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18 August 2013

Every Day is a Winding Road: St. Paul Peterson Talks 2 Beautiful Nights


  Paul Peterson's life has been a music-filled journey.
  The singer, instrumentalist, writer and producer is best known to Prince fans as "St. Paul," co-lead singer of fDeluxe, fomerly known as The Family, along with Susannah Melvoin. The band also includes Jellybean Johnson on drums and Eric Leeds on saxophone.
  Peterson, like Melvoin, also comes from a musical dynasty: his late father was an organist for the Minnesota Twins; his late mother, Jeanne Arland Peterson, was also a much-celebrated pianist and organist; his sisters Patty and Linda Peterson are accomplished singers, his brothers Ricky and Billy Peterson are renowned musicians and producers and his newphew Jason Peterson (JP) DeLaire is a songrwiter, instumentalist and vocalist. He has worked extensively with his family and many other artists including Steve Miller, Oleta Adams and Donny Osmond.
  Peterson is currently the program chair for recording and music technology at the Minneapolis Media Institute and reunited with his fDeluxe bandmates a few years ago. They recorded the album Gaslight (and a remix album titled Relit) and done several shows including a Prince tribute concert at Carnegie Hall in February.
  The band has three shows next week: one at 8 p.m., City Winery, Chicago, August 22 and  at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis, August 23. They are also currently in the planning stages of their newest project, Underneath the Covers, an album of cover songs, in conjunction with their fans who are making monetary pledges via to help fund the project.
  Peterson got his break at 17 years old in 1983 when he was chosen to be a keyboard player in The Time, along with Mark Cardenas, replacing former members James "Jimmy Jam" Harris and Monte Moir. (Terry Lewis, the band's original bass player, had, along with Jimmy Jam, been let go from the band).
  He was later chosen by The Purple One to head fDeluxe after The Time broke up. He left that band, after they released their first album in 1985 to pursue a solo career. His self-titled solo album was released on MCA Records in 1986. He released later released two more solo albums, Down to the Wire (1990) and Blue Cadillac (2007).
  Peterson took time out from his vacation by the lake last week do an interview for "Dyes Got the Answers 2 Ur ?s," where he discussed growing up in a family of musicians, the bond he shares with his fDeluxe bandmates and teaching the next generation of people entering the music business:

  My mother always said to do your musical homework and she was right. I always made sure to go beyond the call of duty when it came to studying my harmony and musicality. She always made me strive to be a better musician and it really helped. I feel it helped me be a better musician and a better person.

  My relationship to music is a love relationship. It's a spiritual relationship. It's a living-and-breathing relationship. It's a daily courtship that never seems to end. It seems to be a deeper relationship as I get older. I seem to understand that relationship better as time goes on. I have learned to respect and never take for granted the relationship I have with music.

  When I was a kid I thought everybody in the neighborhood played instruments. I grew up the youngest of the Peterson family and everybody in my family played (instruments). So, I figured that everybody else's family played, too. When I met a new kid on the street, I'd say, "Hey, what do you play?"

  My brothers and sisters are my teachers. They came up before me, not only in life, but, in the music business. They taught me so much about music and invited me into their world, even though I was the little brother they liked to pick on. They always included me in nearly everything they could musically. (I am) pretty grateful to them for everything.

  When I auditioned for The Time...(laughs faintly) I was scared to death. I'll never forget it. I was, of all things, on vacation in a place called Breezy Point and I got the call for the audition.
  (I) went home and I did not get the cassette tape on time. I got it the night before the audition and had to learn everything the night before the gig.
  I was nervous. I went in did the best I could, based on all the training I got from my family and all the gigs I had done prior to that. I guess it turned out okay. I wish I could remember the exact number (of songs I played), but, it felt like a million songs. It was probably four or five.

  I never dreamed... (speaking in a very deep voice) I'd be talking to you. I've been waiting all my life, baby, to talk to you. I've been waiting many years. (Laughs). Say the question one more time and I'll give you a real answer!
  I never dreamed a little white kid from Richfield, Minn. would end up being in the hottest African-American band in America when he's 17 years old. I never dreamed that Prince would pick me to be the lead singer of  fDeluxe. There's a lot of those. I could go on forever on that. I never dreamed I'd play music with my sisters, brothers and my mom for my entire life. I never dreamed I'd finally get on vacation (laughs).

