It is safe to say that Grant Peeples has very diverse interests. The self-proclaimed "vegetarian that watches NASCAR" and "tree-hugger that keeps a gun under the seat" is known for the brutal honesty in his lyrics. Radio blog Routes & Branches sums up the folk singer's music as having "smart, strong lyrics that mean something, and say it in a way that you haven't heard before."
With his latest release Punishing the Myth debuting at #1 on the Freeform American Roots chart, it seems like honesty is a good policy for Grant Peeples. We spoke with the open and honest artist to learn more about his new album, the quirky song titles on it, and his general outlook on life. Let us tell you, he did not hold back.
New Times: What's the deal behind the name Punishing the Myth of your EP?
Grant Peeples: Each song intends to challenge or throw down, make some kind of foray into one tenant of belief or another. Some of the songs have personal angles, like "You're a Slave to Your Imagination," which is just a dialog between my defensive artistic ego, and my pissy anti-muse. I like holding a mirror up in front of beliefs. Those of others, as well as my own. All the songs have the word "myth" or "mythic" or "mythical" in them, or allude to a mythology of some sort or another. The title itself is from a John Ashbery poem.
One of the song descriptions is "a love song to a long-dead lesbian aunt." Can you please elaborate on that?
My Aunt Lou. It's a song to her, but really it's about our family, who loved her greatly, but who could never acknowledge who she really was. As in the line: "the truth wasn't something we ever even whispered. So we just buried it with her." She was a grand woman, intelligent and passionate. She was also my godmother. And when she died, she left me the little cottage she had built and lived in. I lived there for several years, and when I sold it, I took that money and purchased land on an island off the coast of Nicaragua where I lived for over ten years. It was the seminal experience of my life. And it would have never happened if not for Aunt Lou and her love for me.
You describe yourself as a "A vegetarian that watches NASCAR, a tree-hugger that keeps a gun under the seat." Kind of sounds like a walking contradiction. Does having this type of personality help you with songwriting or seeing things from a different view?
Western Culture is programed through pairs of opposites: good and evil, right and wrong, left and right, light and darkness. This whole political polarization we are going through today is rooted in the dualism of the myth of the Garden of Eden. For me, as an artist, when I rock this duality -- born of the mythic story of Adam and Eve -- and let the paints mix, it gets real interesting, both personally and artistically. So, I work to keep my songs from becoming an opinion about something. I prefer allegory and metaphor. For me, it's just more interesting to work with ambiguous and ambivalent literary devices than to paint billboards, as it were, that profess what I think is the truth. Joseph Campbell says: "Thinking you know the Truth is a certain kind of insanity."
How is your newest album Punishing the Myth different than your last, Prior Convictions?
Thematically, the two records are siblings. I could package them together and call them "Myth and Conviction." And it would work in a really solid way. If I had had all the songs at one time, that's what I would have done. As it turned out, I needed the songs from Prior Convictions to show me the songs of Punishing the Myth. That said, sonically, Punishing the Myth is more rhythmic and liquid because of the horns and organs. And, in general it is a more artistic record.
Your music is all about brutal honesty. How do you utilize that in everyday life?
Different than the popular koan that instructs one not to take oneself too seriously, that's pretty much what I try to do: Take all of this seriously. But brutal honesty doesn't have to be grim, and who would listen anyhow. I was reading recently about the two basic personality types. There are those that run from fires; and those that run toward them. Neither is good or bad or right or wrong, or anything like that. It's like Fords and Chevrolets; they're just different. But I am the latter. For sure. And I'm committed to it. When something bothers me, I walk toward it. If I find something interesting, I start unwrapping it. And every now and then there's a song there.
Grant Peeples, 8 p.m.Friday, May 2, at Your Big Picture Cafe, 4900 S. University Dr., Davie. No cover.