Gretchen PetersCompositions recorded over the years by Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Bryan Adams and others are included in The show – Live from the UKa wonderful new two-disc album released by Proper Music Group.
GOLD MINE: Welcome back to Gold mine. Congratulation for The Show – Live from the UK. It’s such a beautiful collection. The first disc ends with your first single, “When You Are Old”, which was the first of your compositions that I bought 30 years ago when it appeared as the finale on Martina McBride’s 1992 debut album. When your cassette single came out a few years later, the flip side was another favorite of mine, “I was looking for you” with a theme of, I think, finding yourself first before you find someone else. another to be with.
Gretchen Peters: Wow. It is far. I think you have a very valid interpretation. Musically, I was trying to find new ground for myself. I think every singer-songwriter who grew up as folk has a musical path with chord progressions, feel and fingering. I remember trying to come up with a new musical idea. I felt that I had found something new for myself. There’s a little nod to “On a Bus to St. Cloud” about seeing someone when they’re not there and everywhere you go, you see them. With “I Was Looking for You”, we believe that there is someone out there who will fix everything, which I think causes us a lot of problems. Sometimes it’s true, and everything works out, but sometimes it’s a dangerous hope to believe.
Fabulous setback: I was looking for you
Side A: When you’re old
Billboard Hot Country Singles Debut: April 20, 1996
Maximum position: No. 68
Imprint 18001 (single cassette)
GM: You mentioned “On a Bus to St. Cloud,” which is another one of your songs that we highlighted last time and is included in the new collection along with other favorites we discussed, “Wichita,” “ When All You Got Is a Hammer”, “When You Love Someone”, and a song that made my Top 10 of 2019, when Trisha Yearwood recorded it, “The Matador”. Now let’s talk about the songs we didn’t cover last time starting with “Hello Cruel World”, which haunts being a stubborn girl.
generalist: “Hello Cruel World” is the one I insisted on playing with the string quartet and recording because you expect nice ballads with strings, but with this song it’s in a minor key with a pulsing rhythm and something you’d least expect to hear strings on. The strings allowed it to be, as you said, haunting and it went with the overall attitude of the song. I consider this song as my manifesto. It acknowledges the difficulty of being human, but at the heart of it is an upbeat song that says, “I’m for a penny, for a pound, because I hate missing the show.” I’m not leaving, but it’s not easy.
GM: Speaking of strings, the Southern Fried String Quartet shines on “Blackbirds,” especially Alice’s cello. Between the cello and the content, it made me think of the epic “Sniper” by Harry Chapin, who would have turned 80 this year.
generalist: The strings can be so evocative and here can sound menacing, which is what I was hoping for on “Blackbirds”. When we were on this tour in April 2019 and recording the future album, I remember every night when this song would come, I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as the strings went into this shimmering, icy harmonic delivery. If “Blackbirds” came from a horror movie, this would be the soundtrack. They played from a string chart we had written specifically for this tour. There were no strings on the original recording. What came to mind was the soundtrack of Kill a mockingbird. I wanted that eerie feeling.
GM: Next, the strings capture the beauty on “Love That Makes a Cup of Tea.” This song sounds like an anthem, reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” or even Paul Stookey’s “The Wedding Song (There is Love)”. It’s a wonderful composition.
generalist: Thanks. This song was a bit of a surprise. On the last tour that I did, and I don’t know if I did the night you and your daughter Brianna were there, at the end of the night I would go out and sing this song to the audience without microphone, just acoustically. It was really a surprise to me how people embraced this song because we always need that unconditional love. I had taken people to dark places on some of the other songs, so I felt that was a comforting way to end the night. When we had the string quartet on tour, we wanted to use them for the reasons you mentioned. It was an obvious showcase for them.
GM: When Brianna and I saw you here in Florida, it was just you with Barry on the piano, so the whole show had a nice, homey feeling. Let’s talk about Barry in “Everything Falls Away”. This performance is a lesson in how to play the piano!
generalist: I never tire of hearing him play this song. It’s never quite the same on any given night. It really shines. I think this song is emblematic of what he and I do best together, which is to go from a really quiet dynamic to a really big sound. I agree with you. I love seeing him play this song. He lets himself go at the end and people are still grateful and amazed. I always have to remind people that this is a guy who played with Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings and pretty much every Nashville songwriter in the 1990s. I’m really lucky that he plays the piano with me.
GM: You stretch yourself to this song too. Your high-pitched voice hits the Alison Krauss range. What a wonderful performance.
generalist: Thanks. It’s one of those songs that didn’t get that much attention initially, but when you play it live, it transforms to another level. I think I will always play this song.
GM: We talked about my daughter a few moments ago. You also mention a girl in “Five Minutes”. In this short period of time, there is so much revealed with the girl’s family, daughter, history, old, new, and boyfriend. You weave a lot of stories together.
generalist: We have this work of songwriters to tell a story worthy of a book or a movie in just three to five minutes. We work in the smallest framework and the power of words combined with melody and music is such that you can do it. When I teach songwriting I use “Five Minutes” as an example for my students that if you do the character work and know the characters you can use very few words and really give your listener an idea full picture of who the character is, but you really have to do the backstory work. I spend a lot of time with the woman in this song thinking about her, questioning her, who she was, what she was thinking, and it didn’t come quickly. I think hard work is what gives you rich characters.
GM: Some singers are drawn to story songs. I’m thinking of Kathy Mattea and I can imagine her covering this one.
generalist: Bless the singers who are drawn to story songs because I wouldn’t have had a career without them. I’ve loved story songs all my life. I think that’s what made me folk when I first picked up a guitar as a kid in New York and that’s what drew me to country music later on. It’s the same thing that draws me to novels and movies, stories about people and what they do and go through, the battles they fight, and that will always interest me.
GM: In the mid-1990s, when you debuted as a recording artist, so did Kim Richey. I love his cassette single “Those Words We Said” with its alternative country side. You’ll be back on tour with her, as they return to the UK at the end of this month.
generalist: Yes. Kim came with us to the UK in 2018, doing the backing set and sang with us too. We weren’t going to have Kim on the road with us and not blackmail her. I love Kim and think she’s one of the greatest singers around. She’s just effortless and has sung on the last studio albums I’ve recorded. Every time she comes into the studio to sing, everyone gets excited, engineers, producers, because she’s so awesome. She is a very dear friend and I am delighted to have her back with us. When you’re on the road with Kim, her Camp Counselor side shines through. You cannot have a day off. She will find an exit to the field for the whole group. It takes us out of our hotel rooms. She is an instigator in the best possible way.
GM: Good visit. You were my last concert before the pandemic. Brianna and I will always remember that. I certainly missed concerts during this two-year period. Now I treasure it even more as a musical comeback, in fact this month locally in Central Florida I’ll be seeing a female duo named Gailforce who I haven’t seen in a few years and in their set and the last song on their CD is one of your most famous compositions “Independence Day”, the Martina McBride hit we talked about last time. May you Barry, Kim and the others have a great time.
generalist: thanks and Gold mine. It was great chatting with you again. Take care of yourself.
Goldmine 2019 Interview with Gretchen Peters
Fabulous Flip Sides now in its eighth year