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LOCAL MUSIC SPOTLIGHT: REY PINEDA "FILIBILLY"

Updated: Feb 7

Knoxville artist/songwriter/musician Rey Pineda moved from Japan to East Tennessee in December 1988 and he has developed roots in this area and calls it his home. Folks here refer to him as “Filibilly” — the Filipino Hillbilly. Since 1997, he has been performing blues, folk, reggae and Americana with friends and other local musicians he invites to his shows.

Although you see him smiling a lot, that doesn’t mean he’s known no hell in his life’s journey.

“The arts have been my life. I’ve been an artist, musician, stage actor, puppeteer, photographer, videographer,” Pineda says. “I never doubted my role in life. It was very obvious from childhood that I was born an artist.”


Pineda worked as illustrator, graphic designer and blogger at The News Sentinel 1990-2016. He played music with a blues trio The Delta Souls 1997-2001 and the band he formed in 2001 The Pineda Band. Currently, he performs in a duo with Natalie Lawson and another project, The Kapitan Islander Band.


Pineda was born on April 5, 1959 in the Philippines. The first time he held a pencil when he was 3 years old, he started drawing. Singing also came natural for him. He began singing in public at second grade at his Catholic school Holy Angel Academy.


He studied fine arts at Far Eastern University in Manila in 1975-78. His first job after college was as an illustrator for The Bulletin Today, the prime newspaper in the Philippines in 1980s. In 1983, he co-directed a television puppet show for GMA Radio Television Arts called The Luvvets.


“I believe in being a positive force. I don’t watch horror movies because they freak me out and mess with my sleep. Also, I think there’s enough horrible crap in the real world,” Pineda says.


Pineda grew up in the slums of Angeles City in the Philippines where thugs and goons with guns ran rampant committing murderous acts witnessed on a daily basis during the pre-martial law years which was imposed in 1972 by Ferdinand Marcos, one of the worst dictators in modern history. Martial law did not solve criminality, it worsened with thousands of extrajudicial killings.


“I grew up under martial law. I got into a lot of trouble when I turned 15. My youth was stolen from me by Ferdinand Marcos. I started dabbling with drugs and bad company and I turned from a student scholar into a wrecking ball activist,” Pineda says.


For bookings, call 865-712-3276 or visit www.facebook.com/ReyPinedaMusic


What a year it has been! 2019 was a wild ride for me.


My new life as a full-time musician has been like a magic carpet ride. I was able to reinvent my previous life of a stressed graphic artist at the News Sentinel to a laid-back, free and easygoing existence. In all my life, I had never imagined that I will end up being a musician having the opportunity to play with so many other artists who also felt the call of music and the arts in their lives like I did.

In January, the inimitable vocalist Jen Wolery and I competed at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., representing the Smoky Mountain Blues Society of East Tennessee. The experience changed my life as a musician. By no means did I expect our duo to win because we were competing with national and international acts. I considered it a great opportunity and honor to be among the best of the best as I tried to absorb whatever tips and lessons there was for me to learn regarding the blues. The indomitable spirit of the blues definitely abounds in Beale Street. I had a nice conversation with North Carolina guitarist and storyteller Jon Shain about the importance of telling your own story. He has competed in the IBC a couple times before and he shared a lot of lessons from his past trips. When I was talking to him, I had no idea that he will be the winner of the top award in the IBC 2019 solo/duo category.

When I returned to Knoxville, my musical perspective totally changed. I started believing in myself more and set out to book more gigs. As I endeavored to do this, the bookings started coming and my continuing education on guitar became easier to comprehend. Among the people who have tremendously helped me this year are Phil Hardison, a jazz guitar player who have unselfishly shared with me his style of playing and helped me get bookings in jazz clubs, Don Anderson, owner of Knoxville restaurant and bar Tennessee Tap House, Chris Keever, owner of Oak Ridge venue Crafter’s Brew and James Gilley, owner of marketing and booking agency ProMotion.


Natalie Lawson and I started Rey Natalie Duo and played on a consistent basis throughout the year. We played venues such as CRU Wine & Bar, Tennessee Tap House, Schulz Brau Brewery, Crafter’s Brew, Echo Bistro & Wine Bar, Drink. the wine dive., Gettysview Country Club, Asia Cafe, Bluhen Botanicals, and some private parties. Teaming up with an amazing 22-year-old singer is both challenging and rewarding. It has benefited both of us in many ways. Her youthfulness kept me feeling young and I started teaching her public relations, music business and professionalism.

Natalie Lawson and Rey Pineda perform “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac on WBIR Live at Five at Four on May 10, 2019.

On May 10, 2019, we made an appearance on WBIR Channel 10 Live at Five at Four show where we performed “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. Right after the television performance, we went busking in the Market Square bustle in Downtown Knoxville. We went from stars to beggars in a matter of minutes. It was so liberating to perform out in the open. I didn’t mind the strange looks and jeers, being considered as a couple of homeless panhandlers. It was all about the experience, and the guts to boldly sing in a public arena.


This year has been full of opportunities. In July, we participated in the two-day event Musicfest at West End in Farragut which featured several local bands. Then the Rey Natalie Duo performed at Crowne Plaza Ballroom at a benefit dinner for Volunteer Ministry Center sponsored by Sugarlands Distilling. This event was attended by more than 300 guests and featured Sam Venable as host and speaker. I also got to play a few gigs with Meredith Cabe Whitehead, vocalist with the marvelous trio Freequency. Playing with Meredith was so much fun. She’s a seasoned performer who also have a great sense of humor and impeccable work ethics. Other musicians I played with include: harmonica player Dave “Pignose” May, percussionist Tod Sheley, bass player Curt Hutchison, harmonica player/singer Greg Stewart, Nashville singer/songwriter Kimberly Cleveland, vocalist Audrey Pleasant, my son Warren Pineda, and many more in our local blues circle jams.


On Nov. 9, I shared the stage with several guitarists and harmonica players at the Roger Hay Birthday Bash at the Open Chord. You won’t meet another musician who has more enthusiasm as Roger Hay. He loves to play, he lives and breathe it. The shindig was attended by more than 50 local stars and more than 100 blues fans.

My first gig in Gatlinburg happened on Dec. 27 at the Gatlinburg Brewing Company. I performed with Karen Kartal, an Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra violin soloist. The addition of her instrument in my presentation was an amazing surprise. I believe that her talent could be a tailwind that will make me play more professionally.


The year 2019 was capped by a surprise performance at the jazz club Drink. the wine dive. on New Year’s Eve. Jen Wolery messaged me Dec. 27 and asked if I would play with her at Drink. In a couple of days, Jen and I assembled a band comprising the two of us and adding Karen Kartal and Shirley Herbert, a local vocalist.


As I make an entrance to 2020 my heart is filled with gratitude. I count my blessings and focus on the positive despite all the many difficult challenges facing me on a daily basis. With all the strife going on in this country and the world, there is a constant reminder to us all that there is always a light shining at the end of the tunnel.My desire is to be the positive force that I had always dreamed of becoming. My dream is to play music ‘til I kick the bucket like BB King. What a wonderful honor that would be!



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