Live Music: Halcyon days for a writer in demand
Country music’s biggest names are clamouring to record the songs of Gretchen Peters, but as Damien Murray learns, she’s opted for a simple folky feel for her new album
28 May 2004
The list of those who have recorded her material reads like a who’s who in the international music industry. So, it’s no surprise that Gretchen Peters has been hailed as one of Nashville’s best contemporary songwriters.
It’s great when other singers cover your songs, but for Peters, the ultimate accolade is when other songwriters, like Neil Diamond, also record your material.
Although highly acclaimed as both a singer and a songwriter, Peters is not annoyed that she is still known for different talents in different territories.
“In the early part of my career,” she explains. “I would have been frustrated about that and would have felt that I had something to prove. Now, with a number of successful albums under my belt, I feel very comfortable about my career.”
“As long as I get what I’m looking for from my career ? and that is finding an audience that wants to hear what I do. To me, it doesn’t matter if that is in a small venue holding hundreds of people or in a larger venue holding thousands. What is more important to me is being able to have that right type of connection with my audience, wherever in the world they are.
“After all, the reason I got into the music business was to be able to get on a stage and play my music. I’m doing that, so what have I got to complain about?”
Stars like Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Martina McBride, Etta James, The Neville Brothers, George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Bryan Adams, Patty Loveless, Billy Ray Cyrus and Pam Tillis have all covered her work. Although her songs are generally classed as country, many have been recorded in other musical styles, but Peters doesn’t subscribe to the ‘let’s classify music in a certain genre’ school of thought.
“I think of my songs as simply songs. In my perfect world, record stores would not have different categories for music. Instead, all music and artists would just be stocked alphabetically and everyone would be happy.”
Peters is a writer who’s never afraid of real life and she possesses a rare ability to drive a strong point, yet capture it eloquently in song. That ability has won her Grammy nominations for the heart wrenching Patty Loveless hit, You Don’t Even Know Who I Am, as well as Martina McBride’s award-winning recording of Independence Day. Indeed, the latter, which deals with the subject of domestic violence, is probably her best calling card.
“I didn’t have any real moral authority to write that song,” recalls Peters. “I didn’t even live through it. However, I felt something genuine about the subject and I tried to tap into my anger about the fact that there are people on this earth who feel they have the right to abuse other people.”
Last year, Gretchen was nominated for a Golden Globe award for her work on the DreamWorks animated film, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and her multi- award winning Independence Day was recently included in CMT’s list of The Top 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music. She has just completed her third studio album, Halcyon, which she believes is her best work yet.
“It is back to basics with a folk-orientated approach and simple songs. For some reason, I had a desire to make the songs a little more biographical, which is something I never did before. So, the seed of the album was to go for something a little more basic, musically, and a little more personal on a lyrical level. I’m very happy with it.”
• Gretchen Peters is appearing at The Real Music Club at Belfast’s Errigle Inn on Monday 7 June.