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Peter Eldridge: A Lot of Other Stuff

By Published: August 27, 2007
AAJ: It seems you're often in search mode yourself, like in your song, "Deliver Me" [on Fool No More]. That's powerful stuff.

PE: Those are questions I've had my whole life. I grew up in a churchgoing family. We moved around a lot, and did a lot of different churches, trying different denominations. When I was in a junior high school, I got into this major Billy Graham thing—ordered the stickers!—had a real hell complex. I thought I was going to hell, and needed to repent. With all the therapy I've done, I still haven't figured out where that came from. It didn't come from my folks.

AAJ: Not even grandma?

PE: No. Not ultimately. She was powerful, but not that powerful. The thing of being a believer started there: wanting a religious experience, wanting a connection. The way my life is now, I'm a spiritual person in a lot of respects, but there are still too many questions. Life makes so little sense in too many ways. I admire the people who say "here's what I believe, and here's my God and what He or She thinks, and this is what's right and this is what's wrong."

I'll never forget an interview on TV with a senator from down south. There was a horrible small plane crash, and the senator was supposed to be on the plane, but he wasn't. They're interviewing him, and he's saying, "I just thank God He didn't put me on that plane." And I'm thinking, "What about the other people on the plane? Were they not in the club? Did God hate them?"

That's horrible. It's condescending. Ultimately there are so many questions I don't know how anybody can really go, "This is it. Done." At the same time, I also want to be respectful of those people, because it's everything to them. It's how they get by. For some people I know, it's almost like a drug: "I used to be a coke addict, but now I'm a God addict." They still don't know who they are.

AAJ: All these questions have been out there for centuries, and your lyrics try to examine them. Now: to the really important stuff: do you think you'll ever write a song about Paris Hilton?

PE: I did. I wrote "Open Book" [on Decorum]; that's my "I'm famous because I'm famous" song. It boggles my mind that she's such an icon, that people like that are so important. That's what "Open Book is about: "as long as I drop my pants, and throw my dirty laundry as far as I can go, I'm gonna do alright." People will connect with me because I've behaved in this manner—on some level they think it's cool, or they'll feel sorry for me, and that's how I'm going to become famous. That is unbelievable to me. So I did write my Paris Hilton song.

AAJ: I was only kidding, but you're right: "Open Book" is it. Then on the other end of the spectrum is your "Deliver Me." As the testimony of a seeker, it's comforting, and even singable at the same time.

Peter Eldridge / New York Voices

PE: I was playing down in the East Village, doing a solo set at this little club that's no longer in existence. I do "Deliver Me" less now; it's a song which is too personal, too exposed. But it never fails that someone comes up and says, "I've lived that song, every day." That night it was this girl with blue hair and fifty thousand piercings, really Gothy-looking. And I was thinking she and I are as opposite as any two people can be—but she was the one who came up and said, "I've lived every line of what you just sang." And I said, "You know, you just made my week—that you and I are connected on that level." Because I wouldn't have thought it possible.

AAJ: Those connections are precious and rare.

PE: Especially in these days when everything is so extreme. The extreme Christians, the extreme anti-Christians—everything is so ultimate; there's nothing in the middle. I think I write for the people in the middle. And I believe there are a lot more of them out there than you'd expect, given what's in the media.

AAJ: But how are you going to reach these people if you're doing the Voices over here, and Moss over there? [Note: Moss is a new singing group composed of Eldridge, Luciana Souza, Kate McGarry, Theo Bleckmann, and fellow New York Voice Lauren Kinhan; they plan to record their first CD in August, 2007.]

PE: I don't know. I always fought the fear of going out on my own, taking that chance. I've looked for security blankets, both professionally and personally, situations that seemed protective and solid. But I'd be lying if I said I'm still the group-oriented person I was when the Voices started twenty years ago. I'm just not that guy anymore. So it's about what I can offer with who I am now, and whatever the musical endeavor happens to be: New York Voices, Moss, solo opportunities, working with other musicians. I'm carving out more of a path for myself as a soloist and composer with something different and individual to say.

AAJ: The Voices have been traveling all over the world for more than two decades, and nobody's killed anybody. That's something.

PE: Absolutely! I do love and respect them all very much. They are tremendously talented people, each in their own, very specific way. As you get older, you just become more opinionated, more passionate about what you think good music is and what it isn't, and when you're part of this warped democracy, that becomes difficult. It's very hard because every decision is a group decision. It isn't Singers Unlimited, which was Gene Puerling's vision [founded in 1971]. Or, in the Phil Mattson [PM] Singers, Phil says: "You sing this, and you phrase it this way." With us, it's like, "Well, what do you think?" Somebody will bring in something, someone will arrange, but then we'll all rearrange, and re-compose. There's a lot of that going on, probably to a fault.

Peter Eldridge / New York Voices

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