‘I’m like a less-pissed-off Steve Earle,” says homespun singer/songwriter Peter Bolland. “I write songs that have three, maybe four chords. I like lyrics that make sense the first time through but reveal more and more every time you go back. I avoid like the plague songs that preach or try to teach you something. Pedantry belongs on the pulpit, not in music. Instead of telling me how war is bad or cajoling me into universal brotherhood, sing me a story of a life cut short and let me find my way there myself.”
Bolland hadn’t even entered grade school yet when his Dutch parents relocated to the U.S., eventually landing in Paterson, New Jersey. “In 1962 I was four years old, that last year before they send you off to school and chain you to a desk for the rest of your life. It was a golden time of endless wonder, every day a wide open mystery of make believe and utter simplicity. JFK was in the White House and most Americans had never heard of a place called Vietnam. Not that I was aware of any of that. I was just playing with my big brothers down at the lake and looking forward to a grilled cheese sandwich and Campbell’s tomato soup for lunch.”
He spent his teen years in Ventura, later earning an M.A. in philosophy and serving as a professor of philosophy and humanities at Southwestern College in Chula Vista. “I played with my band the Coyote Problem from 2002 to 2010 but have since gone back to my solo singer/songwriter roots. My music gets classified as Americana or alt-country, which I think means folk, rock, and country all smashed together.
“I don’t know any jazz chords, not even one.”
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
- Neil Young, Live at Massey Hall 1971. “This live album captures a solo concert from right before Harvest came out, at the height of his powers.”
- Son Volt, Trace. “The ultimate in down alt-country. It’s so sad, then it circles all the way back around to ecstatic.”
- Wilco, A.M. “After Jay Farrar left Uncle Tupelo, Jeff Tweedy took control and renamed it Wilco and they recorded this priceless country-rock gem.”
- Joni Mitchell, Blue. “Her flawless blend of craft, magic, humor, and gravitas is a textbook on how to be a singer/songwriter.”
- Deuter, Buddha Nature. “I have a massive Deuter playlist in my iTunes, and I almost always have it on when I’m writing.”
EVER BEEN INJURED ONSTAGE?
“Back in the summer of 1993, I fell trying to remount an outdoor patio stage at a restaurant...my Birkenstocks failed me, and I slipped and slammed my shin into the sharp edge of the plywood platform. There isn’t much meat on the front of your shin, and all mine came off. My left Birkenstock became a bowl of blood.”
WHO IN YOUR FAMILY DO YOU TAKE AFTER?
“My dad. He was a daydreamer who lived in his head a lot. I guess I do, too. I’m sorry, what was the question again?”
IDEAL VACATION SPOT?
“Yosemite. I’ve been going there since I was a kid, first with my family, then with my high school buddies, then with my wife Lori. Whenever I drop down into that sacred valley, I feel like I’m coming home. It’s one of the few places on Earth where life makes sense. There’s just so much beauty there that all the noise in my head finally gets drowned out.”
MOST EFFECTIVE PICKUP LINE?
“I find it’s much more efficient to simply swoop in on your friends’ girlfriends. That way, all the prescreening is already taken care of. And one of them was getting ready to dump the other one, anyway.”
YOUR CRAZIEST MONEY-MAKING SCHEME?
“After college, I was a marijuana farmer up in Santa Barbara. We did it mostly as a hobby, and people started coming around — first friends and then people we’d never seen before. It got super creepy in a hurry. Suddenly, it became far more pleasant to not be a marijuana farmer.”
FAVORITE DAY OF THE WEEK?
“Monday. Weekends suffer from over-hype. Monday is a chance to start all over again, fresh and innocent. Who doesn’t love a fresh start?”
THREE THINGS WE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
- “I grew up as a vegetarian and didn’t taste meat until I was 17, when I snuck out for a taco and never went back.”
- “I’m an unabashed fan of American Idol, and I don’t care who knows it. I love seeing people struggle to overcome fear and terrible odds.”
- “I have a very shy bladder and cannot pee in the company of other people. So please don’t ask me to.” ■