  The first time I met Prince was at the first callback—my second audition (with The Time). He wasn't at the first one. I was nervous. He was this big rock star.
  He walked into the room and I think we were picking out swatches for the material we were going use for the suits in the movie ("Purple Rain"). It became my orange suit. I had picked out a beautiful black pinstriped suit and he said "No, you've got to stand out." Then he picked out an orange one for me. I said "I'm not wearing that." He said "Yes, you are."
  So, that was one portion of our meeting.

  Filming "Purple Rain..." talk about being thrown to the wolves, in a good way. My phrase is "Be ready for the opportunity, because, you don't when it's going to strike." I was fortunate enough for that to be a pretty incredible opportunity.
  Those guys put me right in the mix. One minute, I'm auditioning for the band, the next minute I'm filming for a little film. We didn't know what it was going to do-- now it's turned into an incredible entity and is part of music history. It's pretty humbling, but, you never know that going in. You have to be ready.
  I think growing up in that family of mine prepared me for a lot of different situations. (But), it couldn't prepare me for what those guys gave to me. It was a whole new line of education.
  The one and only scene where I had a line was when we're (The Time) walking through the back hallways of First Avenue and Morris Day leans back and says "How's the family?"
  They had us there quite a bit, more than you would think. (There were) a lot of club scenes. We didn't have any major speaking roles, but, we were there a lot. It was freezing. I remember that.

  Paul Peterson on replacing departed members of The Time: "I didn't understand the relationship that those guys who remained had with the leaving members. I was a little on the oblivious side. I was so green, which was probably a good thing.
  Looking back, it was probably hard on them. It wasn't hard on me. I'm sure losing their best friends was hard on them. They started this band together, now, they've got some kid from Richfield coming in trying to fill these shoes. I'll tell you what, I think it took a minute for them to adjust to it.
  But, Bean (Jellybean Johnson, the band's drummer) and I have been tight for 30 years. I call him my big brother. No one ever knew we'd have relationships that would last that long."

  I love teaching so much that I am the program chair for recording and music technology at the Minneapolis Media Institute. The campus is at the old Flyte Tyme Studios.
  It's a very interesting connection that I have with Jimmy (Jam) and Terry (Lewis), taking their places in The Time and, later, being in their studios teaching the next generation of producers and engineers how to win in the music business. It's fulfilling and incredible.
  The building was up for sale and my friend Tom Tucker bought it with another partner. They started a school, which became Minneapolis Media Institute. I ended up heading it (the program) after Tucker passed away. I tour less now. You never know what you're going to get with teaching. I can tell you that it can be really fufilling and really frustrating.
  You know and I know what it takes to make it in the (music) business. Some of these 20 year olds-- who think they know everything-- don't understand the work ethic that you need to be able to succeed. I feel that I get paid to teach them how to be teachable: to try (and) change the culture of the next generation of producers and engineers so they understand what it takes to make it in the ever changing music business.
  It's probably harder now to make it in the music business than it was when I was coming up. You could sell records when I was coming up. Now you can't sell records anymore. There are a very select few people who sell records.
  These guys have to figure it out. It's the wild west. We arm them with as many different skills as possible so they can have multiple income streams, put them all together and be able to make a living. It's challenging, but, it's fun.
  I've been teaching for 12 years. I've been the program chair for two or three years. It's funny, sometimes, I'll just show my students my (music) videos and give them a little ammunition. They say "That's you? Are you dancing on the ocean?" I'll say "I'm dancing on the ocean, yes I am."

