Peter Breinholt is a LDS musician that needs no introduction. He has
performed in every major concert venue through out Utah and played
extensively through out the western United States. I’ve personally been a
big fan of Peter since I was a student at BYU in the mid 90’s. I remember
going to his concerts at The Sundance Amphitheater or at the DeJong Concert
Hall with thousands of other college students along side. After 15 years of
performing before large audiences, Peter has recently released his newest
album, “The Best of Peter Breinholt.” The LDS Spotlight had the chance to
talk with Peter Breinholt about his music, his life and his new album.
LDSyellowpages.com: Tell us about your background, your family, where did
you grow up? Were you born in Utah?
Peter: I was born in a suburb of Philadelphia called Devon. My family
lived there until I was 10 years old and then we moved to Utah. I formed a
band in high school and then I went to the University of Utah and started
playing at these little places off campus, small cafes, coffee shops and
pizzerias. I would set up in a corner and play, and that’s where I really
started performing my own songs.
LDSyellowpages.com: How did you first get started with your music? Did it
start in high school with your band?
Peter: It started at a pretty early age. When I was in first or second
grade I was smitten by popular music, and I used to draw pictures of bands.
Later on, my Mom put me in piano lessons, but it didn’t work out the way she
envisioned it. My teacher would give me a couple of songs to practice and I
wouldn’t touch them all week. . . but I would figure out a handful off the
radio by ear. The teacher finally said to my Mom, “I can’t help him". The piano lessons stopped there.
LDSyellowpages.com: It seems like you didn’t have much formal training in
Peter: I’m from the folk tradition, I guess. It’s mostly by ear. I taught
myself all the instruments I play. As for singing, it wasn’t until college
that I started. I just played the guitar in high school. I was never in
school choir or anything like that. When I finally did start singing in
college at those cafes, I usually brought a friend along to harmonize and
drown me out a bit, like a security blanket.
LDSyellowpages.com: You seem to perform a lot in the outdoor venues and
amphitheaters. Do you have a favorite place to perform?
Peter: My favorite is Sundance. It’s one of the best venues in the western
US and I’m surprised it’s not used more. The first year we played
Sundance, I wasn’t sure we would fill one night, but we ended up selling out
two, then three, then five and so on. It wasn’t me that sold those shows
out, it was the synergy of the right outdoor venue in the mountains, the
right time of year (autumn), and then some music that was complimentary to
both. It’s one of the best things I have ever done with music, and it was just a fortunate combination that made it click. Tuacahn, down by St. George
would be my second pick.
LDSyellowpages.com: Let’s talk about your new album. Is it available now?
Peter: It’s on iTunes and in a lot of stores, including Deseret Book. When
the thought of doing a “best of” album first came up I wasn’t too thrilled.
But after some convincing I decided to do it. I finally acknowledged that
there comes a time when a songwriter has to reintroduce his/her music to a
new generation of listeners . . . and the way you do that is by releasing
greatest hits albums. I spent a lot of time on the album. There are 20
tracks on the album.
LDSyellowpages.com: That’s a big album! What can we expect to hear on the
Peter: The predictable songs–the songs that do well for us in live shows
and that have been downloaded a lot on iTunes. I was really interested
in making the album old and new at the same time. That is, to be true to my
body of work, and also do it in a way that made it seem like a new album. I re-recorded half of the songs, wrote some new songs, re-mixed, re-mastered,
and included some b-sides. More than half of the album is new in some way.
LDSyellowpages.com: That sounds like an incredible album; I can’t wait to
get my hands on it. Have you faced any challenges being in the spotlight as
an LDS musician?
Peter: Externally, no. I’ve never come up against any sort of obstacles
that prevented me because of my faith. However, internally there’s always
been a struggle regarding my career. On the one hand, I grew up idolizing
rock bands who, when you read their biographies, were brilliant . . . but
dysfunctional. On the other hand, here was this kid who wanted to grow up
and be home most nights, was a little fearful of what people thought of him,
and actually kind of wanted an average, normal life. So I had to reconcile
the two a bit.
As for being an “LDS musician", I’ve never really thought of my music in
those terms. I grew up listening to Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens and
that’s what I want to do. I’m Mormon and that’s going to come through in
anything I do, but I’ve never tried to do a religiously-themed album. In
concerts, my number one rule has always been no inside cultural jokes, no
innuendo, etc. I have no idea what make-up my audience is going to have
from night to night and I would hate having someone show up and think, “Maybe
I don’t belong here.” That’s what I love about concerts and music . . . you
can take a group of strangers who have very little in common, and have them
come together for a concert and all love the music together. I love that.
That being said, somebody once said that an artist who is LDS and successful
will eventually become known as an LDS artist in Utah. And while the tag of
“LDS Music” is not a particularly accurate description of my music, I don’t
resist it. I’ve found that while it can close some doors, it opens others.
