The Burn The Truth The Lies: The Vanessa Peters Interview
Vanessa Peters, repatriated Texas singer/songwriter with the heart and the soul of a poet (or novelist) sings and writes of matters of the heart with clarity, honesty and introspection on her Kickstarter funded album The Burn The Truth The Lies (7/17/12). She is clearly an artist (Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman, Amiee Mann, Joni Mitchell) rather than an entertainer (Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce) with her clear voice, lyrics worth listening to and sweet low-key delivery. Vanessa lived in Italy for several years and toured Europe extensively but she relocated back to Texas and regrouped after her excellent 2009 release Sweetheart, Keep Your Chin Up which should make seeing her live a little less difficult! A true craftsman,Vanessa's lyrics challenge the listener to actually sit and listen to avoid missing insightful lyrics or a clever turn of phrase. Vanessa offers The Burn The Truth The Lies as a $7 download from Bandcamp which comes WITH a 12-page downloadable CD booklet!
HB-Congratulations on your new album. It must be satisfying to release a Kickstarter fan-funded album!
VP-It is! I've done all of my records through fan-funding, but it was always on a smaller scale. Kickstarter made it possible for me to reach new listeners, and the platform was of course way sleeker than anything I ever rigged up via my mailing list. It was great to be able to post backer-only content while we recorded the album, and I got a lot of feedback from fans saying that they really enjoyed the whole process.
HB-"The Burn The Truth The Lies" is credited to Vanessa Peters. No more "Ice Cream on Mondays"?
VP-Not at the moment. I moved back to Texas a few years ago, and everyone in the band kind of went their separate ways. We are all still friends and I miss playing with them - maybe there will be a VP + ICOM reunion in 2014. That would be the 10-year anniversary of when we began playing together. That would be fun.
HB-The songs on the new album are a bit more direct with less metaphor and mythology than those on "Sweetheart Keep Your Chin Up".
VP-Yeah, they are. I noticed it as soon as I began writing, and I made a conscious effort to keep it that way. I have a tendency to cloak everything that I am trying to say, to kind of dance around the meaning. That is usually intentional - I guess it's a way of protecting myself from some of the very personal themes in my songs. In this album, I tried to just put it out there in a more direct manner. The songs themselves seemed to want it that way. My last two albums were very nearly concept albums, but that method didn't seem to work with these songs. I have been told by people that got a preview of the new album that it's my most honest record to date, and I am taking that as a compliment.
HB-There is a poetic or literary feel to your lyrics. Could you name a few influences: writers or songwriters?
VP-Well, I was a literature and creative writing major in college, and I have always been an avid reader, ever since I was about 2 years old. I love reading, and I find most of my inspiration that way. "Sweetheart" was based, in part, on a modern re-working of the Odyssey. I also love F Scott Fitzgerald - I would love to write a Gatsby record. I used to be a huge fan of Anne Sexton's poetry (I still am, I just re-visit it less frequently), and I still read "To Kill a Mockingbird" about once a year. Graham Greene, Zadie Smith, Stefano Benni, Fitzgerald, Paul Auster, Michael Chabon, and PD James (a very random collection of writers) are some of my favorites. I love a good mystery or vampire story as much as I love literary fiction.
On the music front - Aimee Mann, Sarah Harmer, Gary Louris. I like Aimee's literary approach to songwriting, and I love Gary's insane ability to marry melody and intelligent lyrics. Lyrics are really important to me as a listener, and as a writer.
HB- You sang "Austin, I made a mess out of this" on "Sweetheart". I guess that was semi-autobiographical and an explanation for finding a new home in Italy? Is Italy still your homebase?
VP-My idea of home is pretty complicated. I have lived in Italy on and off for the last ten years. I moved back to Texas full-time in 2009 but now I'm trying to re-establish a part-time home base in Italy, because I miss being there, and because I really enjoy touring in Europe. I have a lot of good fans in Europe, and it's hard to manage touring the US and Europe without a home base in each place because it's just gotten so expensive. Plane tickets have doubled in price from what they were when I first began touring Europe about six years ago. Gas is $9/gallon over here. It's really tough to make it work.
"Austin" was semi-autobiographical, but it was also a bit tongue in cheek, and also largely about a relationship that failed (less about my relationship with Austin, and more about a relationship with an ex-boyfriend). But it was more interesting for me to play it up as a song about my struggle in the music world, and so I ran with it. All of my songs have a grain of truth and autobiography in them - I think the best writers write what they know - but the trick is managing how big that grain of truth is. Sometimes you only need a sliver of truth to make the other imagined 99% ring true. But you do need that tiny bit, I think. And that tiny bit can sometimes get you into trouble with the folks in the story… hence all the cloaking I did in albums past.
HB-I know from checking your tour schedule (in vain) that you've mainly played shows in Europe and Texas over the last several years. Are there any plans to tour the States?
VP-I hope so. I want to desperately but we are between agencies at the moment and it is so difficult to put together a band tour on your own. All of my bandmates are full-time musicians like me, and we all have families, and it's hard to leave for a few weeks at a time knowing from the outset that you are probably going to lose money. I can tour acoustic (and I plan to), but I would really love to take this new album on the road with the full band. I think the album deserves it. I am really proud of what we've done and I want to play it for our fans.
HB-Thanks for the music and your time Vanessa and best of luck with the new album!