I had a chance to chat with Peter recently about his career and pending visit. Find out more about the show here.
MIM: So, are you in LA today by chance?
PBA: No, I actually live in Nashville.
MIM: I wasn’t sure. Your bio indicated you had some geographical flexibility, like New York and LA.
PBA: Yeah, I’m from Alabama, but I lived in LA for a while and then New York, and now in Nashville.
MIM: Awesome! That’s a great town. I’ve been there many times.
PBA: Yeah, it’s great.
MIM: So Music in Minnesota enjoys showcasing local and national talent when they’re playing local venues. It’s a great music town, and I’m really excited about your music. I’m a little bit jealous of your opportunity to work with the film scoring department at USC, right?
PBA: Yeah, that was a long time ago. I was in that one-year program they have at the school of music.
MIM: I suspect that’s influenced some of your writing, because some of your arrangements are really rich in instrumentation, not just your one-off singer/songwriter, guitar, piano-vocal type thing. Many are very elaborate.
PBA: Yeah, I had a background in (music) composition, before I did the film music, so I guess it somehow has seeped into how I produce stuff.
MIM: Do you do all your own tracks, like some of the instrumentation besides maybe drums? Or are you farming those out?
PBA: No. No, I do a few instruments. I usually do all the acoustic guitar and piano. I have people I’ve worked with over the years that are kind of small group of guys and girls I usually use.
MIM: Are they also in the Nashville scene?
PBA: Most of them are now, yeah.
MIM: That’s cool. Not to reflect too much on the past, but you do have a wonderful past in terms of music. Any person who takes their music serious would be a little jealous of that academic foundation. Although there’s something to be said about raw talent, there’s something about understanding what you’re doing, too.
PBA: Yeah, I think it can be helpful, but can also get in the way of being intuitive. I’m still trying to figure out when it’s helping me and when it’s not.
MIM: So, let’s talk about more about your music. When did you feel like you were drawn to this type of work, getting into songwriting performing?
PBA: Well, I was interested in it all along, but I was a little scared to do it, so it sort of lead me more into the composition world. It felt like that’s what I should do.
MIM: Did it feel like a safe zone for you?
PBA: I think in the beginning it was, yeah. But I was always writing songs and singing, kind of secretly. I didn’t really decide to do this until after I had been writing for film and tv for a while.
MIM: When did you actually start getting out to start performing for others?
PBA: It was really like around 2001 and very shortly after that started singing with a girl and we started a duo and we got a record deal very quickly. It all happened really fast. Too fast, actually.
MIM: What was her name, she was part of your groupEast South?
PBA: eastmountainsouth. Her name was Kat Maslich.
I sang on a country demo he (Peter) was working on, and we realized we shared similar musical tastes and songwriting styles. There was no denying the feeling of finally meeting a musical partner – someone who really “got me”. We both then, abandoned our solo careers, and became ‘eastmountainsouth’.
– Kat Maslich-Bode (artist website)
MIM: So you did that for a little while. What happened that caused you to go your own way?
PBA: We were on DreamWorks Records, and then DreamWorks got bought by Universal and we got shifted around to a couple of different labels. But at that time, I was wanting to try to do something myself, so it was a good time to back out of it. Start going solo.
MIM: Some of your songs feel like real-life stories. Are you pulling inspiration from real life or just imagining how things might go?
PIP: I think it’s a little bit of both, it’s like experience and then just staying a storyteller, I think. And they kind of overlap. They overlap.
MIM: Your song “A Face Like Mine” talks about a father figure. Your lyrics are tight and weave a visual picture of an absentee father for the listener. Yet there seems to be some distant relationship to the father even though he’s missing. Whether it is based on reality or something imagined, it does a really good job of painting a picture.
PBA: That one was inspired by my grandfather’s story. It’s told from his point of view. I don’t have a kid, but I told it from his point of view when he had my dad. I never really knew him that well. I was interested in how the trauma of what he experienced can get passed down, even if it’s not actually repeated.
MIM: That song has a rich instrumental break before you get back into the final verse. When you have these lush instrumental arrangements, are you performing them, or are you relying on a producer to help make that happen?
PBA: I do them mostly. I’m now working with a producer of my new record. But in my old stuff I was very involved in doing it and arranging it myself. I did work with some other producers along the way, but I was always co-producing.
MIM: You mentioned a new album. When is that scheduled to come out?
PBA: We’re going to start releasing stuff soon, a song at a time over the next few months. We’re going to roll it out slowly, then release the full thing early October probably.
MIM: Are you thinking of sharing any new material with the Minneapolis audience?
PBA: Definitely, yeah.
MIM: Will you be coming with any other band members or just yourself?
PBA: I’ll be playing as a duo. I’ll be playing acoustic and electric, and a buddy of mine is gonna be playing acoustic and singing harmonies.
MIM: Oh that’s great, because you have some great harmonies on these albums. Your voice is like warm maple syrup over pancakes, you know (laughter).
PBA: Oh…thanks! Thank you. (He blushes over the phone, I think).
MIM: Who is your guest coming with you?
PBA: His name is Anthony da Costa. He’s a great artist himself too.
MIM: Now is he a label-mate? Is he on Sarathan Records as well?
PBA: No, I only have two records on Sarathan and Sarathan is not really around anymore. Everything else is on my own label. They were really helpful in making those couple records.
MIM: Did you find yourself drawn to a certain style of music growing up? Was there a certain style of music that pulled you in when you were in your teens?
PBA: Well, then I was listening to all sorts of stuff, a lot of old stuff. I listened to the Beatles tons. Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne. Jackson Browne was very influential on me. Paul Simon. Those guys, definitely.
MIM: You’re a solo artist, but you have done some collaboration with other writers. Do you prefer to write alone, or do you find yourself collaborating these days as well?
PBA: I do some co-writing. I don’t do a lot of it. A lot of people in Nashville, they do that every day, they co-write, and it’s not really my thing. But I do work with certain songwriters I’ve gotten to know over the years. There are a few people that I feel like when we write together, it’s like writing with myself. We’re not just trying to knock out a song. I do it some. Well, I’ve co-written some songs with my producer for this new record. We will have written three songs.
MIM: Who’s your producer?
PBA: Ethan Ballinger.
MIM: Tell us a little more about the new album.
PBA: The record is gonna be called Afterglow. We’re trying to get a little bit away from what I’ve been doing, be a little more raw. It’s gonna have a little more energy to it. Not so soft as the other stuff.
MIM: Do you plan on playing any piano for your set?
PBA: Probably not, because sometimes when there’s a piano at the venue I will play it. Even though piano was my first instrument, I kind of gravitate toward the guitar, writing and performing with guitar. I do have a keyboard sometimes I’ll take, but I’m not as fond of that as playing guitar.
General Admission tickets are now available online, by phone, at Electric Fetus, and The Cedar for the 7:30pm Sunday, April 7 show. Find out more and buy tickets here.