Two New Releases from Peter Lacey
Well, it finally happened - Peter Lacey is on vinyl! The vinyl 45 has one new excellent tune and one of my possibly favorite past Peter Lacey tunes on the b-side.
First, the new tune "Wayward Song". It is a song that deals with the very common theme of loss and how to overcome it. It can be heart wrenching to realize the uncertainties of life, saying goodbye to part of that life and realize that things will be changed forever - but Peter turns this very familiar aspect of the human condition into a musical masterpiece. The melody perfectly fits the theme of the lyrics in an almost melancholy way, but then comes the surprise - the upbeat middle section. You can almost feel the sun shining on your face. Then the tune returns to the main theme, almost like returning to reality after a nice daydream. Not many songwriters can have universal appeal to human emotions, but Peter Lacey nails it on "Wayward Song". I know it might sound morbid to some, but as a long-time music lover, I have a list of songs to play at my "wake" when I do pass. I think that now, I'll be adding "Wayward Song" to that hallowed list!
The b-side, "Many Moons Ago" was previously released on "Permanent Wave". As I said in March of 2007 - '..."Many Moons Ago" has got to be my all-time favorite Peter Lacey song and one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in years.' And, there is also a new video of the tune on YouTube.
So now you can get two of Peter's very best songs in one place - a definite bargain at any price!
With each release by Peter Lacey, I've come to except sublime harmonies, impeccable melodies, and intricate arrangements. On top of this, he has a signature voice which lets you know immediately that it is him. "Last Leaf" finds Peter delving into more folk-inspired music, sort of "Rubber Soul" meets Van Morrison.
But while the songs never fail to please, the lyrics are what are really intriguing on this album. It is as if Peter is commenting on the inevitable cycle of life - how people question the changes, almost saying, "What is life?" Even the subject of death is touched upon. The lyrics are sometimes inspiring, sometimes melancholy, but always fascinating. For example, in 'Fisherman' - "I am a simple fisherman, so say a ne'er–do–well. I've never sold my soul downstream; I have no soul to sell." These are the lyrics of someone searching for answers. The seriousness of some of the songs almost seems overwhelming, if it were not for Peter's talent of matching them with superb melodies.
All in all a fascinating journey through the human psyche and a welcome addition to the discography of Peter Lacey.
EC: First, I want to talk about your vinyl single. I understand that "Wayward Song" came about during a time of losses in your life - so, I guess in a way you turned pain into art?
Peter: Well, it sounds like something of a cliché Ronnie, but yes! It's what Aristotle called 'catharsis' back in BC. I think everyone deals with loss in different ways, and I can't rest until I've made a musical/lyrical statement based on why I hurt...it helps. On the flip side of the same coin, I'll be inspired to write something positive if I'm touched by good things. I've now decided to only write at both ends of those extremes, because, otherwise, things can get somewhat mediocre. I'm hoping those moments are by and large positives!
EC: How did the decision come about to release it as vinyl?
Peter: It's a dream both Simon Felton (owner of The Pink Hedgehog Record label) and I have shared for a long time. Simon has plans to issue a number of vinyls of musicians on the label, I was very lucky to be the first! What is thrilling about it for me is that only my heroes made vinyl! Vinyl is my secular equivalent of a religious artifact, imbued with all sorts of magical powers... how strange to have my own, ha ha!
EC: I was pleased as punch that the b-side was "Many Moons Ago"; it is one of my favorite Peter Lacey songs. How did you decide what song to place as the b-side?
Peter: When it came to funding the project, my wife Kathleen insisted on it. That's it! Simon was right in pointing out that we needed two fresh tunes, but intuitively I think we knew Kathy was right!
EC: Talking about "Last Leaf", was it in any way inspired by the short story "The Last Leaf" by O. Henry from 1907?
Peter: No, I read the story recently having come across it googling... I can't lay any claim to a connection.
EC: What made you decide to take the more folk-inspired route for this album; it's almost "Rubber Soul" meets Van Morrison?