  Paul Peterson on filming the video for his first solo single "Rich Man": "That (music video) cost more money...I'm still paying for that video! (Laughs). You know Paula Abdul was the choreographer. Yeah, that was my girl. (A.J. Johnson, of "House Party "fame, who is also featured in the video) used to date my drummer Sonny Emory. She was a great friend of mine.
  I introduced her (Abdul) to the producer (Oliver Lieber) who wrote "Forever Your Girl," "Opposites Attract" and all those tracks. That's my boy. He's in the band as a matter of fact (as fDeluxe's guitar player).
  It was fun. I'm not the greatest dancer in the world. I think she had a struggle with me. I was long, lanky and didn't grow into my body until about 10 years after that video. She made me pull it off though. I've got to give it to her. We spent a whole week on dance steps...and she turned me into something that I wasn't. That took me out of my comfort zone."

  fdeluxe's new covers album should be incredibly interesting. We are still in the process of picking out songs. Everybody has their own favorite songs and (we) want to make sure they fit the fDeluxe style or that we can arrange them into the style. Lieber's going to produce it and hopefully, if this pledge comes to fruition, we'll start as early as October and have it out by Christmas.
  We all have such eclectic tastes. We're looking at David Bowie, or obvious ones like Bill Withers and Sly and the Family Stone, to less obvious ones like Red Hot Chili Peppers.
  It's going to be interesting. It's all about the song. If you have a good foundation of a song, you can pretty much go in any direction you want. Leiber is such a killer producer that if I can just leave it in his hands and keep my claws off the steering wheel, we'll be fine.
  He wrote "Rich Man" with me and my brother ended up producing it. He had his hands in the production as well, but, he didn't get any credit. Sorry Oliver, I love you.
  I haven't looked (at the pledge percentage) in a couple of days, because, it's like the stock market: you don't want to keep looking at it. I think we are past the 50 percent mark with another month to go. (As of this writing, the fan pledges have reached 59 percent of the goal with 34 days remaining).
  Our fans have been pretty incredible. There are some great and interesting exclusives on there and people are taking advantage of them. There are (pledge amounts) from $12 to $20,000.

  I'm inspired by a lot of different artists, especially Stevie Wonder. It's funny that you would ask that question, because, sometimes I can into a little bit of a "Why did I get into this business in the first place?" attitude.
  The last month has kind of been that way for me. I've been driving back and forth to the cabin and I've been listening to incredible artists that I grew up loving: like Wonder-- the early records, even before Songs in the Key of Life-- George Benson, Breezin. I got to work with all these guys. That's the cool part. But, this is where it all began, where I fell in love with what I do. Then you go to Earth, Wind and Fire and Steely Dan. The musicality and the groove that is in all of that music. That inspires me.
  All the inner harmonies and melodic tensions that are created by groups of musicians just being in a room with each other, having a conversation, musically, is so incredibly inspiring. My family inspires me. They kick my ass all the time. They don't let me slide on anything and that's good. They made me a better man and musician for it.

  I've always wanted to tour a little more extensively with fDeluxe, my friends. But, that seem to be a little bit harder to do as we age. Not only because we're 50 years old, but, because, we all have separate lives. No one's banking their incomes on it; we're doing it more for fun than anything else.
I wish that we could make it more of a...full-time, making records, making a living situation, because, we love doing it. It's just that we've got kids--in grade school and in college. We all have different lives and we come together when we can. But, I wish we could do it more often.

  It all changed... (speaking in a deep voice) when we started talking on the phone tonight, baby. (Laughs). It all changed...huh? It all changed when I got that audition for The Time. Everything changed.
  It led to other things. When I was done with The Time and done with fDeluxe (in its first incarnation under Prince), I toured with many different artists like Steve Miller, David Sanborn, Kenny Loggins, Oleta Adams. Everything changed when I got the nod. Somebody said "Yeah kid, you got it."
  We all look for that one break. I guess that was it.

