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Vanessa Peters Premieres 'Foxhole Prayers,' Her Album Inspired By Our Times & 'The Great Gatsby'
"Taking it easy and moving slow" was the mantra for Vanessa Peters as the Texas singer and songwriter made her 12th and latest album, Foxhole Prayers, premiering in its entirety below.
Having built a studio of her own in Dallas, Electrofonic -- "It's located, like 10 feet from my back door," Peters tells Billboard -- she began working on songs about two years ago and proceeded at "what was a glacial pace for me," recording songs in batches and letting them simmer and develop and even be played live (most notably the track "Fight," a paean about artistic struggles) until earlier this year, when she'd accumulated about 16 that she narrowed down to the 10 that are on the album.
"That was hard for me," Peters acknowledges, "because I'm used to recording a recording, printing it and getting it out there shortly thereafter. But I think it was definitely positive and beneficial. Taking every song and trying a couple of different ways always results in better arrangements, and I just feel like a lot of the arrangement improved drastically from when I brought them in. Having the studio gave me time to do that without as many budget constraints as I'd had before. The whole record definitely benefitted."
Peters worked with producers John Dufilho (Apples in Stereo, Deathray Davies) and her husband Rip Rowan (Old 97's, Rhett Miller) as well as her usual collection of Texas musicians and members of her European-based touring band on Foxhole Prayers. Lyrically, meanwhile, Peters drew inspiration from The Great Gatsby, finding parallels between F. Scott Fitzgerald's world of the Roaring Twenties and present-day America.
"I'm a big English nerd, an English lit major, and that's my favorite book," Peters says. "I've always wanted to write something along those lines. I was building off the idea of the Roaring Twenties and living in a world of corruption and grift. I felt like there were an awful lot of parallel lines between that time and this time, so I decided to run with it even though I'm not really a political songwriter. But on this record I just couldn't help myself." Also making it challenging, Peters add, is that, "most of the characters have massive personality flaws, and it just became difficult to write 10 solid songs about people who are just difficult to cheer for. So I shelved a couple of them."
Peters strove to keep the Foxhole Prayers songs in some sort of more general context. "It's always my goal to write songs that are universal," she explains. "I want them to be relevant 10 years from now, not just tied to this time and place, which is why there's a lot of metaphor throughout (the album)."
With Foxhole Prayers out Oct. 5, Peters plans to "be on the road as much as we can," starting with shows in Texas during the first week of October and then some other U.S. shows before bouncing back to Europe and then returning to the States. Peters will also be playing a number of house concerts, which she finds "very comfortable. I'm usually more than satisfied with my sales at those, and I would rather play to 20 people that really want to be there and listen rather than in a bar where sports are playing behind me and nobody’s paying attention. I may make more money there, but my soul feels a bit smaller."