San Francisco–based musician Pete Kronowitt combines playful folk melodies with serious political messages in his new album, Do Something Now.
The music is inspired by the folk songs of the late ’60s and ’70s, and the messages touch on timely topics, though Kronowitt doesn’t simply talk the talk; he is taking action as the founder of Face the Music Collective, which mixes music and fundraising for progressive political candidates throughout the country.
Before Kronowitt—a longtime professional in the tech industry—moved to San Francisco from the East Coast in 2012, his music was largely a personal endeavor.
“I was just playing guitar and writing songs, I didn’t have a sense that I could sound like those folks on the radio,” he says.
Once Kronowitt decided to record his first album some 25 years ago, he was introduced to producer John Alagia (Paul Simon, Dave Matthews, John Mayer) and suddenly Kronowitt’s hobby became more than that.
“I continued to write and record while I was working in tech,” he says. “It’s something that became part of me. I interpret life through writing songs, whether it’s something eternal or something personal. I wasn’t writing for other people, I wasn’t writing to sell music.”
Fast forward to 2016. Kronowitt had recently left his job in tech to focus on songwriting, recording an album in Nashville and touring a bit. Then, Donald Trump got elected.
“I had been writing political songs because of the environment we were in,” Kronowitt says. “When Trump got elected, my wife and I decided we were going to dedicate more of our lives to grassroots activism.”
In learning how grassroots activists organized and accomplished their goals, Kronowitt wondered how to combine his music and his newfound activist spirit. Earlier this year, Kronowitt formed Face The Music Collective to help foster civic engagement through music and art.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic ended social gatherings, Kronowitt was taking Face The Music on the road and touring places including Virginia to fundraise for progressive political candidates.
“It was heartening and fun and all the things you would want in a music tour,” Kronowitt says. “We were playing for people who cared about the cause that we were dedicating ourselves toward, and we got new people to get engaged.”
When the pandemic hit, Kronowitt and Face The Music Collective began organizing and performing online shows for progressive candidates that still featured local guest performers and artists in those markets. Recently, popular Wisconsin-based singer-songwriter Willy Porter headlined “Songs for Robyn Vining” to raise $7,000 for the re-election campaign for the Wisconsin State Assembly District 14 representative.
Other artists who have joined the collective include Nashville-based singer-songwriter Will Kimbrough, who says the collective, “is providing the tools and resources to inspire action, one event at a time.” Bay Area artists participating in the endeavor include Vicki Randle of Oakland alt-rock band Skip The Needle, indie-pop songwriter Dawn Oberg, Americana artist Jesse Brewster, and longtime songwriter and producer Scott Mickelson, among others.
“In each of these shows, there is definitively hope,” Kronowitt says. “The enthusiasm to make a difference right now is visceral.”
For his own new record, Do Something Now, Kronowitt worked with engineer Spencer Hartling at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco and employed several of his closest musician friends—including bassist John David Coppola, drummer Darian Gray, guitarist Justin Kohlberg, steel-guitarist Tim Marcus and vocalist Veronica Maund—to fill out his studio band.
“I was really moved by the musicians who played on the album,” Kronowitt says. “It was a small group of people who were phenomenal, it was a joy to record the album.”
Many songs on the album take shots at the current political moment, with titles like “Are We Great Yet?” and “Truth Will Set Us Free.” Other tracks, such as “Roly Poly” and “Stay Safe,” touch on issues like climate change and the pandemic, though the album is not all gloom-and-doom. In fact, many songs take a light-hearted approach to the melody, and Kronowitt admits he gets lyrically “sarcastic and obnoxious in some songs on purpose.”
While Kronowitt is not planning any large album-release party, he and Face The Music Collective are staying busy on the performance front. This weekend, Kronowitt and award-winning bilingual singer-songwriter Nancy Sanchez will lend their support to Kathy Knecht’s campaign for the Arizona state House in Legislative District 21 with a virtual concert on Saturday, Oct. 3, at 7pm; Kronowitt will also perform alongside banjo-master Joe Newberry in a online fundraising concert for Jeanne Supin’s campaign for North Carolina State Senate, District 45 and Jenna Wadsworth’s campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 4pm.
“We have maybe 10 more shows in the queue before the election,” Kronowitt says. “I wanted to encourage people at this moment. It’s the action that is meaningful.”