Last weekend, Kathy and I drove out from my folks’ place to see a great show at this really amazing club, the Mockingbird. The reason we were going was to see Ellis Paul (see below for some exciting news about him), but we got the special pleasure of hearing the artist who was opening for him – Peyton Tochterman. Tochterman sings with this great bass voice – like Johnny Cash with more of a sense of pitch – and writes these songs that make you wish he was singing them to you. (Or maybe I just wished he was singing them to me.) When I find a voice that speaks to me, well, I want to hear more of it. Peyton graciously agreed to do an interview with me, and here’s what he had to say.
1. What got you started in music? What made you want to take this hard but beautiful road of art?
I have had great music teachers my entire life. Not just great music teachers, but great teachers in most things. Very fortunate for that. I had a wonderful drawing teacher in high school who used to bring in really crazy music to listen to. He and I got to be friends…still are. I ended up going to China with him, and we recorded street musicians all while studying Chinese and Tibetan arts. Anyway, he has a bronze foundry for sculpture. He hired me after college and gave me a way to make a living, all while learning about the arts. He also gave me an open schedule to play music.
2. If you had to describe your music with five great adjectives, what words would you use?
Thoughtful, enthusiastic, unrelenting, conscientious, honest
3. Who are the people/artists/musicians/writers who most influence your music?
Tom Waits, Richard Ford, Carl Hiaasen, William Faulkner, John Hartford
4. If you were a spice, what spice would you be and why?
Old Spice. Cause I smell like a man, man.
5. As an musician, how do you support yourself? For example, as a writer, I teach and tutor a lot to be able to eat. How do you keep your music central to your life? Or do you?
I teach guitar three days a week and have found it to be the single most beneficial thing I have done as a musician. Well, it’s been beneficial for me. My students might say otherwise. I have seen children and adults grow into good players, better people. For me, teaching affirms the belief that the arts are fourth only to food, water, and shelter in terms of survival.
6. What is your writing process like? Do you write music or play every day? Or is more of a muse-inspired event?
Writing comes in waves. I can not write a song for seven months, and then all of the sudden I finish a song in a day or two. Then in the next few months out comes enough for a whole new record. I work and try to write when it’s not happening. I get a lot of ideas or little phrases that I’ll record so I can remember them when that wave hits. But no, I do not write every day.
7. My readers are book lovers, so if you could recommend three books for them, what would you suggest?
Native Tongue- Carl Hiaasen for a lite read. Rock Springs- Richard Ford (my opinion-best collection of short stories from the 20th century) and then maybe these days the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad-Gita, Tao Te Ching-whatever works for you, whatever will bring more passion and spirituality, more love to your lives.
8. If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why?
I would have to say Bull because I’m always charging forward, but by the end of our dance the matador has stabbed me multiple times, though I have fought valiantly. Then, little helper men come and drag my bloody carcass of the center stage only to be fileted and donated to the hungry. But every now and then when they make me run through the streets with my buddies, I get to spear some dumb ass who thinks that I can’t catch him.
9. Whatâ€™s the most gorgeous thing youâ€™ve ever seen? How does that thing work itâ€™s way into your music? Or does it?
Seen? A prayer session in a Tibetan Monastery. It was for our safe travels, too. They had never seen Americans, actually Caucasians before. This was way out near the Tibetan border. We were served yaks butter tea. The sounds, smells. There were so many senses involved though, so “seen” isn’t quite fair.
10. If you were to put together an ultimate mixtape for my readers, what ten songs would you include?
I would bore you beyond boredom. And which ten…the first ten? Last ten? Middle ten? And, technically a mix tape only need to be two songs. So if that were the case. 1) “In Dreams”-Roy Orbison 2)and then the version of “In Dreams” by Roy Orbison used in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.
To hear more of Peyton’s wit and wisdom in his music, check out his website, and keep an eye out for his tour, particularly around Central Virginia.
In other news, I will be interviewing my favorite singer/songwriter Ellis Paul on May 7th. (Pause, breath, pause, breath, I tell myself.) That night he’s doing a benefit show for The Haven at First and Market in Charlottesville, Virginia, so get yourself to the show if you can.