“I was introduced to Eric Peters’ music two years ago and have been hooked ever since. Eric writes music with his frailities at center stage. His melodies stick with you, but it’s his lyrics that do a number on your soul, reminding you of your own humanity and the hope that lie within. His new record ‘Chrome’ just came out and is available on his website. Blue Indian was honored to sit down with such a thoughtful artist.”
[The following Blue Indian Q & A was done by Arthur Alligood.]
Blue Indian: So, first things first, tell us about your new release, “Chrome.” How does it feel to finally release your eighth album?
Eric Peters: 409 days from start to finish, I’m glad Chrome is now in the world breathing on its own. There were several moments I didn’t think we would ever finish. This is the most personal and emotional album I’ve made to date. It is also my most cohesive in terms of thematic narrative. I like this.
BI: Super-musician Ben Shive produced this record. How was it to work with him? Did he help with any of the songwriting or did you have the songs pretty much done before recording?
EP: I had the majority of the songs mostly done before we recorded. But I could not have made the album without Ben. He acted not only as producer and musician, but he willingly wore the hat of counselor, songwriter and encourager. Ben helped me tidy up several songs (for specific songwriting credits, see the liner notes) in key lyrical moments and in musical arrangements. He allowed me the freedom to present these very personal, sometimes dark, stories, while adding his deft touches to make the songs accessible to the audience. I love that about this record; though I am not always a cohesive person in speech and on paper, this album aspires to some of that.
BI: You’re part of a little artist community called “The Square Peg Alliance.” You guys from what I’ve heard had your own stage at Cornerstone Festival. How was that experience and how does that community shape the art you create?
EP: We played on the Gallery Stage, and thankfully the weather was superb that weekend as a cool front had passed through. I remember this only because I’m an old man at heart, and I pay close attention to the weather. And to birds. The only things I’d heard about playing at Cornerstone were horror stories of bands playing outdoors in the middle-of-nowhere Illinois with dust everywhere under oppressive heat and humidity. Not this year, not with the Square Pegs opening for fellow-Peg, and near-prophet, Derek Webb. It was quite pleasant, and I think we all had a good time, even if the crowd seemed slow to come around to our mesmerizing humor. I love these people and would do anything to see each of them succeed financially, if I could. Several of the Square Pegs helped me write the songs on “Chrome.” They are very influential artists to me, and are each wonderful in their own ways.
BI: By the way, I searched Cornerstone’s web site for videos of the show and they had one of you featured on their site. The funny thing was that the title of the video read “Ben Shive.” It is clearly you performing “Little by Little Things”, but Ben gets all the credit. I had to correct them. Were you aware Mr. Shive was out posing as you?
EP: I have no need for posers in my life. Also, Ben is not a tenor. Everybody, except apparently Cornerstone, knows that.
BI: Tell me about the artwork for “Chrome.”
EP: It’s easily my favorite art design of any project I’ve done so far. David Van Buskirk approached me a year ago after a show the Square Pegs played here in Nashville, and asked me if I had anyone lined up to do the artwork. I didn’t, we grabbed coffee, I told him the theme(s) I was aiming to tell, and he offered to take a crack at it, no strings attached. We met a few days later, after he’d had a chance to work up an album cover mock-up, and, from there on, I was totally hooked. David is himself an artist, and I think his ability to capture the storyline, and to pour his own interpretations into the overall narrative were, for me, quite refreshing. His work is vivid, full of life and color. So many folks these days tend to disregard the value of an actual, physical album (whether it’s a CD, cassette, vinyl, etc.). To each his own, but I simply don’t understand that mentality. After all, to feel something with my own two hands all Thomas-like, to peer through the photos and text, typos and all, is revelatory of who that artist is, MORE than just his/her music. Crappy or brilliant, laid-back or obs
essive-compulsive, we get a glimpse into this person and their care (or apathy). We reveal ourselves in so many small ways.
I’m sure I annoyed David many times over as I was super nit-picky with details, offering last-minute suggestions which probably made him bristle, but he was super gracious to me, allowing me such opportunities, and he worked his tail off to see this project to fruition. I can only hope David will consider working with me again. But if all goes well for his business, I doubt I’ll be able to afford him again.
BI: David is one my best friends. Over the last several months we would meet for a beer and he would show me how everything was coming along. I feel somewhat connected to this record already having had the opportunity to see the artwork come to life. How important are album covers and cd packaging? Will the mp3 kill the cd or has it already?
