Singer-songwriter Trey Pearson has dealt with his share of tragedies and triumphs, which translate to his deeply heartfelt art.
In his early years, he and his former Christian rock band Everyday Sunday sold hundreds of thousands of records, amassed millions of streams, and scored multiple #1 U.S. singles.
Their song “Wake Up! Wake Up!” earned most-played Christian rock song of the year in 2006, and their album Best Night of Our Lives broke onto the coveted Billboard 200 chart. However, despite this success over the years, Pearson knew it was time to move on and unveil his true self. He would come out as a gay man, which didn’t necessarily bode well with some of his Christian audience, and sadly, some of those closest to him.
He’s been putting out his own solo music since 2017, and his latest album, Somebody You Knew, dropped last month and gives listeners a window into finding hope and overcoming heartbreak.
The project ranges across various styles and tempos, but “it has a flow that starts in grief and heartache, and moves to hope, acceptance, and love,” states Pearson. The LP includes eight songs and is a fleeting yet emotion-filled 26 minutes, touching the hearts of listeners and draws them near as he tells his story.
We got to chat with Pearson about the new album, turning a new leaf in his life and career, and much more.
Can you talk about your transition from leading a popular band like Everyday Sunday into being a solo performer? Was it difficult, and was there a certain moment you realized that’s what’s best?
I started the band when I was sixteen years old, and have definitely changed a lot, and grown a lot through the years. It felt good to have a fresh start as an artist, and leave Everyday Sunday to where it grew and became. Coming out of the closet, finally accepting myself, and learning to love myself seemed like a better time than ever to start over as an artist, with a fresh palette.
How long did you perform with the band after you came out? Were your bandmates supportive? Fans? Being in the Christian music circuit I can see it being extra difficult.
I did not perform as Everyday Sunday ever again after I came out. Starting the band at sixteen, and signing a record deal at twenty-one, ended up leading to a lot of lineup changes through the years. Several of the older members are super supportive. The weird thing about the Christian music industry is that most kids that grow up in that subculture stop listening to Christian music after high school, or some college, and so a lot of people that had teenage years of listening to our band ended up coming back around, being super supportive, and have seemed to have been pretty interested in my solo work.
Obviously I lost a ton of fans, support, and any chance of playing the spaces I used to. But very much worth it, and feels so amazing to have such a huge burden and weight lifted. Growing up believing something was wrong with me, and being so broken, really fucked me up in countless ways. So it’s nice to be healing from a lot of that.
So you recently dropped your new album, Somebody You Knew. Can you touch on any overarching themes or motifs throughout the album?
The album kind of goes on this journey of heartache to hope. The first song, “Stay Golden, Pony Boy” is processing the loss of someone in my life who I loved a lot after coming out. They just didn’t know how to keep loving me. “Can’t Go Back” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” are more of a place on this side of knowing that of course I would never be able to go back to such a traumatic, abusive space of my fundamentalist days, when I couldn’t accept myself.
“Broken Heart” was about grieving the loss of my parents in my life. Things turn the corner with the love song I wrote my boyfriend, with “Piedmont Park.” I actually just released a new version of it, called “Piedmont Park (Jonathan’s Song) [Jukebox Single Mix]”, that will be on the Complete Edition of the album, and is one of my favorite records I’ve ever done. And then, the hope of “Lucky” and “1984”, it just kind of builds into a lot of beauty, I think.
Was there a track that was the hardest to write or record for one reason or another?
“Broken Heart” was probably the quickest, but hardest emotionally. It is a song I wrote about grieving the loss of my parents in my life while they were still alive, but then the week after I got the final mix back they were in a horrible accident, and my father passed away from heart failure. It was a really tough season leading up to the album releasing, but in a different, difficult, beautiful way, my mom has decided she has wanted to be back in our lives, and we have been able to be there for her as well. It has been quite the journey so far this year.
Are there Christian themes and sentiments in this album? Is making music in that vein still important to you?
That is an interesting question. I suppose there are faith themes in as much as my song, “Hey Jesus,” is a super vulnerable baring my soul, processing all of the feelings I ever had growing up wondering if I could still be loved by God in the faith tradition I had grown up in. I have grown and progressed a lot in my faith journey, and I know that none of us can really fully know about some of those deeper questions, but I like to believe that everything is spiritual, that somehow there is something more going on with us all being on this ball, spinning in space.
So in that sense I like to think about all of these songs about loss, love, sex, pain, pandemics and existential questions are some kind of spiritual experience. But I don’t believe making music and calling it “Christian” is important, and I think that is mostly just a sales tactic to get fundamentalist people to continue a subculture that propagates tribalism that has been responsible for a lot systemic spiritual abuse. But I still want to write about all of the things that I feel experience, and wonder about. And those deeper, spiritual questions will always be a huge part of my questions, hopes and wonderings of why we are here.
What messages or feelings do you hope to convey in this record?
I want people to feel the vulnerability and hopefully connect with the different feelings of love, and the beauty of life. I want people to feel the heartbreak I feel in the songs about love lost, and hurt over not feeling I would be loved if I was who I was. I want them to feel hope, and hopefully connect with the records in a way of relating to all of the feelings. That is what I continue to hope in each piece of art that I feel as I write each song. It has to move me, and only in doing that can I hope that it moves other people as well.
What does your songwriting process typically look like?
A lot of voice memos on my phone. Often sitting with my guitar, and sometimes at the piano, finding my feelings, and then connecting it with a melody I had driving in the car, or something bringing lyrics about something I have been deep in thought about. Often it’s taking those things I have been thinking a lot about, and seeing which comes first with lyrics, a melody or a chord progression that seems to express those feelings and thoughts. It’s never quite the same.
What does success as an artist and songwriter mean to you?
Success for me as an artist and songwriter is being able to be completely vulnerable, honest, and express these deep feelings and put them in a song that I feel expresses those truths of my feelings completely. And then finding the best way possible I can to share that art with people on the records and in concerts.
What are one or two pinnacle moments for you as an artist?
Probably the biggest moment for me as an artist was being my most vulnerable in sharing my coming out story, which I know became the most talked about story in the world for a few days, which only happened because of all of the work I had put in as an artist, and also really didn’t have to do with my art either.
But I believe it was me at my most soul-baring, honest self, and was only able to happen and move others because of all of the work I had put in as an artist, and where my journey had taken me. I just want to use my art to connect with others, and express my feelings and thoughts, and that was kind of one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and my career.
Looking forward, what are some ways you hope to improve the most as an artist, writer, and potential role model?
I have not run out of ways in which I am excited to continue to outdo myself, and to make my favorite art that I have ever made, and that is what I feel like I am doing right now, and I am loving each moment. I can’t wait to see what happens next.