‘“Game Day” is the epitome of a “solo” effort. Peter not only sings and plays “99 44/100%” of the notes on this record, eliciting help assistance from Susan Cowsill, Webb Holsapple on trombone and Jeremy Boomhower and trumpet and trombone, he also produced the record himself.,
More than 45 years since he popped up on the musical landscape with Rittenhouse Square, Peter Holsapple’s music still manages to surprise, delight and resonate. He manages the neat trick of wrapping everyday concerns, joys and disappointments in gorgeous and indelible melodies.’ writes Coachella Valley Weekly.
Sweet Sweet Music talked to Peter about Game Day and about a whole lot more.
Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?
I think that it goes without saying digital recording has made making records far more accessible to people who would have, in prior generations, either had to pony up thousands of dollars to get into a pro recording studio, or who would have been priced out. My newest record Game Day was recorded at home by myself (literally) at no cost except for having purchased a ProTools subscription. The prior record which was a 45 cost a few thousand dollars for studio and mixing time and the presence of its producers. Now there’s definitely a sonic difference between these two sessions, and you can sense that when you play Game Day and get to the two single tracks at the end. Bad? Good? Hard to say.
It also is a fact that by no longer having to go through the old process of demo submission/A&R evaluation/getting signed/preproduction/recording with engineering staff/mixing/ mastering at a lab, it has allowed probably thousands more inspired amateurs to put out their own music on their own. Which means there are lots more people vying for ‘the brass ring’ on the carousel, and which also means that some of the elements that make a better sounding product are no longer in play. So you have more music available, but the question would be: is it all good music? Is there more sub-par stuff out there? Are people self-editing, or are they releasing whatever they damned well please? Would the music have been better served had the artist gone through the old process? Would it have even seen the light of day? And then also, does that even matter anymore? Do we mix for sub-fidelity mp3s played over computer speakers? Questions questions questions….
My record Game Day came out on a label (Omnivore Recordings) which meant that I didn’t have to pursue distribution and pressing and publicity on my own. Did it get heard? That’s really hard to say. It’s not like an Ariana Grande or Florida Georgia Line record that has umpteen gazillion dollars in promotion behind it. And the number of radio stations that would play it are few and far between. So, in the words of my friend Dave Catching from Eagles of Death Metal, “don’t think of it as failure, think of it as ‘limited success’” which has been my credo for decades now.
Playing music in front of a crowd. What’s all the fun about?
You caught me at a good moment, having had a fantastic show with the Peter Holsapple Combo in Wake Forest NC last night. It was a receptive, listening crowd first of all; in recent years, I’ve tried to focus on getting lyrics across, and that happened last night, despite any ‘rock volume’ we might have applied beneath it. The band was spot-on, and any mistakes any of us may have made were recovered from quickly and seamlessly. I sang in tune, always a deciding factor. And I played some of the best lead guitar I’ve ever tried. So there are so many factors, enjoyment on the part of the performer being among the top priorities. It also doesn’t hurt to have some old treasured friends come gush about the show after it’s finished!
Always proud to answer ‘I am a musician’ to the question ‘what are you doing?’?
Having had a several-year period when I left playing music full-time and worked at an administrative job at a Broadway theater, I feel fully proud to answer that these days, especially with my new-found energy and excitement about my record and new band. I remember when I started putting that as my job on my federal income tax forms and feeling like I was absolutely telling the truth.
With every song you write, are you still learning to become an even better songwriter?
I sure hope so. I’ve been writing songs in earnest since I was around 11, which is over fifty years ago. I’d like to believe that I have more songs in me. Every song is not going to be a great one, or, heaven help us, a ‘hit.’ But the muse hasn’t departed and I have new ideas every day. That aforementioned ProTools rig has been a godsend for taking an idea and fleshing it out. I just purchased a loop pedal (I’m so cutting edge…) and am trying to use that as a songwriting device, which has led to some very interesting new results. My son bought me Tunesmith by Jimmy Webb, and I plan to devour that soon and try to pick up some of his tips too. You’re really never too old to improve what you’re doing, and I have no plans to do anything but better myself and my craft in the time I have left on the planet.
As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?
Well, I think, when you sign on for this career, it comes with the territory to expose your insides. But certainly, there have been plenty of times when I was physically ill or severely depressed and had to go onstage and make a go of it. So no, it’s not always comfortable, but on the other hand, I’m not sure rock and roll if done right is supposed to be comfortable for either the performer or the audience, you know? Dangerous, threatening, energetic, persuasive, aggravating, consoling… all of that you get from a Little Richard record or a Who record or Kris Kristofferson or pretty much anyone out there. I have found that getting out there and making records and playing in front of people is cathartic and can be a great spiritual assist to any flagging emotions on my part. So there’s that payoff, too.