This week I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with the incredible artist, producer, and all around music phenom, Peter Fenn. If you’ve been around the Early Rising page the past few months, I’m sure you’ve seen his name pop up a couple times already. We’ve posted several articles about Peter’s music because honestly, it’s just too good for us to keep to ourselves. As I chatted with Peter, I quickly came to realize that his music is a pure reflection of who he is in reality. As I said, I was able to chat with Peter for a bit about life, his debut EP that drops this Friday, and a whole bunch of other random things. His authenticity always bleeds through his music, and it did the same in this conversation I had with him. If you’re looking for an insightful read, keep scrolling and check out this week’s installment of Early Talks Interview Series w/ Peter Fenn!
Jordan: So, what does a typical morning look like for you? I thought I’d ask since we’re here chatting this morning!
Peter: Honestly I think that it’s always a little different. It’s funny you ask that, because I’m actually trying to have a bit more of a formalized morning routine because I do like to wake up early! Lately I’ve been having a lot of long nights so I’ve been waking up a little later but; typically an ideal morning is waking up at like 6:45am, putting coffee on, sitting on the couch, and noodling around on my little classical guitar I have in the living room. I just jam a little bit and try to get the juices flowing…for some reason the morning is the best time to just intuitively flow, so I love to come up with a riff on the guitar in the morning. Then, I love to go for a run or do some boxing. By the time I’m done with all of that, there’s stuff to do before sessions. Sessions usually start at noon, and I’m always in sessions like everyday. Sending stems, doing emails, taking a meeting with someone on the phone, all of that before noon. I also live with my girlfriend so we usually have breakfast together! So that’s basically an ideal morning for me, it’s how most mornings go.
Jordan: That’s fantastic. One of the questions that I had for later on fits with what we’re talking about right now so I’m going to go ahead and jump there. What are some things you do to keep yourself from burning out? I’m sure some of that morning routine you have helps, but what else is there?
Peter: That’s a good question man. I honestly think that burning out is more common than people think. When you burn out it’s not like you just quit because you burned out, it’s more like your creative energy has been completely drained and you need to replenish it. For me, being outside is huge. Being in a studio you’re in a confined room all day, oftentimes a dark room with no windows. So I think for me getting outside for a hike, hanging out with friends, cooking, being with family, it’s all to fill up my bucket. It’s really important to take time for yourself. It’s almost like swimmers, they have to take a breath while they’re going. You have to take those breaths.
Jordan: That’s that perfect analogy, I love that a lot. Well, I’m going to backtrack a little since we just hopped right in at the start. For the sake of knowing and understanding you a little bit more, can you tell me where you’re from, what you were like when you were younger, and how you got to be here today?
Peter: So I come from a family of 6, my parents have been together for like 30 years now and I feel really grateful for that. I was born in Bakersville, CA which is like a farming town…my dad is a grape grower so we were always in hot places. Growing up we moved around like 10 times, we were pretty nomadic. We lived a lot up and down California, then we actually spent 4 years abroad in Egypt, and then finally we came back and bounced around California a bit more. We saw a lot of different things and a lot of different cultures before I graduated high school. I always liked music, I remember being in like 5th grade when “In Da Club” by 50 Cent came out, and that was the first song I fell in love with. I never played music really though, I was an outgoing kid that played a couple different sports. It wasn’t until I graduated high school at 18 that I picked up a guitar and wrote my first song, even though i was always a music lover. I got a late start, but it just happened that way. After I wrote that first song I was addicted.
Jordan: So before you wrote that first song, what did you want to do?
Peter: That’s a good question man, I don’t really know. I don’t really know what I wanted to do, I just knew I was going to college. I had just graduated high school and I just had a summer of chilling…I had just broken up with my girlfriend so I was sad and I just picked up my guitar. I didn’t really have any visions of where I wanted to be honestly.
Jordan: It’s almost like you and music found each other at the perfect time.
Peter: Dude it couldn’t have been more perfect timing…but it’s also not like I wrote my first song and decided I was going to be a musician, it wasn’t like that. I wrote my first song and then felt really passionate about it but I still went to school and traveled and stuff. But yeah, it kind of was like the perfect timing.
Jordan: That’s awesome! So does your focus at the start go straight to producing for other artists or are you giving most of your energy to yourself as an artist?
