Red Hot Chili Peppers Album Cover Artist on How His Painting Ended Up on 'The Getaway'

Steve Keros
Red Hot Chili Peppers

That painting, “Coalition II,” depicts “the strength that it takes growing up in the world today, those traumas that it takes to get through it, and to survive and thrive,” Kevin Peterson says.

“Someone’s pranking me right now,” Houston-based artist Kevin Peterson recalls thinking when a Red Hot Chili Peppers representative called on April Fools' Day. But this week, Peterson’s painting of a young girl walking in-step with four animals will grace the cover of the band’s new album, The Getaway.

“It was never a question,” the 37-year-old former probation officer tells Billboard. “Say Nickelback’s manager called me up -- it would not happen.”

Peterson was told frontman Anthony Kiedis wanted the image of “Coalition II,” an oil painting from a series depicting “the strength that it takes growing up in the world today, those traumas that it takes to get through it, and to survive and thrive.”

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Those experiences reflect Peterson’s past substance abuse. It wasn’t until he kicked drugs and alcohol in 2005 that he pursued painting full-time. “I can't imagine that I would have been able to stay sober if I didn't have painting as my outlet, I really believe that,” Peterson tells Billboard.

Kiedis recently acknowledged his own sobriety, following rumors of a relapse when a health scare resulted in sudden show cancellations. “Being sober for me is a pleasure. I get a lot of joy out of it. It works for me,” Kiedis told the Australian TV program Sunday Night in May. “I get to surf, I get to hang out with my son, I get to play music, I get to be OK.”

In the five years since releasing their last album, I’m With You, Kiedis, bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith all entered their 50s (guitarist Josh Klinghoffer is the youngest, at 36). During that time, the band joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and played the Super Bowl halftime show. And after working with Rick Rubin for 20 years, they changed up producers for Brian Burton, a.k.a. Danger Mouse, who co-wrote much of the record. It is an album of many firsts.

Until now, Red Hot Chili Peppers always commissioned artwork for its album covers, most recently with Damien Hirst’s design for I’m With You. For The Getaway, the band chose an existing image. Peterson exhibited “Coalition II” at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in February 2015 and later sold it to a Massachusetts collector for $3,000. Somehow, Kiedis came across it. Innocence meets graffiti and grime in the portrait, which Peterson spent 100 hours painting and features the likeness of 8-year-old Chloé, the ballerina daughter of a mutual friend in Houston.

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While Chloé loves listening to Sofia Carson, she’s something of a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. During a drive home from San Antonio over Memorial Day weekend, “Give It Away” came on the radio. “She was quick to yell above the music and say, ‘Who’s that we’re listening to right now?,’ knowing good and well who it is,” Chloé’s mother Chelsea Bradley tells Billboard.

“She just wanted to remind everyone.”