Peter: I suppose the answer is that when you've made something like 10 albums, the dilemma I faced was; do I go on in some perfunctory fashion, or do I look to do something different?, or, just stop to avoid the mediocrity I mentioned earlier. What I love about The Beatles is their evolution, always looking for bright objects as the magpies they admitted to being. So, 'Last Leaf' is done in the same spirit... and it was easy, because I'd started my songwriting at 13 writing simple folk tunes akin to 'The Incredible String Band', except not half as good, but most definitely more naive!.. Plus, I think all my albums have an English quality to them despite my extreme love of American Pop! I just turned up the emphasis on the roots!
EC: Do you have a concept for each album, or do you wait until you have a collection of songs written?
Peter: Usually, I have a concept of sorts and then write the tunes to fit an atmosphere. As you know, my early albums were very Beach Boys influenced, particularly their 'art-period' say, 66-72 and the songs poured out of me with my love of the music as a template. So the concepts were already in place. As I went on I diversified and so looked to other inspirations, as in the case of the folksy nature of 'Last Leaf'...
EC: I've got to ask you about the lyrics, they are simply fascinating. Like I said in my review:
Peter: Again, the inspiration is that of Joni Mitchell and the whole singer/songwriter self-scrutiny process. I've also been haunted by Lennon's honesty on the 'Plastic Ono Band' and Dylan on 'Blood On The Tracks'. I just had to see if I could pull something of that depth out of myself and I feel I succeeded to some point. These losses you mentioned prompted the quest. One other aspect of this on songs like 'Gatekeepers' and 'Fisherman' are about songwriting and the tough job of getting your music 'out there'. Music is about communication, about touching people, and it's frustrating to sometimes feel so isolated. The other thing to say is, I teach academic philosophy, and I am used to the cold logic that informs much of it, So, for instance the term, contingency. There's a time you don't exist, a time you do and alter through that process, and a time when you won't exist again. In my experience, these logical/matter of fact considerations don't really help when personal loss comes knocking at your garden gate... but for me what helps is the free ranging nature of writing something akin to poetry that addresses imponderables via a different route, namely emotion. The philosopher Nietzsche would understand...
EC: It seems all the rage for artists to record tribute albums from their own favorite artists. If YOU had a chance to record such an album, what artists (and more importantly what songs) would be on your list?
Peter: I wouldn't consider it! I like original records, and I like the power that great interpreters like Ray Charles have. I'm not in that league at all. There's no point in repainting the Masters, unless you have the talent. It's not me. When I was singing in the 'outer darkness of cabaret' I'd pretend to be Nat Cole or Stevie Wonder and all the time, in the back of my mind I knew I wasn't. So I'll stick to my own stuff where I belong!
EC: I love the video for "Seven Hills to Hangleton" - are any more videos planned? Maybe one for "Wayward Song"?
Peter: Yes, there are 4 others up on Youtube as we speak and new up is... "Wayward Song"! My daughters are involved in film studies and we have used their burgeoning skills to put together little promo-films that are sympathetic to the songs. It's great fun…much easier than all the rest!
EC: Speaking of "Seven Hills to Hangleton" I love the finger picking style of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson"!
Peter: Thank you Ronnie, and yes, that was the template for the mood and motion of the tune. Most perceptive of you!
EC: Since this album is very acoustic-based, are there any chances of live performances?
Peter: We have spoken about this in earlier interviews, and I'm more resolved than ever to not play live. What a stick in the mud I am. But the truth is I never really enjoy it. it's too scary. I feel inside what Brian Wilson often shows on his beautiful countenance. I know my comfort zone is to write and record here at home. Of course the sense of isolation I mentioned earlier is to that extent, self imposed. But I have to be true to myself. The great consolation is that there are good folk buying my cds, and it a following that's grown over time, and I'm truly grateful. The opening line of 'Gatekeepers' starts; "Pity the poor outlander bent on a hiding to nothing'. Well, I had to prove that I could make it alone; thank goodness that's not me!
EC: When's the next album coming out?!
Peter: It's a double-album, a kind of 'best of' coming out either late 2015 or early 2016. One disc will be a chronological selection of tunes from 2000 to 2015 and the other will be 12 freshly minted songs, which I've written and are now presently recording in my usual loft-space!. It's going well, and this time the mood is.....FUN! (With a hint of melancholy of course!)