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'Dear Journal…' A Day in the Musical Life of Charlotte Dream Rockers Petrov

Photo courtesy of Petrov.
Harvey Cummings II is an award-winning pianist, saxophonist, producer and music educator in Charlotte.

The sights you see, the people you meet, the life experiences that shape your hours, days, and years. How would you paint a picture of your day-to-day? If you were to ask Petrov, named one of Charlotte's most promising up-and-coming bands, you may find that the best kind of journal is a musical one (or, at the very least, one that is soundtracked by dreamy rock music).

"Doing this allows me to have a voice where people can relate their own lives to or even inspire people to spark a conversation about things that are going on in their own lives."
– Mary Grace McKusick, Petrov lead singer

Interview Highlights:

On Petrov’s start as a band:

Mary Grace McKusick (lead singer): So our two guitar players had a band together called Borrowed Arts (in Boone, North Carolina). They posted on Craigslist that they either wanted a band that sounded like Bloc Party or Mastodon. And that’s where Garrett came along.

Garrett Herzfeld (drummer): And I said, ‘I love both of those bands. I would play in either one of those things!’ My old band used to play shows with Borrowed Arts, so it turns out we already knew each other. Craigslist… who knew?

On joining the band as vocalist and songwriter:

Mary Grace: I’ve done a lot of performing from high school and stuff like that, so the performing element was not as jarring as many would expect it to be. I think my biggest hurdle with joining this band was being able to uncover past emotions and being able to write it down on a piece of paper.

I’m big on journaling, so usually I’ll just write chicken-scratch of how I’m feeling about something in a journal and then close it, and that’s it… I’ve put it out, so I’m done with it and I’ll never look at it again.

But while I was writing [songs for Petrov], I kind of had to go back, read old journal entries, and feel those old emotions again. It brings me back to how I was feeling at that certain point in my life. It was really hard, but the biggest thing I learned was how to not shut out emotions after I’ve dealt with them. I can appreciate them and turn them into something different.

On "Sleep Year," the title of Petrov’s debut EP:

Garrett: Mary Grace ended up writing journal-style, and the word ‘bed’ ended up being in every song. So there’s that theme [with Sleep Year], and we spend a third of our lives sleeping. It’s a part of everyone’s lives. So many things happen while you’re in bed: Good things, bad things, a lot of thinking, a lot of major life events. Thematically, that’s how that formed.

On writing songs for Petrov’s EP:

Mary Grace: For me, since this is my first time writing. I wanted it to be something that is so personal: Talking about my day-to-day, talking about traumatic events, talking about happy events. I guess, in a sense, it allowed me to word vomit on this EP. This gave me a chance to have a blank canvas on what I can talk about.

Doing this allows me to have a voice that people can relate their own lives to, or even inspire people to spark a conversation about things that are going on in their own lives.

On being a leading vocalist in a rock band:

Mary Grace: Last week, we played at the Abari third anniversary block party, and there was a little girl who came up to me and the first thing that came out of her mouth was, ‘How did you get so brave?’ And I was like, Oh my God, this is my moment to help this girl and inspire her to start her musical journey.

I don’t remember what I said, but having this opportunity to inspire little girls to do that is insane. And I didn’t even realize this until someone brought it up to me, but I was the only female musician who played at that block party. Having that representation in the music scene is so important. I’m really happy that this album can do that for little girls.

Music featured in this #WFAEAmplifier chat:

Petrov - “Divine Wine”
The Lo and Beholds - “Burnin’ All My Boats”
Petrov - “Misprint”
Petrov - “Divine Wine”
Petrov - “Sleepwalking”
Petrov - “Half MT”
Petrov - “By All Means”

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Joni Deutsch is happy to call Charlotte home as WFAE's manager for on-demand content and audience engagement, where she's led the first Charlotte Podcast Festival and helped produce such podcasts as FAQ City, SouthBound, Inside Politics, Work It and the Apple Podcast chart-topping series She Says. In addition to being an NPR Music contributor, Joni is also the creator and host of WFAE’s Charlotte music podcast Amplifier.