Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Interview: Peter Buffett, musician

Peter Buffett
Gold Star interview

Being the son of famous parents or the reputed cousin of a world renowned musician may open some doors but it also casts a very long shadow which could easily overwhelm. From the outset Omaha born Peter Buffett has created his own “little bumpy road” which has earned this soft spoken man his own place in the sun and away from other’s shadows. While you won’t find it on his own website, Buffett’s Wikipedia site reports he has won an Academy Award (Oscar), an Emmy Award, and a nod from New Age Reporter for Vocal Album of the year. He has worked with some of Hollywood’s best known actors including Kevin Costner and Demi Moore. In the 80’s he worked with upstart Mtv and wrote the music for use in commercials by the number one trademark company in the world, Coca Cola. And like the other members of his family, talking to the unassuming Buffett is bit like leaning on your fence and talking to a friendly neighbor.

With the release of his latest album, Gold Star, Buffett further explores a significant musical career that encompasses three genres; New Age music, a contemporary spin on indigenous American music and now pop music.

RG: You latest album, Gold Star, is kind of a pop record but I became familiar with your albums on the Narada Label where you were recorded a new age artist.

PB: I only started doing the new age genre because I’d written music for commercials forever. In the mid-80’s I seen some guys get into film work by putting out records. They’d get their music put into films, the director would fall in love with their music, and now everyone’s a “composer.” So I thought, ‘I got to get a record deal!’

I have four albums out on the Narada label, a couple out on Hollywood Records, my ‘500 Nations’ album out on Epic and then a few out on my own. I’d bounced around a little and then thought I’ll just put them out on my own.

RG: Which more and more artists are doing.

PB: Yes. These days it doesn’t make any sense to not do it on your own. But the tricky part is that a lot of people think, ‘If I just put it out a record everyone will know how wonderful I am and buy my record’ but you know the recording labels still provide a service. They still provide you with tour support or a video or something. Its not as easy as just putting out a record but it sure makes a lot more sense these days to just do it yourself.

RG: After your New Age period you got into ‘Native American’ music and you won an Oscar for your work on Kevin Costner’s, ‘Dances With Wolves’ soundtrack.

PB: Well I think I actually won a chip of the Oscar. I’d scored the two minute ‘Fire Dance’ scene where Kevin dances around the campfire. Its considered the “title scene” of that movie and I happen to have been lucky enough to have scored that two minutes of that scene: which launched my interest in Native Americans.

The next project was ‘500 Nations.’ After Dances With Wolves Costner hired me to score his eight hour series ‘500 Nations’ and that just got me further and further into the Native American scene where I met people and that eventually turned into ‘Spirits of Fire’ which debuted in Omaha in 2004. You’re right, I don’t know how to describe it exactly; it’s film, it’s a story, it’s a live concert all under a tent.

RG: You used a terrific number of Native American actors, dancers and musicians in that project. It had to have been massively expensive to take that on the road.

PB: It was and that was what killed its first incarnation. We toured five cities including the National Mall in Washington D.C. That was probably the great moment for the show but the logistics were incredible. All of the performers were Native American and the road crew were mostly native as well. Because of the critical acclaim in the USA it appears we will be touring Europe in 2008.

RG: And now we have what I would describe as a musical period that I would describe as a cross between Tears for Fears and Kraftwerk.

PB: I like it! Ha ha. I mean there are definitely those distinct sections of my career. While I was working on the ‘500 Nations’ project for PBS I was also working on a side project in Milwaukee writing songs for a female singer and created a band around that. So that was the first time I’d written songs in a long time. So when my wife and I moved to New York two years ago now I got into writing songs again. But I didn’t know anybody so I thought I’d sign them myself and see what happens.

RG: I notice you put an effect on the vocals which I thought was really cool.

PB: Thanks. Most of that is double and triple tracking. Back in the old days the Beatles did that too. I’m actually singing along with myself to make it sound like I want it to sound. You know you made those references to some other artists, another one I get a lot is Alan Parsons.

RG: People will recognize Alan Parsons, who had his own career, as the coffee boy for the Beatles and George Martin back in the famed Abbey Road recording studio. And wasn’t he a big player for Pink Floyd for awhile?

PB: Yes, I think the album Abbey Road (Beatles) kind of launched and then he did do a lot of work with Pink Floyd.

