The title of Gretchen Peters’ new Hello Cruel World is a pun on the famed exit line – a joke that, like the lovely melodies and deliciously textured arrangements framing these 11 songs – sweetens this captivating music spun from a year of turmoil. The Grammy nominated singer-songwriter from Nashville calls Hello Cruel World her “most close-to-the-bone work, written at a time when I felt absolutely fearless about telling the truth.” Peters and her guest Rodney Crowell sing, “life is still a beautiful disaster,” on “Dark Angel.” But Peters keeps the accent on the “beautiful” throughout her ninth disc, with both her poetic language and the spare, evocative sounds she created in the studio to support her organic story-telling.
We caught up with singer-songwriter Gretchen Peters to ask her a few questions! Here’s what she had to say:
What’s the first gig you ever attended?
My sister took me to see John Prine at a small club in Evanston, IL in the early 70’s. I was in junior high school, and she was in college, and she was determined to give me a good musical education. I think seeing Prine singing his songs there with just a guitar planted a seed in me. It seemed like it was actually possible to become a singer-songwriter – although I didn’t know that’s what you called it – but it seemed attainable, and like the best job in the world to me.
What is the best gig that you ever performed?
That’s almost impossible to say. But our show this spring in London at Queen Elizabeth Hall was definitely in my top 5. It’s by far the biggest show I’ve headlined in the UK and it was a real rush to see that hall full of people. And having Elizabeth McGovern (Downtown Abbey) and her band Sadie & The Hot Heads as our special guests was an extra treat. But we just played a little show last week in front of 100 people in Luckenbach, Texas, and in its own way that was sublime, too. The best gig is the one where the audience is with you, the sound is exquisite and you are in the zone. That can happen in front of 100 people or 1000.
What is the best gig you have ever seen?
Rickie Lee Jones, in Denver in 1979. She blew my mind. It was a revelation that a singer-songwriter would put on such a theatrical show. She started the show off with a slow, cool ballad – something you rarely see – and the staging (with props) was carefully thought out. And of course, she had these amazing songs. I was transported.
Gig you would most like to play?
In the past year I’ve been lucky enough to play several dream gigs – the Isle of Wight Festival, The Grand Ole Opry and Glastonbury. I’d love to do Cayamo – all of my favorite artists in one place, on a boat in the Caribbean!
What would be the lineup for your dream gig?
Remarkably close to the lineup I tour with – Barry Walsh on piano/accordion/vocals; Christine Bougie on lap steel/electric guitar/drums. I’d add David Henry on cello and Will Kimbrough on everything else. And then if I could sing a duet with Mark Knopfler I’d be in heaven.
Catch Gretchen Peters playing at Eddie’s Attic, Thursday, April 25!