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Laughing So As Not to Cry: An Eric Peters Interview–Part II

This is part 2 (and the conclusion) of our interview with our very own Eric Peters (though he is a free man). Part 1 is right here. Read it and watch out for the unicorns. Stay tuned at the end of this interview for a chance to win your very own copy of Chrome for free.

ep by jeff holland

Photo by Jeff Holland

SDS: How can those of us who are “way in” support your work and is there anything in particular we can pray for you and your family for?

EP: Sure. Work. Preferably in the form of shows and concerts. I don’t want to rehash a dead horse (a rather disgusting and ghoulish image) here, but 2009 has been something akin to sheer crumminess, work-wise, for me. If I’m supposed to be doing this with my life — I’m still trying to figure that one out — then encouragement (not to mention income) comes in the form of bookings. To know that somewhere out there some person connects enough with my songs to invite me to play at their home or church or chili cook-off, that is affirming and edifying. The lack of those bookings combined with what seems like the effect of running into a brick wall in terms of approaching other folks (inviting myself) to play at their church or wherever, has been less than sweet dreams. Personally, it’s been a roller-coaster year; from career, to finances, to news of marriage troubles. I sure don’t want to wish away the days, but I can only hope that 2010 brings brighter light.

How can you pray for me and my family? Pray that I can find identity in Christ. Alone. I’m no good to my wife and my family if I don’t know and believe the richest things that God says about me, how he sees me, how safe I am with him. I need to rely, depend, and rest in this. I’m struggling to do that what with the ongoing conflict of faith, art and commerce.

SDS: Talk about what it’s like to have friends like AP and the Square Pegs in your life. Is it as awful as it seems? People want to know what it’s like when all you mega-super stars hang out. Tell the people. Give us an anecdote, or an antidote. The disease we have is curiosity.

EP: Truth is we rarely hang out together all at once. We’ll see each other here and there, sometimes randomly, sometimes planned, but we seem to all be in similar spots in life with very young children, struggling to pay bills, just trying to survive and make ends meet. Just like everyone else in America. In some sense, this recession is no different than every other month of every other year of our lives: life as an artist is rarely one of stability, whether financial or emotional.

But when we DO hang out together, it feels like family. I can’t imagine a more pleasant group of folks to be associated with professionally and to call friends. A superwoman fan in Maine recently gave us a very valid excuse to gather together in celebration of Chrome‘s release; she overnighted me twenty fresh, live Maine lobsters, and that evening we – all 31 of us, including children – gathered at the Peters’ 1100 sq. ft. craftsman home to partake of freshly steamed seafood, replete with drawn garlic butter, dessert and drinks. Other than seeing one another from time to time in random path crossings, occasionally planned, that meal, though hectic (imagine many people wanting a glimpse of the contents of four large steaming pots going at once, inside a somewhat tiny kitchen), was as tiring and as enjoyable as it might sound. Short of it is I don’t get to see these folks nearly enough in my week to week.

If you’re Andrew Peterson, you enjoy playing games, games like throwing tennis balls at your host. If you’re Jeremy Casella, you enjoy browsing my library shelves taking in the nearly complete Buechner collection sitting high atop them. If you’re Randall Goodgame, you arrive late, but everyone is thrilled you finally made it. If you’re Jill Phillips, you drive last-minute to get pizza takeout because your hosts are more than slightly under-prepared for such a crowd. If you’re Andrew Osenga, you show up in shorts and sandals and nine toes, and everyone loves you for that. If you’re Ben Shive, you arrive alone, but are visibly pleased when your wife and children arrive unexpectedly. If you’re Eric or Danielle Peters, you’re a couple of scamper-busy Marthas in the kitchen, preparing and serving food, making sure guests have what they need, and that all feel welcome and at home amid the chaos of a floor full of flung toys, used diapers, and peaked decibels to accompany it. But not a one of them cares a lick about college football, and that, to me, is a sad thing.

SDS: You always have amazing love songs on your records and Chrome is no exception. “It’s So Sad to Watch You Wave” is another endearing, unusual love song oozing with poetic word-pictures and a kind of nostalgic fog. Tell us about where that material comes from.

EP: I’ve kind of gotten into my head that I need/want at least one song on each of my records to be, at the very least, a nod to my wife, whose unwavering support for ten years and counting is more than just something artificially sweet. She has enabled me over the course of my career to continue doing this, traveling with me during those early years, sleeping on crummy couches and in beds with shards of broken glass (true story from Tallahassee, FL), enduring miles upon miles of utter repetition, and experiencing firsthand what a touring life is like. I enjoy writing these songs.

Land Of The Living had “May Your Tenderness”, Miracle of Forgetting had “The Maginot Line” (she’s a seamstress, if you happen to have no idea what the reference is), Bookmark had “Take This Joy” (a song about adoption), Scarce had “You Can Be Yourself”, and Chrome has “Sad To Watch You Wave” (among several other references on this, what amounts to a very personal record for me). I admit I have a bit of a sappy streak in me, and I also don’t hesitate to try and make you cry, as well. I’m an emotional person, tearing up at either myself or at movies, such films as Cars. But I rarely hesitate to write my wife into the songs, especially since most of them are personal to me to some degree. Having said that, I would no more know how to write a traditional love song if it approached me with a flaming angel in its mouth, bit me on the calf, and then barked out a tune. That might actually make a really nice love song. If I wrote mostly generic love songs, then it seems like they wouldn’t be FOR my wife, if you catch my drift. I have to make them personal or else I’m singing into nothing. Now If I could only figure out how to write mostly generic love song material, and then sell it for oodles, then I’d be able to sit in my backyard, sip on wine, and pluck U.S. Grants as needed from the lowest branches of my flourishing money tree (which is a country song I wrote a few years ago — “If Money Grew On Trees”).

SDS: I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who teared-up at Cars. We should never watch “UP” together or someone might take a photo and then we’d be “in the soup,” as the kids say –kids from the 1930’s.

So, for a final question (sing it “The ending is where we start”) I’d like to ask about finishing. Chrome drips with honest self-assessment and a coming to grips with life in all its disappointment and wonder. There’s a longing to be connected with that which does not break down, them that do not abandon. When someday you look back on your career as a genuine “Pappy,” what do you want to have been true about what you did? What’s the hoped-for abstract for the life and work of Eric Peters?

EP: Gee-willikers. Yep, cried at Up, too, alongside my wife on one of our egregiously rare date nights. Those Pixar folks know how to get it out of me.

That I wasn’t a waste of time. That what I brought to earth – I can only hope it is worthy of being classified as “art” – was something worthwhile, beautiful and edifying. And, lastly, I hope that my work will survive longer than I do, meaning I hope that one day my music actually catches on and proceeds to make my children and their children rich.

Chrome cover

Thanks to Eric for a fun view of the inter. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Chrome (buy here). I have listened to it more times than should be possible without getting sick of something and, as with every one of EP’s records –it is un-get-sick-of-able. I love it. In fact, I want to give an autographed copy of Chrome away right now (it will be Eric’s autograph –not, as was offered before, an autographed copy of my autograph.)

Just make a comment and you are entered to win. I’ll announce the winner soon.

Note: Please comment at the Rabbit Room site for a chance to win.

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