BRONXVILLE, N.Y. She may call Nashville home these days, but Bronxville-born Gretchen Peters artistic acumen began to take shape in New York. The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter has penned hits for the likes of Neil Diamond, Faith Hill and Martina McBride, while releasing eight albums of her own.
Earlier this year, Peters released what she calls her manifesto with the album Hello Cruel World. After an intense year in 2010, culminating with the suicide of a close friend, her sons emergence as a transgender and a new marriage, she took some time away to write.
I was fearless writing these songs, Peters said. A lot of life-changing events were crammed into one year.
What I did in 2010 was just deal with all of it, she said. A year later, I was removed from it and I went to work. This was a release for me, for sure, and the result was what I feel to be sort of my manifesto.
But it wasnt all personal. Peters was deeply affected by the BP oil spill, having spent most of her time writing over the last decade on the gulf.
Never known as an upbeat lyricist, Peters explains that writing her latest album meant she had to go deeper. I think in the past Ive always looked for the beauty in words and what I wanted to say, she said. With this album, I was just looking for the truth. I think by now people come to expect that Im not some happy, dippity-do-da songwriter.
Peters is sometimes unfairly categorized as a country or folk singer. Having won Song of the Year honors from the Country Music Association for writing Independence Day in 1995, shes fallen into the genre ever since. Her tone is more than that; hearing even one song, a listener will find that jazz and blues undertones are apparent.
Im so miserably uncomfortable with the idea of being categorized, Peters said. Country and folk may be my audience, but I gave up trying to please a category after my first album tanked. From then on, I felt there was a great freedom in failure and I was going to just write my own path.
Her influence is not the Nashville country scene, but actually New Yorks Greenwich Village scene in the 1960s.
Till this day when people ask me where Im from, Ill say New York, she said. It comes as a surprise, but Dylan, Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, that was my first exposure to music.
She credits her sister for bringing home albums throughout their childhood in Pelham Manor and Bronxville.
I was always amazed growing up in Westchester how close I really was to something magical, she said.
For more on Gretchen Peters, visit www.gretchenpeters.com .
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