Music Q&A: Gretchen Peters

Gretchen Peters’ career was borne out of Nashville via New York, but her relentless touring career was forged in the UK where she’s been captivating crowds with her country and Americana. Now, after 25 years on British Stages she is retiring from full UK touring with a string of farewell dates that kick off in Lytham on 4th May. Peters promises an evening of reflective conversation and a retrospective performance including deep cuts from across from her expansive songbook. Support comes from long-time musical accomplice and special guest Kim Richey.

Tell us about the decision to make this your final UK tour.
After nearly 30 years of touring the UK, and so many wonderful memories, it was time. I think that the pandemic certainly hastened my decision (and gave me plenty of time to think about it!), but it wasn’t the cause. I was wrestling with the decision to stop and change direction for a few years before that. Touring is hard work, mentally and physically – the old saying is that they don’t pay you for the two hours you’re on stage, they pay you for the other 22. This is a bittersweet time for me because I will miss the fans, the venues, the whole experience very much. But we are only retiring from full-scale touring, so we may pop back up at a festival or two!

What’s your most memorable experience of touring here?
It’s impossible to choose just one. A few – playing the big festivals like Isle of Wight and Glastonbury. The night in 2004 Bryan Adams drove his motorcycle out to Maidstone to sit in with us (and blow the minds of the audience) at a little club we were playing there. Recording my latest album The Show: Live from the UK with my band and a quartet of Scottish string players – that whole tour was a dream. Celtic Connections and Transatlantic Sessions – always. Walking the cliffs at Beachy Head. Fish and chips on the beach after soundcheck. Watching the beautiful countryside go by from the window of a tour van. So many great memories.

What inspires your music and songwriting?
I’m endlessly curious about people. I think to some extent I always have my antennae out, listening to people and looking for characters to write about. I’m also always drawn to subject matter that I feel hasn’t been done to death. I’d rather write about a young girl grappling with adolescence, or a murder ballad, than a straightforward love song.

If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing with your life?
I would have loved to be a marine biologist, although I’m not sure I would have made it through all the science classes. I’m fascinated with what goes on under the surface of the sea, and I would be very happy to spend my days with dolphins and whales.

What’s on your rider?

It’s pretty boring – red wine, veg and cheese tray, a few beers for the band, and some ginger root and lemon for my throat. So NOT rock and roll.

What song do you wish you’d written?
Joan of Arc, by Leonard Cohen.

What’s your worst lyric?
Great question. I don’t tend to let them out of the house until I’m happy with them – I’m a serious editor. I wrote a song when I was 19 that had the line “I’m setting out for Dixie in the morning”, to my eternal embarrassment.

Are you looking forward to playing Lytham and what else would you like to check out while you’re here?
Absolutely looking forward to Lytham – a venue and a town we’ve never been to, which is a real rarity at this point! I love the English seaside so I’m sure we’ll stop by for a walk on the beach and maybe fish and chips before the show.

What can we expect from your live show?
I’m putting the set list together now, and it’s really tough. So many fans have been in touch, requesting songs, wanting to hear something that has a special significance in their lives. I’m going to try to touch all the major bases, go back and rework a few songs from my older catalogue. Beyond the song selection, I expect it will be very emotional, for everyone. More than anything else, I want to savour this time. The fans in the UK really gave me my touring career, that’s no exaggeration. I’m very grateful to them and feel a deep connection to the UK because of it, so it’s important to me to be able to say thank you, and give them a great show.

What’s next for you?
I’m going to have a bit of a rest, and then see what calls me, creatively. One of the things that has happened since announcing our retirement from touring is that I’ve had little glimmers of creative energy and no agenda that accompanies them. This is a wonderful revelation to me – that I could create just for the sake of creating, with no album or tour specifically in mind. I would love to keep that door open and see what happens.

Gretchen Peters plays Lowther Pavilion on 4th May. Tickets here.

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