Peter: I think at that time I was definitely trying to be an artist more because that’s all I really knew. I didn’t really know you could produce for other people. So, I just started by making a bunch of shitty demos for myself with me singing and writing and all of that. What really changed it all for me was watching this video of Benny Blanco in his bedroom with all these synths around him. He was such a high energy dude and I loved his vibe, then I realized he had written so many hit songs that I loved…and I was like “I want to do that”! So, it was always being an artist for me but then I saw Benny Blanco and realized I could make stuff for other people.
Jordan: So the producing stuff kind of snuck in there for you?
Peter: Yeah it definitely did.
Jordan: Was there a period where you put more energy into producing for others, of has it stayed pretty 50/50 between the two?
Peter: So after I watched the Benny Blanco video I was like…I have to quit my job and go to LA. I went out to LA and actually auditioned for the voice, nothing came of that but when I was there I realized how many people were there…I really was trying to just work with anybody and learn as much as possible. I stayed with a friend in his parents’ spare bedroom and rented a studio space instead of an apartment…I would have a bunch of people come through to the studio, anyone I met I would tell to come through. In the process of collaborating so much I realized that I can actually help these people with my production and get better for myself. So I would say in the beginning it was more 50/50, then it turned into me helping out people more so I could learn. Then, it was more 80/20 with me producing for others more. I feel like now still it’s at 80/20 in that way.
Jordan: Interesting, are you wanting it to push back to 50/50 any time soon?
Peter: I’m not really sure bro, I just really enjoy making music. I don’t think I could be an artist full time and not do sessions with other people…but it all really just ebbs and flows honestly. Right now I’m taking the artist project a little more seriously and putting more effort into it because I really enjoy it, but like I said it all ebbs and flows. I think I’ll always be both, it really just depends on how I’m feeling. That’s not a great answer but that’s just kind of how it is.
Jordan: Life isn’t always so black and white so I definitely understand that answer, that’s totally fair. You mentioned that you’re focusing a bit more on the artist stuff right now and you’ve got your debut EP “Cadillac Dreams” coming out tomorrow, tell me about Cadillac Dreams! How did it come to be and what does it mean to you?
Peter: The whole EP just kind of came during a period of time where I was super inspired and making a bunch of songs. Most of it was made over the course of a couple weeks that spanned out a little bit. I made a couple songs I really liked in a few weeks, and then a little later I made a few more that felt really good and they all felt cohesive together. It’s not my most cohesive project in terms of them all sounding similar, but they all feel like they’re from a specific time in my life. It’s a reflective, 70’s guitar driven, California sunset vibe. It’s about how sometimes I feel like I’m doing awesome and I’m really grateful for where I’m at, and then there are times where I feel like garbage…Like what am I even doing. You just get in your head you know? There’s highs and lows that you ride, and I was on a low. I didn’t know if what I wanted was going to come to pass, and if it did I didn’t know if it would even be what I actually wanted. We’re always chasing the next thing and it’s honestly all bullshit to a degree and that’s what gets you caught up. So, Cadillac Dreams is about thinking about all the things you want to accomplish and thinking they’ll make you feel better, but they actually don’t. It’s like a reflective journey…I’m pumped for people to hear it! I feel like I’m still a young artist and I’m still learning and growing, but this feels like a nice capture in time of where I’m at right now.
Jordan: That’s seriously so good, I love that. Once Cadillac Dreams is out, are you chilling with everything for a while or is there something next?
Peter: Oh there is definitely something next. I’m already working on the next stuff. I feel like I’m building a very cohesive sound with my new stuff and it feels authentic in a new way to me. I think songwriting is saying something in a way that everyone can relate to what you’re saying, and I’m taking that so much further on the new stuff. It’s already cooking up.
Jordan: I’m so stoked to hear all of that too, I know it’s going to be so good. Well, to finish this off I’ve got a vague and open ended question for you. Basically, is there anything that you want people to know about you, Peter Fenn, as a whole?
Peter: I would say that I honestly don’t always feel like I know what I’m doing, but in the best way possible. It’s not that i’m a fraud, I just don’t know how things are going to turn out and I feel like I’ve built my whole life on intuition. I just follow my gut, so what you hear from me is just from my gut. Nothing is super thought-out, planned, or calculated…it’s just all from my heart.