From growing up on a dirt floor to appearing on the stages of stardom, Pete Sands, a Weber alum, is majoring in criminal justice and is on his way to be an attorney. Ironically, he found himself in jail at one point, only to bounce back in life, touring all over the western United States.
“He started from humble beginnings and was what you’d call a drifter. During his adventures, he becomes the person you see under the spotlight of a new stage every week,” said Sahar Khadjenoury, independent filmmaker from Salt Lake City.
Sands understood the importance of education and began attending a community college where he would experience a subtle but significant life changing moment.
“My roommate at the time played guitar, and he started teaching me,” said Sands.
Sands would eventually move further north and transfer schools, which would be where he has his first “ah-ha” moment, as Sands described it. With his first guitar, he would learn about tuning.
“I didn’t know anything about tuning. The person in the room next to me came over and was like, ‘You need to tune your guitar.’ I had no idea what he was talking about, but he showed me, and that was my first, ah-ha moment–aahhh all right, standard tuning,” said Sands.
Sands, hearing the difference in his music, became even more enamored with playing and would play his first song all the way through.
“Once you land that first song and you can play it all the way through, it’s a hell of a thing,” said Sands.
Sands continues his journey north, this time enrolling at Weber State where he would finish his degree in criminal justice, record his first album, create Blackkiss and have his second, “ah-ha” moment: learning rhythm.
“I recorded my first demo in my kitchen. I had like 10 or 11 tracks. I went around passing out my demo on campus and just everywhere I went. Then a friend came over and said, ‘Dude you’re really good here, but you don’t have a sense of timing,’” said Sands, recounting a conversation with a friend.
“Mr. Sands, he is a multi-dimensional human. He is the renegade, the scholar and the philosopher, all under one tall black hat. He is well read and has an appreciation for history and literature,” said Khadjenoury.
Sands met an up-and-coming musician and asked him for some advice. Looking for suggestions, he found himself receiving reasons why he should quit.
The advice, combined with hecklers at a previous show, began to make him question if he should continue. Struggling to get back on his feet, Sands lost his motivation and decided to quit after one more show.
After Sands’ last show, he went to work rebuilding his life, leaving music behind him. Until an unexpected email came, inviting him to audition at the Sundance Film Festival. Sands initially declined, but the representative was insistent, and reluctantly, Sands agreed to audition.
To his surprise, he was chosen as one of the 16 musicians to perform. Realizing the opportunity and not wanting to squander it, Sands reaches out to Sundance Native American Initiative for support during the show, in addition to any other forms of marketing he could produce.
His hard work paid off, when Sands stepped out on the stage. The room was packed.
“The coordinator told me they never had this many people here before,” said Sands.
After the show, Sands received many requests for him to perform, including the musician who told him to quit. At this moment, Sands realized he proved him wrong.
“Yes, if it is possible. We could do some shows together,” he said.
Understanding the burden of holding a grudge and the power of forgiveness, he chooses to be the bigger person in the situation.
“He’s steadfast and full of heart,” said Marcus Whisler of Roy, another Weber alumnus.
Since then, Sands has been touring all over the western United States and regularly plays in Utah.
“His determination and ability to turn his experiences into a captivating story are what keep you coming back for more, and if you’re lucky, or unlucky, you might find yourself drafted into the lyrics of his music,” said Khadjenoury.