EP: Generally speaking, I still prefer to buy physical albums. Some are worth the extra cost (as compared to an iTunes download) for the physically packaged album, some are not. I’m a visual person, so I prefer the whole experience, from cash register checkout to unwrapping the plastic to finally popping the CD into my home stereo for first listen. It would be a sad day if CDs (or whatever any future form of the physically-packaged album happens to take) forever disappear as mere relics. The day musicians/artists and consumers altogether declare visual representations to be no longer necessary is, in my obviously outdated opinion, a poor commentary on this world and its appreciation for, and value of, the visual arts. I don’t think it will ever die, because as long as musicians are out playing live, there’s a moment of instant gratification for the consumer to walk away from the venue holding the album of the band/artist they just heard. As long as humanity exists, those moments of instant gratification will never be eradicated. I like this.
BI: What lyric, over the course of all your albums, resonates with you the most?
EP: “There are no lost souls, only hopeless ones.” When I first put that line down on paper, I remember thinking something along the lines of “Where did that come from?”, and “This is the very essence of the perspective I want to take with me into my future days.”
BI: So, will there be a Chrome Tour this Fall? Have you ever gone out with a full band?
EP: I’ve never taken a full band out on the road. Honestly, I don’t see how bands do it, financially. But I’ve been looking at doing a small run of shows with a band within the next year. I’ve talked with Ben (Shive) and Andy Osenga about coming on the road as my band, and having them do some solo stuff, too. It could be a mighty fun show. I don’t think I’ll be doing much in the way of touring this fall, though. 2009 has been quite brutal, work-wise, and it appears that it will continue into the fall. I’ll be working another job, playing a handful of shows, and hopefully having more luck booking and gearing up for more extended touring in 2010. So, if you happen to work at a church, please know that I’m interested in playing there.
BI: In other interviews I have read and on your blog you quote the writer Frederick Buechner quite a bit. Have you ever tried to contact him? (Me thinks you should send him a CD.)
EP: I wrote him a letter early this year. Amazingly, he wrote me back within a week or two. I claim it as one of my most prized possessions on earth, this brief, hand-scribbled letter. Yes, since I quoted the man more than once on the album (both in lyric and within the artwork), I plan on mailing him a copy. I have no idea if he even likes music, singer-songwriters, or if he owns a CD player (he’s 84), but I’ll send him a copy of Chrome along with a letter of apology for quoting him without express written permission. Maybe I’ll sign the CD for him, too.
BI: Please expound upon your love of beef nachos.
EP: Nachos are either a lazy, feeble effort or they’re of the full-on OCD variety. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some cheap, gooey, fake cheese, non-carnivorous nachos like the ones you’d find at sporting events and the like. But when I’m home, I prefer seasoned (taco seasoning packets) ground meat, round tortilla chips (the lime flavored chips are lagniappe), extra-sharp cheddar cheese (there is no substitute!), jalapeno (or banana pepper) slices, and either homemade salsa or Pace picante salsa. You must drip an extra few drops of the jalapeno juice onto the preparations once your nachos are layered and ready for cooking. Maybe some Pete’s Hot Sauce to top it off. It’s greasy (if you don’t drain the fat away, which I prefer whenever my wife’s not looking), and not at all healthy, but it goes well with a very cold beverage and Seasons 1-9 of The Simpsons. Have I told you yet that I’m an incredibly boring and predictable person?
BI: In Cormac McCarthy’s only tv interview Oprah asks him if he cares if more people are reading his books now than in earlier years. He responds with a “no.” Do you care if millions of people hear your music or are you only concerned with a much smaller group who will value and appreciate it?
EP: I think I’d be an idiot t
o nonchalantly proclaim that I don’t care how many people hear my music. Of course I want lots of folks to hear my music. But I also want to be appreciated for what my songs are, whatever they happen to be in the ears of folks who hear them, whatever the songs happen to mean to folks in all their various walks of life. I think a large part of my career disappointment stems from the fact that I have not gained a wider audience than I first hoped for when I first began doing this 16 years ago. But I suspect that those folks who have hung around for ten years or so, they’re here to stay. And that is a good thing. Doesn’t always pay the bills, but it is the grace that it is.
BI: Anything else you’d like to tell us? Anything will be fine. Are your son’s driving yet?
EP: I’d like to tell you that Jeremy Brett portrayed the best Sherlock Holmes to date. Hands down. Also, I enjoy yardwork and I miss bass fishing with my father-in-law who passed away one year ago. Another thing: I’m hoping I never have to sell our dear 1965 VW Karmann Ghia. I’d love for my boys to inherit it one day, even though I have NO desire for them to learn how to drive in it. (Note: my sons are 2.5 and six months old. We have a ways to go, and other things to first deal with, things like potty-training.)
BI: Thanks so much Eric for taking the time away from family to answer some questions.
posted by Luke Goddard.