In 1994, Jim Olsen, the president of the award-winning independant record label Signature Sounds, approached me and asked me if I'd like to make a record. Olsen had heard me performing as a guest on Christine Lavin's collection "Big Times In a Small Town," featuring new artists. I made my first album, "The Restless Boys Club," with the help of friends like Cliff Eberhardt, Greg Brown, John Gorka, Bill Morrissey, Christine Lavin, Tom McClung and others, many of whom had slept on my couch at one point in their careers. I made a second recording, "Days Like Horses," released by Signature Sounds in 2000, featuring guests such as Dar Williams, Susan Werner, Patty Larkin, Peter Mulvey, Cliff Eberhardt and others.
The idea is, anybody who makes a record would be wise to make sure he or she is the worst musician in the studio, and I clearly was. The thrill was playing and recording with some of my heros. Anything after that was gravy.
I try to write what I think of as "foreground music," the opposite of background music. That means songs that tell stories, where if you miss the first part, you might not understand the last part. A lot of what gets labelled "folk music" today is just pop that went to college, and I'm good with that. I try to write music with content and substance that pays you back if you listen closely.
I performed for about ten years before cutting back to concentrate on my family and on my writing. Lately I've been playing bass in a jazz trio.
Blurbs and Comments
“Peter Nelson’s ‘Summer of Love’ is a seven minute masterpiece. It’s a recollection of growing up as a teenager in the late 60’s. It sounds comical at first, but then sucks you into the story full of innocence, angst and compassion. Nelson uniquely phrases feelings to steer the song away from simple cliche or melodrama.” SING OUT MAGAZINE
“Perhaps the best, yet unfortunately least known songwriter in the U.S. He writes songs of gut-wrenching brilliance that fill the listener with all range of emotions, sometimes all at once. I’m willing to say “The Restless Boys Club” is the best record of 1996, and it’s only January.” Micah Engber, MAINE PUBLIC RADIO
“With a journalist’s gift for telling a story and a cardsharp’s eye for detail, Pete Nelson crafts songs that hit you in the gut. There’s a pinch of Tom Waits, a touch of Cole Porter and a dab of prime Tom Rush in Nelson’s poignant, convincing songs that flow straight from the heart.” David Sokol, Editor, NEW COUNTRY MAGAZINE
“At a time when women are thoroughly disenchanted with men, the notion occurs that this is the rarest of beasts, the emotionally mature and healthy male who takes responsibility for himself. The work illuminates what is common and human, our vulnerabilities, our frailties, our need and capacity for love.” NY TIMES
“I love to listen to Peter Nelson. His writing is fresh, fun, gripping, powerful, witty, compelling, memorable and stuff.” DAVID WILCOX
“Peter writes long story songs. He writes them well. I hate long story songs that are well written, because I can’t write like that. Some day I hope other song writers will hate my songs too.” CLIFF EBERHARDT
“Peter Nelson writes songs that sing like standards. He’s a classic style writer with some new insights on modern life. Good songs.” PATTY LARKIN
“For years Pete Nelson has been writing these great songs and singing them for friends in his living room. Now he’s going to start performing them in public. It’s about time. His songs are smart, funny, touching, touched, nuts, caring, literate, subtle, fruity with no bitter aftertaste... and everything else good songs are. Go see him.” BILL MORRISSEY
“None of his songs make me want to hurl.” JOHN GORKA
“Pete Nelson is an American song writing treasure. I’m just one of the many songwriters who have been hoping he’d make an album, and this debut is as impressive as it gets. Not since Dar Williams The Honesty Room” has there been a collection of songs with this depth of wisdom, insight and musical sophistication.” CHRISTINE LAVIN