Home > Interviews > Peter Mulvey

Part One

Part Two



BB: Do you prefer the studio or playing out?
Peter: Oh, playing out. I love the studio, I love going in, sort of ďretreating,Ē especially since Iíve been recording at Signature Sounds. Thatís great, because itís a little retreat away from the world, and you can hang out with your musician friends and you donít really have to drive anywhere, and nothingís crazy and you just make soup in the afternoon and sing some more songs. I love that part of it, but I really love to perform and I love to play music for people, live.


BB: What makes a good show?
Peter: Everything has to line up. If you get an audience that is really in the mode and are ready to go with you, and if I happen to be on that night in a physical sense and have my voice really with me and have the guitar really under my fingers, you can go way out into some pretty fine territory.

BB: What do you think is your most memorable show so far?
Peter: Iíve got a few. I remember when Dave Carter died. He was a songwriter on the record label that I was on. I played a show that evening at the Natick Center for the Arts. I remember it as being just way out in that territory I was talking about. I had a couple of friends there who still talk about that show. We went out afterwards and sat down and drank some beer and just talked about it. There was just a need to play that night. It really felt required. What else? Every year we do these Christmas shows at the Cafť Carpe in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and those are always just a pleasure. We do them in the round with the musicians sitting in the middle of the room, itís really fun.

BB: Have you had a chance to play with some of your favorite musicians?
Peter: Oh, you bet. I did a support set a couple of times for Los Lobos. Got to meet David Hidalgo and Louis Perez, two of my favorite songwriters in the world. Chris Smither is a big hero of mine, although he happens to be a good friend. But every once in a while I think, ďholy smokes, thatís Chris Smither.Ē And Iíve played a couple shows with Greg Brown and met him, thatís always good. I met a lot of people that I really admire.

BB: Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?
Peter: No. Get a good meal. Drink a little wine. Go on stage and life is good. At that point I figure Iím fed, Iíve had a glass of wine. Iíve got an audienceís attention. Weíre all pretty much fed, weíve all pretty much had a glass of wine, those of us that drink. Weíre warm, itís not snowing on us. What the hell could happen.

BB: What are some of your favorite covers that you do?
Peter: Oneís that are close to me, ďTime,Ē by Tom Waits, which I donít sing all that often but thatís a cosmic tune. Iíve been singing ďMoonglowĒ by Irving Mills for a gazillion years. Thatís the first jazz standard I learned, so that oneís pretty close to me. ďIím Beginning to See the Light,Ē the Duke Ellington tune. I love that tune. ďAirbag,Ē by Radiohead. Thatís a wonderful tune. I feel like Iíve got a stamp on that one thatís pretty much my own. ďA Love Bizarre,Ē the Sheila E tune that Prince wrote. Thatís from way back.

BB: Tell me about your audience. What are your fans like?
Peter: The thing Iím proudest of about the audience that Iíve built is that there are fifteen or sixteen year old kids all the way up to elderly people. And I really like that. I think that means that Iím not just performing in a manner that makes me try to be ďcool.Ē Iím trying to do something of substance and something that people can take away something from, and apparently someone is always going to be looking for that.

BB: What are some of your favorite place to play?
Peter: The Cafť Carpe in Fort Atkinson Wisconsin. A joint in Paris called La Pomme díEve [Eveís Apple]. Itís a bar in the basement of some 14th century building. I used to love to play in my favorite joint in the world, a place called the Lobby Bar in Cork, Ireland, but, alas, they shut it down. In Boston, I like them all. I really love Johnny Dís, I love the Lizard Lounge. I love the Somerville Theatre, and I love Club Passim. Iíve played the Burren, and I love that joint. I love some of the outlying places. The Natick Center for the Arts is a great little joint. All the coffee houses around. I like that thereíre so many great venues. Boston has such a magnificent scene. Toad would be a fine example of that. Last weekend I was in town I was at Toad Saturday night, Sunday night, and Monday night until 2 in the morning, where you can see world class music for free. Thereís nothing like that anywhere that I know. Such a strong scene and such a supported scene. Bostonís got so many great venues, and so many great musicians. Itís appalling how many great musicians.

