Interview with Eric Peters
I had the chance last month to sit down with a guy making smart, honest, & melodic art. Eric Peters is not promoting an album, so it gave us a chance to dig deeper into the songwriting process. We had a great chat, and here’s some of that conversation:
DT: What stages does a song go through in your hands?
EP: It usually starts with me just kind of messing around on guitar, and then finding maybe a chord progression that strikes some sort of melody in me. Then that melody turns into gibberish, and then I hear maybe a word out of that, or I hear an idea or a phrase even out of the gibberish that I latch onto; and then I just develop it. It’s very rare that I go onto a blank page, so to speak, as in “I want to write about this topic.” I can’t do that. For me songs start with melody and then lyrics kind of somehow are birthed out of a melody. And I think that’s kind of why I’m big on melodies, it just starts there for me. And then the lyrics come from that. It might be informed by what I’m reading at the time, or it might be a pastor, or it might be informed by a conversation I’ve had with a friend. A song usually starts with gibberish and a melody.
DT: What is your mindset when you are in the process of crafting a new song?
EP: I think a couple of things go through my brain as I’m writing a song these days. One is - how is this song going to translate with just me and an acoustic guitar? Which is obviously the way I write the song. So for me it’s got to feel authentic and it’s got to be able to go from me sitting in a room writing the thing and shaping it and getting it finalized, it’s got to translate to a live setting. And also in my brain the other thing that goes on is that I naturally hear production that happens. And it’s natural that I want to hear a band thing behind it, and so that’s the other side of me. And so I feel like I’ve got to balance – this has to translate to a live performance setting but I also can hear what this is going to sound like on an album, and that part kind of stokes me too.
DT: Is collaboration with other artists a part of songwriting these days?
EP: Yeah, collaboration was a big part of Chrome. I’d had some folks help me on previous albums, but this was the first time where I took these songs – and maybe there was a couple of them I remember being just stumped on them and saying, “Hey Ben Shive, here’s what I’ve got. I have no idea where to go with this musically.” Or “Hey Andrew Peterson or Randall Goodgame or whoever it might be, I’m stuck on this lyric, what do you think about this?” And their suggestions were a big, big part of Chrome. Randall was a big part of song called “I Had To Tell You,” just helping me fine tune it and weed out the stuff that didn’t need to be said. Simplification was good thing that came out of all that. Yeah, collaboration is a good thing. The Square Pegs tout community and I feel like Chrome was definitely a community effort.
DT: Speaking of Chrome, what are your reflections on that album – now a year and a half later?
EP: I’ve come to realize that, it’s a sad album. It’s an album full of sad songs, in the sense of melancholy. There were lots of questions about, “God, where are you?” kind of moments, that I was experiencing at the time. I think I felt like my career was over at that point. When I was making this record, I was wondering if I had just invested 10-15 years of my life doing music or pursuing music just to watch it fizzle away and end. Which would be fine, but it was just really hard to accept. Just one of those seasons of life where it was just emotionally sad for me – what was going on in my head, in my heart, and just sort of the grappling with career kind of stuff. It’s like the basement of Eric Peters’ life. It’s fine, I want people to know me, I want people to go there, but I don’t know that it’s one of my most accessible, “popular” albums that I’ve made. It is what it is. I love it, I enjoy playing those songs. The distance from the original release date just makes me realize this is just one step. I think people that are with me from day one - for the long haul – it’s just one part of what life is, the reality of it.
On UTR Episode #117, our guest of honor all hour is Eric Peters. On top of our conversation, we’ll hear several of Eric’s songs, including an in-studio performance and the world premier of an unreleased song! Plus look on our site for a special EP music contest.
written by Dave Trout