Do you prefer the studio or playing out? Peter: Oh, playing out. I love the studio, I love going in, sort
of ďretreating,Ē especially since Iíve been recording at Signature
Sounds. Thatís great, because itís a little retreat away from the world,
and you can hang out with your musician friends and you donít really
have to drive anywhere, and nothingís crazy and you just make soup in
the afternoon and sing some more songs. I love that part of it, but I
really love to perform and I love to play music for people, live.
BB: What makes a good show? Peter: Everything has to line up. If you get an audience that is
really in the mode and are ready to go with you, and if I happen to be
on that night in a physical sense and have my voice really with me and
have the guitar really under my fingers, you can go way out into some
pretty fine territory.
BB: What do you think is your most memorable
show so far? Peter: Iíve got a few. I remember when Dave Carter died. He was a
songwriter on the record label that I was on. I played a show that
evening at the Natick Center for the Arts. I remember it as being just
way out in that territory I was talking about. I had a couple of friends
there who still talk about that show. We went out afterwards and sat
down and drank some beer and just talked about it. There was just a need
to play that night. It really felt required. What else? Every year we do
these Christmas shows at the Cafť Carpe in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and
those are always just a pleasure. We do them in the round with the
musicians sitting in the middle of the room, itís really fun.
BB: Have you had a chance to play with some
of your favorite musicians? Peter: Oh, you bet. I did a support set a couple of times for Los
Lobos. Got to meet David Hidalgo and Louis Perez, two of my favorite
songwriters in the world. Chris Smither is a big hero of mine, although
he happens to be a good friend. But every once in a while I think, ďholy
smokes, thatís Chris Smither.Ē And Iíve played a couple shows with Greg
Brown and met him, thatís always good. I met a lot of people that I
BB: Do you have any pre- or post-show
rituals? Peter: No. Get a good meal. Drink a little wine. Go on stage and
life is good. At that point I figure Iím fed, Iíve had a glass of wine.
Iíve got an audienceís attention. Weíre all pretty much fed, weíve all
pretty much had a glass of wine, those of us that drink. Weíre warm,
itís not snowing on us. What the hell could happen.
BB: What are some of your favorite covers
that you do? Peter: Oneís that are close to me, ďTime,Ē by Tom Waits, which I
donít sing all that often but thatís a cosmic tune. Iíve been singing
ďMoonglowĒ by Irving Mills for a gazillion years. Thatís the first jazz
standard I learned, so that oneís pretty close to me. ďIím Beginning to
See the Light,Ē the Duke Ellington tune. I love that tune. ďAirbag,Ē by
Radiohead. Thatís a wonderful tune. I feel like Iíve got a stamp on that
one thatís pretty much my own. ďA Love Bizarre,Ē the Sheila E tune that
Prince wrote. Thatís from way back.
BB: Tell me about your audience. What are
your fans like? Peter: The thing Iím proudest of about the audience that Iíve
built is that there are fifteen or sixteen year old kids all the way up
to elderly people. And I really like that. I think that means that Iím
not just performing in a manner that makes me try to be ďcool.Ē Iím
trying to do something of substance and something that people can take
away something from, and apparently someone is always going to be
looking for that.
BB: What are some of your favorite place to
play? Peter: The Cafť Carpe in Fort Atkinson Wisconsin. A joint in
Paris called La Pomme díEve [Eveís Apple]. Itís a bar in the basement of
some 14th century building. I used to love to play in my favorite joint
in the world, a place called the Lobby Bar in Cork, Ireland, but, alas,
they shut it down. In Boston, I like them all. I really love Johnny Dís,
I love the Lizard Lounge. I love the Somerville Theatre, and I love Club
Passim. Iíve played the Burren, and I love that joint. I love some of
the outlying places. The Natick Center for the Arts is a great little
joint. All the coffee houses around. I like that thereíre so many great
venues. Boston has such a magnificent scene. Toad would be a fine
example of that. Last weekend I was in town I was at Toad Saturday
night, Sunday night, and Monday night until 2 in the morning, where you
can see world class music for free. Thereís nothing like that anywhere
that I know. Such a strong scene and such a supported scene. Bostonís
got so many great venues, and so many great musicians. Itís appalling
how many great musicians.