BB: What are some of your favorite Boston artists?
Peter: Well, Dennis Brennan. One of the greatest songwriters. I love the Sessions Americana guys, all of them, and all that theyíre involved with. Timmy Gearan, world class
songwriter. And world class songwriting ethic, too, heís just always cranking it out. Anita Suhanin [formerly of Groovasaurus] and Schwang, that whole band. Reverse, the hard rock band. Theyíre great, great musicianship and great songwriting. And the whole singer-songwriting scene. There are some wonderful singer-songwriters that all seem to come through Passim. Noam Weinstein, and that whole crowd. And Rose Polenzani, sheís great surreal songwriter. Sheís heavy duty.

BB: How would you compare the Boston music scene to other cities?
Peter: Better. I really mean that. I donít know much about other scenes. I know the scene in Milwaukee is fairly low. And itís good, itís just a little sleepier, and there isnít that huge pool of talent, and that huge outlet for it. Iíve seen a little bit of the scene in Philadelphia, or at least of the young singer-songwriter scene, and they seem to really support each other, so thatís really cool. And Iíve seen sort of New York scenesters, and one of the problems with New York scenesters, and for that matter LA scenesters, is that theyíre ďscenesters.Ē The people in Boston, I donít know how else to put it, but they just show up at the clubs and they just play great music. And they appreciate great music, and they have the enthusiasm and the energy for it. Theyíre not ďscenesters.Ē

BB: If you could play on stage with anyone alive, who would it be?
Peter: Wow. Tom Waits. Yeah, Tom Waits. And by ďplay on stage withĒ him I mean would love to have him be my accompanist for a couple of songs, because I have never seen him be an accompanist and not be pretty riveting. Heíd probably, I donít know, pound on a chair or pick up a long piece of newspaper and use it as a percussion instrument by tearing it gently in front of a microphone. I donít know what heíd do, but I think it would be pretty interesting.


BB: If you could be in another profession other than this one, what would it be?
Peter: I think I would enjoy being a bike messenger. Itís one of the few other things that I just never get tired of. I ride a lot for distance, and I really just enjoy it.

BB: How about one you would never want to do?
Peter: Something I would never want to do... Probably something I just donít have any interest in. Like, I donít think I would ever want to be a commodities trader, I just donít care.

BB: What do you hope to be doing with your music in a few years?
Peter: I want to do a record of jazz standards, which means that I need to just keep doing what Iím doing, which is to explore jazz standards deeper and deeper. One of these years Iíd like to get into more traditional music forms. Old American songs. Old Irish tunes. Because thereís some real nuance in there, and I think it would be really worth it. And the other thing, Iíd like to get good at making recordings. Iíve never really done a lot of home recording, and Iíve just started renting a little studio. Iím hoping I can get good at that
without getting too myopic. You know, the way people do those home recordings and they start sounding really indulgent.

BB: What do you hope people will get out of your music?
Peter: I hope theyíll get Music out of it. I donít think I always manage to achieve playing music in its ďpureĒ form. So thatís all I hope, that they get music out of it. And that could mean everything, from as simple as that they come away humming one of the melodies, to that they come away feeling like theyíve been brought closer in tune with the universe itself as a beautiful place to be. So it could mean everything on that spectrum down from the mundane up to the cosmic, I donít care, I just hope that they get music out of it.

BB: What advice would you have for aspiring local musicians?
Peter: In Boston? God, just listen to everyone around you, because theyíll make you so much better. Thereíre so many spectacular musicians. So just go out and meet your friends and say hey, what are you listening to, and how do you like to play. And actually, go to this website and do the same thing, find out what all these people that are being interviewed are talking about and listening to.

BB: Thank you for talking to Boston Beats.
Peter: Coolio. Take care, man. 




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To learn more about Peter Mulvey, visit his website at

*Pictures courtesy of http://www.petermulvey.com

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