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Peter Eldridge: A Lot of Other Stuff

By Published: August 27, 2007
AAJ: All over the world, yes?

PE: More so in Europe than here, but here too; we have our pockets in the States.

AAJ: Like Altoona?

PE: They love us in Altoona. And Boston. And Seattle. There are places... but for some reason we can't break into Chicago. That's been the most elusive city for us.

AAJ: Really? But you go to Germany practically twice a week.

PE: We are sort of rock stars in Germany. We play the halls there, where here we play clubs.

AAJ: I remember your telling me years ago that when you played Japan, they would throw panties on the stage...?

PE: Naaah...the only time something like that really happened... we were in Nova Scotia, at some big vocal jazz collegiate festival. It was four thousand kids who wanted to do what we do. We were the Beatles that night. There were girls in the front row who had a towel, and they threw it up at me on stage. And they were gesturing—wiping their foreheads—and I said, "Me?" So I wiped my forehead and stuck the towel in my pocket, but they wanted it back. So I threw it back, and they all just dive-bombed for it.

AAJ: Who are your superstars?

PE: If I ever met Joni Mitchell, I don't know what I'd say; her influence has been so strong that I'd probably just stammer around her. I've loved her music since I was four years old and my sister Gail was playing "Chelsea Morning" on her guitar. But the cool thing is that now I'm meeting and working with some other heroes. I'm writing lyrics for Ivan Lins—in Los Angeles he introduced me to the crowd as his English lyricist.

AAJ: I've heard Nancy Wilson do a wonderful version of one of the songs you wrote together: "Minds of Their Own."

PE: That was a joy. The funny thing is that lyrics take me forever. Music? I could write three or four songs a day, probably. Melodies. The lyrics—even a song like "Difficult"—that little waltz—not every day all day long, but I was tweaking that for weeks.

Peter Eldridge

AAJ: Why do you think that is?

PE: I think it's partly because you want to say something new. Even if it's a love song, you want to have some element in it that's fresh, that hasn't been said before. And maybe I do this to a fault, but God forbid it's trite or preachy. What's that quote? "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." I think it's true. It's like a puzzle to me. And I don't want it to be too obvious.

AAJ: Talk about unusual love songs: "First Morning" is about whether or not to get into the shower with someone after your first night together.

PE: It's about beginning to know someone by wandering around their place, getting little glimpses of them while they're getting ready for their day. I'm really proud of those lyrics. I wrote them with my dear friend Doug Worth, who lives up in Boston; he's a poet and an English professor who was a teacher of [pianist] Andy Ezrin's, so I met Doug through Andy. We've worked on a number of songs together. I like the "coffee warms the air/coffee table books" lyric setting up the whole scene: I think it really sets a mood.

AAJ: It does; you can practically see what's happening. You have said that you love to write more than anything else.

PE: Yes.

AAJ: So you love the thing that's hardest for you to do?

PE: I think writing lyrics is hard because I've always had a hard time articulating what I was feeling verbally, in any capacity. So writing lyrics was the way to do it, for me.

AAJ: Many of those lyrics are very personal.

PE: It was my way of finding my true nature. Some of them were definitely like pages of a diary. I remember Judy Niemack, back in the early 90s, was the first person who heard my original songs and said, "Wow, crying on the inside." I don't want to be like that now. I hope that the person and the lyric-writer are more intertwined these days, instead of my being Soupy Sales by day—walking through life as a make-'em-laugh guy—and then having to wallow in all this other stuff.

AAJ: You're also making a lot of rather pointed social commentary.

PE: I'm having trouble with the world the way it is right now, and needing a way to express that.

AAJ: In 1998, you were asking whether it was wise to be "Part of this World."

PE: Wow. (laughs) In 1998 specifically?

AAJ: Says right here [date on unreleased demo]. What do you think now?

PE: It's a struggle. We've become an amazingly unloving and uncaring and disrespectful people. And I just think that's such a shame. How did it start? Has it always been there? The older you get, the more you think, you know what, we are animals. Animals do stupid things: they go after each other. We do our best, but we're human, and we treat each other really crappy, whether we mean to do or not.

Peter Eldridge / New York Voices

There's a new song that's on the new Voices album: "The World Keeps You Waiting." It's about the fact that, even though all this is going on, you can find your own place, live the life you want. The first line is: "Maybe it means that I will be lonely/maybe I'll step aside and let the others go." If don't want what's being presented, I'm making that choice—as opposed to being at the mercy of that situation.

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