  My first solo album was probably one of my favorite records I've ever done. I learned a lot. I was frustrated, I was creative, I was green and I didn't know what I was doing. I got paid to learn. That was my music college right there. It cost a hell of a lot more than it costs today, though. (Laughs). MCA Records is probably saying "Yes, it did."
  I learned so much about songwriting, production, being a solo artist: trying to be a pop act or an R&B act. You've got to set yourself in that midset and I could not lean on someone like Prince to do it for me. In fact, (it was) quite the opposite.
  I really learned what it was like to be a producer, a songwriter and an artist on my own without the help of someone who is a complete superstar. I'm so proud of that record. It stands up to this day: great songs; really good musicians and great interplay. I have no regrets with that.
  I was out in L.A. and I got a call from a gentleman at A&M Records. He wanted me to come over and talk about doing some production on a kid named Janet Jackson. Well, I knew who she was. This was before "Control," when Jesse Johnson was working with her.
  I went over there and he (the representative for A&M Records) said "I don't want you to produce Jackson, I want you to leave Prince and come with me." I said "What? Leave Prince? Are you nuts?" Then he showed me the dollar figure he was talking about and I said "Oooh, I could do that!"
  When you're 18, 19, 20 years old, you think you are invincible and you think you can do everything. Thank God I had the background with my family -- musically and business wise -- growing up. That's basically how the ball started and it turned into a bidding war with MCA Records, where I ultimately ended up. Then, I had to tell Prince I was leaving. That was not fun.
  It's such a whirlwind when you're in the middle of it. You have no idea. It was tramatic. My own family said "Are you sure you want to do this? Are you crazy?"

  Paul Peterson on recording the song "Feline" : (I was) trying to learn how to rap, I don't even know if they called it that then. I still remember that rap to this day for some reason. (Singing lyrics) "Feline, get my body working..."
  It was funky, it was nasty and I was worried about what my mom would think. (Laughs). You know, (Prince) never talked to me about what the plan was (for that song). He and I didn't communicate on that level. That was his baby. So, I can't say for sure.

  I've never understood racism, because, a lot (of the time), in music, there really are no racial lines. I was talking with Sinbad about this the other day. Maybe I am just oblivious, but, I've been playing Black music my entire life. I've been accepted in that scene, maybe, because, the culture of musicians are very inclusive. When I see stupid shit that people do to each other, it just baffles me.
  It may happen in the music business, but, I believe it's way less prevalent. You're also talking to a Caucasian here who could be absolutely oblivious to it. But, as far as I see, where I'm coming from, it's all about the conversation, the musicality and experience through your instrument.

  fdeluxe was always funky. No matter if you're talking about the first record or the second record. Nobody expected us to remain friends for 30 years and want to come together to create new music. We ignored it for a while. We did a couple of reunions, with Sheila E. and ?uestlove, (but), the stars were not aligned to take it to the next level. But, when we finally did this thing with ?uestlove, Susannah and I looked at each other. We spent the next four years making that record (Gaslight).
  We laughed, we had a great time and we had to find a groove with each other. You know, I'm not surprised we're still making music today and we'll continue to make music into the future.

  The key to songwriting is playing chords that mean something to you: that do something to your soul; that have an emotional attachment; that you can put into a phrase for some wordsmith to put their craft on top of.
  I've always been a way better music writer than a lyric writer. I feel my strength is in harmony and melody. I've been going back to my idols and listening to all this music. I was listening to Steely Dan on the way up here: all the musicality, arrangements (and) all the best of the best. That moves me.
  As long as something is moving me, I know I'm doing something right. I believe in it. I don't just phone it in.

  Our upcoming concerts are going to be great. I can't wait to see my friends again and play some music with them. We have such a great time. It's really all about the hang and the music. It's so fun to see our fans. We know that they're out there. We know that they've been waiting to see us.
  We never had an opportunity to tour as (the first incarnation of fDeluxe); now we're trying to make up for lost time. We always involve our fans (and) we're excited to see them; excited to bring the old music and new music to them. Its gonna be rocking.

  The key to hard.You have to bring it. You cannot half ass it. You have to always be 110 percent. Bring it every time and believe in what you're doing. Otherwise, don't waste your time. And practice. It's no mystery how people are successful. Work at it.

