For two decades, Gretchen Peters has been one of Nashville’s most beloved and respected artists and she is appearing at The Apex, in Bury St Edmunds, later this month.
She was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014 by Rodney Crowell, who called her “both a songwriter and a poet (who) sings as beautifully as she writes,” and said her song ‘The Matador’, “moved me so greatly, I cried from the soles of my feet.”
Peters has accumulated accolades as a songwriter for artists as diverse as Etta James, Bonnie Raitt, Bryan Adams and Faith Hill. Her 2015 album, ‘Blackbirds’ debuted at No. 1 on the UK Country chart and in the UK pop chart top 40, and was awarded International Album of the Year and Song of the Year.
With the 2017 Women’s March and #MeToo Movement as bookends to her writing time, Gretchen’s new album, ‘Dancing With The Beast’ has a feminist perspective at its core. Whether a single sentence or a simple setting, once planted the tiniest seed can grow into a vision. Strung together and populated with strong and broken female heroines, those vignettes make up ‘Dancing with the Beast’ and, indeed, Peters’ entire discography.
She admits: “You can trace the feminist DNA in my songwriting back to ‘Independence Day’ and probably before. 2017 just put it front and center.”
Though Peters doesn’t consider herself a political writer, she is politically minded and, therefore, knew she had to address the 2016 election and all that has happened since … but in her own way.
In the song ‘Lowlands’, the title came first, bringing with it both a feeling and a place.
“The description of the geography gave me a feeling inside of low clouds and general gloominess, but also the idea of laying low and staying low.”
To capture that mood, Peters crafted a multitude of verses, whittled them down, and stitched them together.
“It has no chorus. It’s nothing but verses,” she says. “It’s relentless, which is exactly how last year was.”
The final female voice on the album comes from Peters’ mother, who passed away in late 2016.
‘Love That Makes a Cup of Tea’ came out of a dream Peters had of her.
“I can’t remember what the rest of the dream was, but she, in a reassuring way, held my hand and said, ‘You know, honey, there is love that makes a cup of tea,’” Peters recounts.
“I do remember feeling that I had to try to write something with hope in it. It’s not my strong suit. But I wanted that on this record, because I do think there’s hope. I see a lot of trouble too, but we have to try to find some light.”
Beauty tempered by dread, sorrow buoyed by hope, these are the ever-present tugs of war that make life worth living and songs worth writing. And they are the over-riding themes that make Gretchen Peters one of her generation’s most compelling singer/songwriters.
Gretchen Peters is performing at The Apex, in Bury St Edmunds, on Thursday, May 31, at 7.30pm. Tickets are £27.50 and £23.50, ring the box office on 01284 758000 or see the websitewww.theapex.co.uk for more details, or to book.