Hello, Cruel World: A Q&A With Gretchen Peters
Gretchen Peters, writer of some of the ‘90s biggest country songs and maker of quietly moving modern folk albums, is not one to send an interviewer away empty-handed. Ask her for self-analysis, and she’ll sift through thoughts and feelings until she arrives at something with some substance to it. One can approach a Gretchen Peters album expecting engrossing, character-driven narratives spun from her inner awareness, and her latest album, Hello Cruel World, is no exception.
You’ve gone through different phases in your career, from you country cut era to your big record label era to finding a warm welcome with the folk audience. Now you’ve added a satellite radio show and Huffington Post blog. Has your idea of what you do as a songwriting and communicator changed?
Well, obviously, yeah, especially with those things that you mentioned. I think that I’ve finally kind of accepted that I’m a writer, period, without a hyphen in front of it. The Huff Post blog, for instance, it was daunting to write that first one just from a writerly standpoint, you know, the essay form. I chose the form of songs for a reason, because that very small box really felt like my niche. And writing an essay, it felt so open-ended. Writing without the overlay of poetry felt very naked and a little bit daunting. But I also found pretty quickly that the same things apply to writing that piece that apply to writing the songs on this record and to anything else, which was I had to find my way to the heart of the matter and get there, and then everything went smoothly. …And the radio show is a secret fantasy I’ve had forever. I think every musician I know would secretly like to do this. At first I thought, ‘Well, am I going to run out of stuff to play?’ Then halfway into the second show I realized, ‘Never.’
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