BB: What are some of your favorite Boston
artists? Peter: Well, Dennis Brennan. One of the greatest songwriters. I
love the Sessions Americana guys, all of them, and all that theyíre
involved with. Timmy Gearan, world class songwriter.
And world class songwriting ethic, too, heís just always cranking it
out. Anita Suhanin [formerly of Groovasaurus] and Schwang, that whole
band. Reverse, the hard rock band. Theyíre great, great musicianship and
great songwriting. And the whole singer-songwriting scene. There are
some wonderful singer-songwriters that all seem to come through Passim.
Noam Weinstein, and that whole crowd. And Rose Polenzani, sheís great
surreal songwriter. Sheís heavy duty.
BB: How would you compare the Boston music
scene to other cities? Peter: Better. I really mean that. I donít know much about other
scenes. I know the scene in Milwaukee is fairly low. And itís good, itís
just a little sleepier, and there isnít that huge pool of talent, and
that huge outlet for it. Iíve seen a little bit of the scene in
Philadelphia, or at least of the young singer-songwriter scene, and they
seem to really support each other, so thatís really cool. And Iíve seen
sort of New York scenesters, and one of the problems with New York
scenesters, and for that matter LA scenesters, is that theyíre ďscenesters.Ē
The people in Boston, I donít know how else to put it, but they just
show up at the clubs and they just play great music. And they appreciate
great music, and they have the enthusiasm and the energy for it. Theyíre
BB: If you could play on stage with anyone
alive, who would it be? Peter: Wow. Tom Waits. Yeah, Tom Waits. And by ďplay on stage
withĒ him I mean would love to have him be my accompanist for a couple
of songs, because I have never seen him be an accompanist and not be
pretty riveting. Heíd probably, I donít know, pound on a chair or pick
up a long piece of newspaper and use it as a percussion instrument by
tearing it gently in front of a microphone. I donít know what heíd do,
but I think it would be pretty interesting.
BB: If you could be in another profession
other than this one, what would it be? Peter: I think I would enjoy being a bike messenger. Itís one of
the few other things that I just never get tired of. I ride a lot for
distance, and I really just enjoy it.
BB: How about one you would never want to
do? Peter: Something I would never want to do... Probably something I
just donít have any interest in. Like, I donít think I would ever want
to be a commodities trader, I just donít care.
BB: What do you hope to be doing with your
music in a few years? Peter: I want to do a record of jazz standards, which means that
I need to just keep doing what Iím doing, which is to explore jazz
standards deeper and deeper. One of these years Iíd like to get into
more traditional music forms. Old American songs. Old Irish tunes.
Because thereís some real nuance in there, and I think it would be
really worth it. And the other thing, Iíd like to get good at making
recordings. Iíve never really done a lot of home recording, and Iíve
just started renting a little studio. Iím hoping I can get good at that
without getting too myopic. You know, the way people do those home
recordings and they start sounding really indulgent.
BB: What do you hope people will get out of
your music? Peter: I hope theyíll get Music out of it. I donít think I always
manage to achieve playing music in its ďpureĒ form. So thatís all I
hope, that they get music out of it. And that could mean everything,
from as simple as that they come away humming one of the melodies, to
that they come away feeling like theyíve been brought closer in tune
with the universe itself as a beautiful place to be. So it could mean
everything on that spectrum down from the mundane up to the cosmic, I
donít care, I just hope that they get music out of it.
BB: What advice would you have for aspiring
local musicians? Peter: In Boston? God, just listen to everyone around you,
because theyíll make you so much better. Thereíre so many spectacular
musicians. So just go out and meet your friends and say hey, what are
you listening to, and how do you like to play. And actually, go to this
website and do the same thing, find out what all these people that are
being interviewed are talking about and listening to.
BB: Thank you for talking to Boston Beats.
Peter: Coolio. Take care, man.