At this point, I’m grateful to have an audience at all. It’s been an
absolute fluke if you ask me. There’s no explanation for it–a guy making a
living doing concerts, selling CD’s on his own terms, playing world-class
venues, and sleeping in his own bed at night. And for 15 years! It doesn’t
make any sense, so I don’t want to take it for granted. If my music serves
anyone, that means a lot to me.
LDSyellowpages.com: I know that I’ve never heard you talk about religion at
any of your shows, but at the same time they are always appropriate for
everyone in the audience (even children) so I think that’s a good rule to
follow. Did you always know you wanted to become a professional musician?
Peter: Actually, no. I dreamed about playing music when I was a kid, but
as I got older I shied away from it as a career. My Dad is a business
professor, my siblings have largely chosen academic paths, and I always
thought I would try and do something like that. You would think a business
professor Dad would dissuade his son from being a musician, but he surprised
me. He’s more into my career than I am. He’s been to hundreds of shows
and still schemes how my music can get more exposure.
I remember during the first year out of college, when music was really
starting to take off for me, I kept telling myself that I would indulge this
hobby for one year, then hang it up and go to grad school like my siblings.
The problem was I didn’t now what I wanted to study. Deep down I wanted
to do music. In order to relieve the self-inflicted pressure a bit, I went to Jerusalem to do a study abroad program with BYU (even though I had
already graduated from college) and get away for a summer. In my mind, I
would leave the US as a musician, spend the summer in Israel, soul-search
and come home with a detailed plan for my post-music life . . . like Moses
from the mount. I didn’t even take a guitar to Israel, nor did I tell
anyone I played. There were some students who knew me and they found an
old guitar and soon after I was doing a concert in the hallway for 50 or so
students. Next, I was doing concerts in the university’s theater there. When the summer was over and it was time to go home, I had this huge outpouring of encouragement from the students and faculty saying, “You can’t hang it up. You have to keep going". I came home from Israel
recommitted, and interestingly, that’s when it took off.
LDSyellowpages.com: Did your father help you a lot in the business side of
things as your career in music progressed?
Peter: Oh, yes. He would give me advice like, “You need to work on
point-of-purchase displays” or “You ought to shop this song to the stations”
or “Take out an ad in the paper” etc. At the time I thought I was just
figuring the business on my own as I went, but I realize now I had a
little sage guidance.
LDSyellowpages.com: Where do you see yourself going from here? What’s next
Peter: I think I have another psychological barrier coming up . . . the
40th birthday. Don’t ask me why, but I just never saw myself dependent
upon performing after 40. Maybe it’s self-fulfilling prophecy, but my
career seems to be in the middle of a transition. I’ll always perform, but
I’m doing fewer shows. And yet, I’m getting calls to do music in new ways.
I’m currently working an album I was commissioned to compose and produce,
but I may not play or sing a single note on it. I’m also doing some scoring
and video work. Sadly, I just told Sundance that I would not be doing my
annual show there this fall because it’s become too much of a financial risk
for me. To sell out five nights for several years and a few years later not
be sure I could break even is a little hard. But when one door closes,
CD sales have become an enigma too. The whole industry is in a slump,
maybe a permanent slump. When I was getting ready to release the “Best of”
album last month, I actually considered doing a digital-only release. I
didn’t want to end up with a pile of “The Best of Peter Breinholt” in my
garage. In the end I decided to print a small number of CD’s and also put
it up on iTunes. The sales as of now are actually about 2-1 in favor of
digital sales which is good for me, since it saves duplicating costs. Either way, the music-selling industry is getting killed right now. You
talk to Deseret Book, or Capitol Records, or anyone and they’ll tell you the
LDSyellowpages.com: I know you’ve got more performances coming up all over
Utah. Are you going to be doing as much traveling or will your focus mainly
be in Utah?
Peter: I mostly play in Utah, but I do travel to other areas when we get
invited. It just depends where the shows are.
LDSyellowpages.com: I’ve seen you perform in California, and I was hopeful
we would be seeing more of you down there, but it seems like there haven’t
been many concerts in areas outside of Utah.
Peter: What happens is you get little pockets of organizers around the
country wanting to put on shows, and sometimes you have a sell-out, and
sometimes nobody shows. There used to be a very successful series in Las
Vegas for years where they would fly us down once a year and sell out an
800-seat theater every time. A group in Portland his doing a similar thing
now, but they are the exceptions. I think the artists all have this dream
of a circuit where you have these concert series in 10 different cities and
you play them all on one tour. “The Forgotten Carols” is the only one that
has pulled that sort of thing off. I’m sure it can be done for other
LDSyellowpages.com: It sounds like someone needs to pull all the series
into one big concert series so all of the talented LDS musicians can tour more. We’re out of time, but I look forward to seeing you perform soon and thank you for your time.
It was great getting to know Peter through the interview. Hopefully his new
album will reintroduce a new generation to his music. I know they’ll love
it! Peter is a down to earth guy that has his priorities where they should
be. You can learn more about Peter, check out pictures of his recent
performances and even purchase his newest album “The Best of Peter
Breinholt” at his website www.PeterBreinholt.com.