Vanessa Peters On Kickstarter, Grizzly Bear and Keeping Her Chin Up
The last ten years have seen singer-songwriter Vanessa Peters roaming the globe, living in Italy, and touring across Europe and the States. That nomadic lifestyle is reflected in her lyrics, like those of "Drowning In Amsterdam," from 2009's Sweetheart, Keep Your Chin Up:
"Well it could rain for days/and then where would I be/tethered to this chair/barely capable of gravity/tethered to the earth/to the tram bell and the rain/tethered to a ghost/that I may never see again"
In the years between that album and her latest, The Burn The Truth The Lies, Peters endured the changing tides of relationship and the dissolution of her band. She landed back in Dallas, where she recorded a Christmas album last July, which reignited her passion for music. For her latest, she enlisted the help of engineer Jim Vollentine and a pretty killer backing band: John Dufilho, the Polyphonic Spree's Jason Garner, Buttercup guitarist Joe Reyes and keyboardist Rip Rowan, who produced the album. We caught up with Peters before her Patio Sessions gig at AT&T Performing Arts Center, tomorrow, October 4, with Nicholas Altobelli.
How long were you living in Italy?
I've been living in Italy on and off since 2001, when I studied over there and fell in love with it. I was just there in July.
What drew you there?
I went to A&M, and there was a study abroad program. They had a campus over there. I was there for six weeks, but that wasn't long enough. I just found ways to go back: waited tables, washed dishes. That allowed me to tour Holland and Sweden.
Between Sweetheart and the new album, did you have doubts about making music?
I was struggling a lot, actually. I wasn't sure. I was tired. When Sweetheart came out, we toured a lot. For about a year, I wrote a lot, but didn't play out. I wasn't sure I wanted to. After the Christmas album, I realized it doesn't have to be painful, it can be fun again. In that year, I became friends with Joe Reyes from Buttercup. Through him I met John and Jason, and then I was like, let's try it again.
How long in the making was the new album?
Most of them I wrote in 2011. Then when we did the Christmas album in July, I only had about six or seven songs, but in September, I had 12 or 13. In the end, we only had 11 songs. My albums, historically, have been too long. So we have a lot of b-sides.
You used Kickstarter to fund the new album. What was that experience like?
I've done all my albums that way, though not through Kickstarter. But musicians have done that for years: Offer a house concert, a free t-shirt. The thing I didn't like at first was... I'm not shy, but I had to do this video and ask people for money, and I was not comfortable with that, but my husband talked me into it, and I'm glad we did because I was surprised how many people it got to. There was an interactiveness that helped me get some momentum. It's a pretty fair platform.
Does being on a label hold any interest for you, or are you happy on your own?
Like a lot of people, I'm trying to do it on my own terms. A label could offer me all the amenities, but I doubt I would be able to tour enough to satisfy a label. But, no doubt, a label would be helpful. I was reading that article about Grizzly Bear, about how they sell out venues, but only sold something like 100,000 copies of their last record, and that doesn't make a label happy long term. People don't buy as many albums as they used.
Well, attention spans have dwindled too.
Yeah. My music's very lyrical. There are hooks, but for me its always been the lyrics, and maybe if someone listens to 30 seconds on Spotify, they won't get that. It's just harder to reach people when we're living in this flash-in-the-pan environment.