Lately when I think of happy music, Curtis Peoples comes to mind.
Peoples, a singer-songwriter from San Diego, CA who released his sophomore album, The Fight, in April, describes his music as positive. And I have to agree. With a catalog of songs catchy enough to have me singing along for days, yet personal enough to deeply relate, Peoples easily captures the ears (and hearts) of all different types of listeners. And although he is busy promoting an album, and kicking off a 13-city tour, I was fortunate enough to take some of his time for a quick interview:
Sweet Lemon: When did you first start playing music and what made you start?
Curtis Peoples: I started playing when I was 12, I had a band that we started in fifth grade. It was a joke band and we would rap and sing songs about chickens and just stupid songs. After about six months we decided it would be cool if we actually played instruments. One of the guys started playing guitar, and I picked up bass, and I had a friend who picked up drumming. We added another guitar player when we were in sophomore year of high school, and that was kind of my band all throughout high school. After high school, my best friend, the lead guitar player, he had a punk band that ended up getting signed to an independent label and I started doing the solo thing from there. It was right when John Mayer and everything hit so I went right into doing that, and I have been doing a version of that ever since. Over the years it’s turned into more of a pop-rock thing. So that’s kind of where I started from.
SL: I know you have at least two albums out. Tell me more about that.
CP: I put a couple out independently in the beginning. My last two records, my self-titled came out a few years ago, and then my new album The Fight came out in April.
SL: What was the inspiration behind that?
CP: It was kind of a long time coming kind of record. It took me a couple of years to make it, and I kind of hit a transition in my career where I really wanted to do something on a more commercial and bigger level. So for me, it was just a matter of really trying to figure out what that was and how to get there. I’ve been living in LA for a long time – and I’ve had the fortune of making some really great friendships so I called out some favors and got to work with some really great people. I just happened to be surrounded by some people who have ended up doing really well. Some people that are becoming big artists, and some people who are becoming big writers. I just called everybody and I was like I’m trying to do this thing, and I need help. What was really nice was I figured out how to write pop songs, but yet write personal songs at the same time.
SL: How would you describe your sound? Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
CP: I have a specific name. I call it coffee shop arena rock. I am such a huge pop music fan. Pearl Jam, I’ve always loved Michael Jackson, the Beatles are definitely a big one. Everything from 80′s stuff like Huey Lewis & The News, and U2 is a big one for me.
SL: What do you hope to portray through your music?
CP: My whole vibe is big and positive. That’s what I try to achieve and that’s what I’m always hoping for. I like that my sound is really almost joyous, and exciting, and fun. That’s a big thing for me, and at the same time I feel like it’s personal, and the lyrics are very heartfelt, honest. A positive, big sound has always been a goal of mine, and that’s what bands like U2 and Bon Jovi and all those kind of bands are really great at.
SL: What do you like to do in your free time?
CP: I love sports a whole lot. I like to play basketball. I love to watch baseball, and basketball, and football. And I’m a huge movie buff – I probably see a movie almost once a week. We have a really great group of friends out here in LA, so just honestly hanging out. I like being around people.
SL: If you could meet any musician, who would it be?
CP: Bono. I would say Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, but really Bono just seems like the most fascinating person to me. Eddie Vedder is one of my favorite singers, but Bono from U2 would be the big one for me. He just seems like the coolest, most interesting person.
SL: Can you name your top five favorite songs or albums for me?
CP: Beatles, Rubber Soul; Michael Jackson, Bad; Pearl Jam, Yield; U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind; Third Eye Blind, Third Eye Blind.
SL: And going back to your music, I know you just released tour dates so can you tell me a little bit about that and what you hope to achieve from that tour, and what you’re looking forward to?
CP: Finally getting out on our tour. We’re calling it the 8-Bit Heartbeat tour. I don’t know if we’re going to add any more to this run, but we’re setting up to do more touring – definitely the West Coast, and then we’re trying to figure the rest out. This is nice because the album came out in April and we haven’t really had a chance to tour on it yet – this will be the first run.
SL: What was the inspiration behind the Nintendo video?
CP: The more we talked about everything being fun and positive, I’m such a big pop culture junkie, it was one of those things where I just wanted to make a video that was just a blast and was something that people could really relate to and get a bit of nostalgia going for people and all that. It was just something we came up with, me and my manager, we decided wouldn’t it be cool if we did a video that was all Nintendo and I was like what if we actually did original animation? Then it was just a matter of trying to find someone who would actually do it, which was the hardest part. But we did it, we got lucky and found someone who really knew what they were doing.
SL: What kind of advice would you give to someone looking to start a career like this, or really just looking to pursue their dreams in general?
CP: The advice I give people a lot of times is it’s really hard, and that’s okay, but the level of don’t give up that you have to have is astronomical, you just gotta keep working. If you believe in yourself you just gotta keep going – it may take ten years, it may take three years, it may take six months there’s no way to really say. If you put a timetable on this kind of career, it won’t happen. You just have to keep going.
SL: What do you hope to put out in the future? Obviously you have the tour, what else do you see? More albums, more tours?
CP: For next year it’s going to be all about touring. I’ll be touring on my own, and trying to promote my record, I’m insanely proud of it. It’s been great to see the reaction to it, and I just want people to know about it.
It’s easy to see why Peoples would want listeners to know about The Fight. It is a deeply personal, but upbeat album by a guy so genuine that it shines through in every track of the record. Have a listen, and catch Curtis Peoples in a city near you, or keep up with him via his Facebook, Twitter, or website. I dare you to get his songs out of your head.