It’s great to get a chance to loop back with Tony Petersen (of Ditchbird) to hear about the latest album, Luck. There are songs that are fast loves and a few that will be slow and steady favorites.
We spoke more than a year ago about Ditchbird and your previous album Some Dreams. You mentioned then that you had 10 years’ worth of music that was a better fit for Ditchbird than your other band, Social Animals. I wonder how many of the songs from your latest album (Luck) come from that collection or are they newer? Also were they written together or just well curated? So many common themes and imagery running through every song.
All of the songs from Luck are brand new, written specifically for the album. I began writing shortly after the release of my previous EP “Some Dreams”, which came out August 2021. I had about 12-13 songs total and whittled it down to the eight that fit together best.
Luck is an album built around songs that I can perform live, alone. After years of recording with layered instruments to the point where I could never replicate them onstage, this time I set out to make a record that would be bare-bones and still have the momentum for a listener to mow the lawn to. I knew I was missing a piece of myself on record and it felt time for me to release songs that could lived on their own, without the clutter of fancy production.
This is the closest I have come to baring the truest sense of my artistic self. Simple yet strong, acoustic guitar based, and featuring a whole lot of banjo. It’s been scary, revealing and thrilling to explore this realm. I’m most comfortable as a lead guitarist, a side-man, following another’s cues, and this album is my most stripped-down set of songs yet. It’s truly just me, being me.
The songs were all recorded in my home studio. I tested out several other studios in Minneapolis and even considering going across the country to record, but eventually I learned that the process of creating and re-creating songs on my own in my own space is the most rewarding process for me right now.
I ask about when these were written in part because I often wonder how much of my attitude is post-pandemic and how much is getting older, I can see the potential impact of both in New Routine. The tune is upbeat and moving forward and the so much of the song is about being stuck in the slog – spinning in circles round and round. Please tell us more about the song. Have you found a new routine?
“New Routine” was written with the pandemic days in mind, but for me the theme still resonates beyond those months of boredom and ennui. The human condition goes in circles, days of energy and days of lethargy. This song is about those days of complete laziness, and trying to break out of them. Even after the pandemic I still find myself in a rut some times, drifting from screen to screen, but there’s nothing better than breaking out of that and getting back to focused and inspired work. I have not yet found my new routine, ha! But I’m learning to accept the ebbs and flows and not get too down when the days of low energy strike.
You Freak Me Out is a charming song. It’s like a love story in under four-minutes about a woman “like Morticia Addams in a yellow gown.” The specificity of details in the imagery is gorgeous. So, what makes you freak out over this woman?
Without getting too specific about my particular muse for this song, it’s about finding the mystery in someone no matter how close you have become with them. I still find it with family, partners and my closest friends. No matter how well we know someone and can anticipate their energy/mood/words, sometimes they can still blow your mind with something you did not see coming. I don’t even know all the nooks and crannies of myself, let alone someone I’ve been close to for many years.
Brothers focused on a theme that I heard in other songs of the duality; duality of love and hate, of joy and fear, of good luck and bad. Do you think you generally have good luck or bad luck? I hear both in the lyrics but also in the tempo and sound; some songs are danceable and light (Dumb Luck) and others have a more pensive sway (Golden Standard).
The concept of luck to me seems more about being well prepared when an opportunity comes. I have a general appreciation for the “work”. I’ve never experienced a great windfall of luck, instead I focus on the day to day grind of it all and keeping myself open. I’ve spent years touring in vans, busses and planes, being away from home for months at a time. It isn’t the music that takes up most of the time, it’s the hours at the venues and on stranger’s couches. Looking back on all this time, it becomes clear to me how important it is to keep on trucking and being open for the opportunities.
The duality you mentioned is something I worked hard at creating for this album. I wanted the album to be well rounded and show all sides of my current songwriting craft. Slow songs, fast songs, sad lyrics over bluegrass speed, and vice versa. Gotta keep the listener on their toes.
Finally I want to give you the opportunity to mention the amazing performers who joined you on the album and let us know where folks can see you perform. (Seems like Minnetonka and Stillwater are hopping!)
All the songs were written by me and recorded at my home studio (Double Pug Studios in Northeast Minneapolis). Here’s the list of performers:
Tony Petersen – vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, banjo, all the not fancy keys, midi drums
Ben Cosgrove – all the fancy better keys
Josh Mack – bass on “Golden Standard”
Sarah Koopmann – violin on “You Freak Me Out Sometimes” and “Lucky One”
Doug and Patti the pugs – miscellaneous grunts and snores
I have a ton of shows coming up, and all the dates can be seen at www.tonypetersenmusic.com