you want to pursue, be it music, love, life or passion.”

Playing New Year’s Eve at Blue Note Lounge with Deerpeople and Z Trio, Pierce doesn’t plan on letting the worries get the best of him; he’s convinced that all the growth he has shown in such a short amount of time bodes well for the long and winding journey ahead of him. Call it his resolution for the foreseeable future.

“I came up with the name with the idea of constantly evolving, constantly trying to find my place as a songwriter and seeing, within the past year, the ups and downs I’ve seen not only in my life but in music,” Pierce said of the EP’s title. “I’ve had a lot of positive things happen as an artist this past year, but it’s about never getting too content and settled into one place. As much as I love what I’m doing, I don’t want to stick around in anything or anywhere too long.”

Print headline: Yesterday’s Yule, Singer-songwriter Aaron Pierce welcomes the changes a new year brings.

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