RG: As an independent artist how are you going to go about marketing this record? Its got to be a really interesting challenge for you.

PB: It is absolutely. Certainly people that know me through the other work will know me so I contact them through email blasts. And then I went to the same stations that played my New Age music. So there’s a group of about 200 deejays that will currently play my instrumental work. Actually, through New Age Reporter magazine the album got nominated as Vocal Abum of the Year. I didn’t actually win but I got nominated into the last five.

RG: As you create your music, because you have so many diversified styles, and all of them you’ve done well in, when you sit down to write do you say, ‘Today I am going to write a new age song and tomorrow I will write a pop song’?

PB: No. I never really thought of myself as a singer. I just followed a path that lead me to ‘Dances With Wolves’ but I consider myself on this bumpy little road of a career and it tends to take me to places that I don’t really expect or know but this vocal sound is fun and I think I’ll be sticking to that for awhile.

RG: So you are related somewhat related albeit distantly to (MCA recording artist) Jimmy Buffett.

PB: I say that somewhat definitively, I mean we’re not exactly sure but it goes way back to the 1600’s. There is an island in the South Pacific where there are 100’s of Buffetts. We think that our common ancestor got off the ship, The Bounty’ before the mutiny and had 14 wives in the South Pacific.

RG: I know if that guy was smart or suicidal?

PB: I don’t know either but at least it was a smart place to be hanging out I think.

RG: Have you ever casually gotten together with Jimmy Buffett?

PB: Yes. We’ve never played music but he is exactly what he appears to be. He’s a very nice guy.

RG: Are you going to go out and tour behind the Gold Star album?

PB: As far as promotion I am not ready to go out and tour yet although I think I’d like to. The new radio is television and movies. If you can get your songs played in a tv show or in a movie its as good as some commercial radio. I mean the Average Joe can’t get onto commercial radio. Which is why public radio and program like your’s are tremendous. I mean it gives so many people a chance. So we do have people working that aspect of the business. So aside from touring all you do is get into some other broadcast medium and seize promotional opportunities. So local (public) radio is so valuable.

RG: One of the things we try to do on PS Blues is, I’m gonna call you a local guy that done good!

PB: I’ll take that thank-you!

RG: Omaha, musically, has really blossomed and I think people may be unaware of that. So I say this in the kindest regards, Chip Davis is kind of a new age artist and you kind of are too but in a different category. I use this term respectfully but I think Mannheim Steamroller is kind of a Hallmark artist while you are a bit more…

PB: I think Chip has found a niche and he’s mined it and that is to be much admired. I like to think of myself as someone that is always trying to push my limits very hard. When you look back and say you’ve been this kind of artist or that kind of artist, I just keep trying to get better and keep the listener interested rather than annoyed.

RG: There has to be a risk that if you change too much your audience won’t know what to do with you, right?

PB: Yes. I think that’s the fun of the vocal recordings. I think people hear elements of my instrumental style in my vocals and it seems to work. So that people that are familiar with my work hear something familiar in it.

RG: So did you go to Central High School?

PB: I did.

RG: Did you participate in their music program?

PB: I did not. Ha ha. I played piano since I can remember. I played with Lars Erickson who is an extraordinary player. He and his kids play as the Burt Street Boys now in Omaha. Lars is so good that I never took myself seriously. And then I went to college and I took everything that ended in 101 or “ology” and then I discovered it really was music so after that I never took any career path too seriously until I was into my college years.

RG: So I understand that you did play with Bono (U2) once?

PB: Actually I did not. Bono played at my Mom’s service (Susan A. Buffett). It was incredibly powerful and it was incredible that he was there. But it was my nephew that played with Bono. My sister’s son is an extraordinary musician that plays guitar and drums and bass and he’s just starting to sing now. He played with him which was amazing and did it. It was pretty amazing. I certainly have had the chance to sit with Bono and talk but our discussion will fall back into my show and my experiences working with Native Americans. You know how Bono is. That is a fabulous opportunity to sit down and talk with someone like him.

RG: So tell us about the albums title.

PB: I was imerged into the ‘500 Nations’ project and one night I was going to sleep when I said to my wife, Jennifer, “You know, you really deserve a gold star” and I thought, well wait a minute, that would be a great title for a song. So that song amongst others is dedicated to my wife and her ability to put up with me.

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