  Working with Donny Osmond...what a blast! One of my favorite people on the planet. You want to talk about a hard-working guy? He is everything I just described. The guy never stops.
  He's an incredible engineer. He can wire a studio. The guy wins "Dancing with the Stars," because, he's so freaking competitive. He doesn't want anyone to beat him-- probably because he's the little brother.
  We had a blast with each other. I warped the poor guy. He has this reputation for being the sweetest little man ever. Of course, I completely warped him. (Laughs). I mean, nothing bad or anything, but, we had fun. We traveled the world together.
  When I was doing my second record (Down to the Wire), his producers ended up producing my record. They were finishing up his record when we were having some meetings. Donny and I saw each other... and it was just such a connection. We were laughing just like little brothers. It was just weird.
  He is an incrediby gifted man. He really is. Good people. Probably the most unaffected rock star I've ever worked with.

  It's been hard gathering the members of fDeluxe to finish a record in a timely fashion. It is very difficult, because, everybody's busy.

  The Carnegie Hall I think that's all I have to say about that. One of those life moments you never forget. We rocked them pretty hard. I'll never forget that.
  When we were done playing the songs everybody (in the audience) stood up. I was busy trying to wrap up my bass and get off stage. Wendy Melvoin grabbed my arm and said "Stop. Look out there. That's for you. Drink it in." I owe her a lot for that. She really made me look and take that in, you know?
  We've worked a lot of years to get to a point like that. So, it was pretty incredible to be recognized like that.

  The things that matter are what I'm doing right now: hanging with my family; being good to your kids, good to your mate, spending time, being good to one another. That's the most important stuff on the planet. Peace and love, man. I'm a '60s baby, aren't I? (Laughs). That's true, though.

  Down to the Wire and Blue Cadillac ...two very different records, but, great records. I'm proud of both of them.
  (Down to the Wire) is a little more pop-rock, which was an area that I was encouraged to go by my managers and my record company. I loved the record, but, it wasn't necessarily my M.O. I was blue-eyed soul, if that's what you're going to call it. It was a departure for me, it was an exploration.
  I think that they were taking a risk on alienating my fans and finding new ones. I was trying to take the advice of people who were very successful. It's not a bad record. I love every song on there. It's just another side of me. I think that record is very well crafted... There wasn't a lot of rock-and-roll guitar and straight ahead pop stuff going on in my earlier records.
  Blue Cadillac came back and was kind of funky. That was me going back in the other direction.

  In a family full of musicians...I got the best of every possible portion of that. Being the youngest was the greatest education of my life. Competition? Yes. But, competition, because, they wanted me to be better. Competition, because, they wanted me to be great and do great things.
  Being in a family full of musicians means you play together, you spend Christmas together and you do gigs together. You hang out with each other. You could be on tour busses together.
  I got to tour with my brothers in The Steve Miller Band, with me playing rock guitar. We were all on the bus together. It was incredible. My nephew and I toured with Oleta Adams and Donny Osmond. My brother, Ricky Peterson, and I toured with David Sanborn. I've done countless records with them all in different points in time. It's been an incredible ride and a blessing.

   Recording the first fDeluxe album (Gaslight) was an exploration to see what we'd come up with. It was an experimentation. It was the culmination of our life experiences and musical experiences in the songs that you hear.
  Susannah Melvoin and I wrote the bulk of that record. We had not ever written a song together. We had to find our groove and it took a minute to do that. We love other and we fought like cats and dogs...We made each other make a better record than we would have done (individually). That's what being a band is: you make each other better. That's what I think we do.
  It took four years, because, I was on tour most of the time. But, (it is) a great record. I'm so proud of it.

  If I could change...I wouldn't change anything. Everything I've gone through has made me who I am. I like who I am.
  I wish I could change that my mom wasn't more famous. She was pretty famous back home, but, she was a world-class pianist.  Nothing for me. I'm cool. I've done as much as I could ever want to do. I ain't done yet, either. Plenty more to come. (Speaking in a deep voice) Stay tuned...

  Click below for more information on upcoming fDeluxe shows:
  7 p.m. and 9 p.m., August 23, Dakota Jazz Club, Minneapolis

  To make a pledge toward fDeluxe's Underneath the Covers album, click here.

  Stay Beautiful, Kristi


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