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Maine native Ray Pasnen releases his first album in 30 years

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Guitarist Jack Swanson (left) and Ray Pasnen (right) seen here as the two were collaborating on songs that have finally been released on Pasnen's first album since 1992. "Change Your Mind" features four songs co-written with Swanson, one of which includes his original guitar track. Pasnen says this album was a "homegrown" project from start to finish but he's thrilled with the reaction and airplay it is receiving on several Maine stations. Guitarist Jack Swanson (left) and Ray Pasnen (right) seen here as the two were collaborating on songs that have finally been released on Pasnen's first album since 1992. "Change Your Mind" features four songs co-written with Swanson, one of which includes his original guitar track. Pasnen says this album was a "homegrown" project from start to finish but he's thrilled with the reaction and airplay it is receiving on several Maine stations. (Photo courtesy of Ray Pasnen)

A singer, songwriter and musician with deep Maine roots has released his first album of new material since 1992. Ray Pasnen’s “Change Your Mind” features 12 new pop, country and country-rock songs from the Medway native who currently resides in Minden, Germany.

Maine and Atlantic Canada music fans remember Pasnen as frontman for the wildly popular band Choice. Ray’s natural charisma and powerfully dynamic voice contributed greatly to their success. Choice spent much of the 1990s canvassing the state to play most every bar and club, DAV and VFW hall and Elks Club to packed houses. The personalities of each band member, including that of guitarist Jack Swanson, kept Choice fans in stitches as they danced the night away.

Pasnen says his new album was a labor of love that he completed with help from a number of close friends and even the German government.

Pasnen was born in Germany when his father served in the military and he was raised in his parent’s hometown of Medway. He started touring in Germany in 1996 while on a break from a 19-year musical residency in Bermuda.

“They kept bringing me back every year with more gigs added to the schedule,” Pasnen remembers. “One thing I discovered when I arrived in Germany is that people really listen to the music here. When they go to bars with live music, they don’t go out to talk, they really want to hear the music.”

The German government wants them to hear the music. Pasnen says the German Ministry of Culture gave him a grant last year to create an art project as a way of stimulating the country’s artist culture during the pandemic.

“Fifteen thousand artists each received 6,000 Euros (roughly $6,800),” Pasnen says. “My project was this album, but the real project was to build a studio that I would have forever.”

Pasnen gave me a video tour of his new studio outfitted with all of the latest gear and software.

“I feel so fortunate to have been living here in a place where they understand the importance of keeping the artist culture alive during a period when we couldn’t work,” Pasnen says.

According to Pasnen, the genesis for “Change Your Mind” goes back to 2001 when he was vacationing in Maine.

“I visited Jack (Swanson) on that trip and he played me the original demos for four of the songs that ended up on this record,” he says.

Those songs turned into co-writes when Ray added lyrics to the “The Song of Broken People,” “Change Your Mind,” “NYC’s Getting’ Old,” and “I Don’t Think You Love Me At All,” a stunner of a song that features Swanson’s acoustic guitar track salvaged from a 2006 recording.

“When I started this project, Jack and I would email ideas back and forth,” Pasnen says. “He gave his blessing to change a few lyrical lines and some instrumentation on one of his songs.”

While this album was in the making, Swanson passed away suddenly in Millinocket on New Year’s Eve 2020. Ray lost one of his closest friends and a gifted musical coconspirator.

“My friend and my sounding board was gone but it made me even more determined to finish this album,” he says. “I’m so glad that I was able to save Jack’s guitar track so he could be heard on this record.”

Several other friends contributed songs for “Change Your Mind,” including Everett Dumas’s “Hug Me” and “Train,” Mike Barry’s “Eye to Eye” and “I’ll Always Come Back to You,” Michael Ferrone’s “Rain Rain” and Vincent Ferrone’s “All Is Well.”

One of Pasnen’s consultants for the album was hitmaker Walter Egan, best known for his 1978 single “Magnet and Steel.” Pasnen and Egan have been friends for 25 years and toured together for a number of them.

“He’s a true artist and not only with music,” Ray says of Walter. “He’s a wonderful painter and is still recording a couple of albums a year in his 70s. If I could choose to be like anyone, I would be like Walter Egan.”

After teaching himself how to use all of the new software in his studio, Pasnen says the biggest challenge of making this album was to break away from his kids for a few minutes. Pasnen and his wife have two sons, ages four and one.

At Christmas time, the entire family came down with Covid. Ray’s wife and sons showed no symptoms, but he says he spent a miserable five days “feeling very cold under a blanket on the couch.”

Pasnen says he feels great today, especially when news arrived that his album was receiving airplay on several Maine radio stations, including his hometown station WSYY in Millinocket, WKTJ in Farmington and online via Radio207.com.

“I’m just thrilled that radio stations are playing my music,” Pasnen says, adding “I think every station should (laughs). “I don’t have a producer or a label behind me, this is a completely homegrown kind of album, but it means a lot to me that people are enjoying it.”

Anyone who has seen and heard Ray Pasnen in concert, whether it was in Germany, Bermuda, New York City or East Millinocket, will love hearing his voice deliver his new songs on “Change Your Mind.”

(Ray Pasnen’s “Change Your Mind” is available on all digital streaming platforms. Physical copies are available at Lennie’s Superette in Medway.)

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 January 2022 08:40

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