Peter Mulvey | Letters from a Flying Machine
October 11, 2009
Dr. Kent: My next guest on the show is the award-winning musician, Peter Mulvey. A great hero of mine, and just an incredible singer/songwriter. I’m going to play a song from not his most-recent album, but an acoustic album that he put out just before this called ‘Notes from Elsewhere.’ This is a song called ‘Black Rabbit,’ and it’s an instrumental song that Peter Mulvey’s played probably for the past decade or so. We’ll talk to him just after the break, after this song plays, about this song, and about a whole bunch more, and his new album and all of that. So listen to ‘Black Rabbit,’ and we’ll come back in a minute and speak to Peter live.
Dr. Kent: That’s a beautiful track called ‘Black Rabbit’ from one of Peter Mulvey’s recent albums called, ‘Notes from Elsewhere.’ It’s one of my favorite songs, and it really showcases his virtuosity on the guitar. I’m excited to welcome Peter to the show. We’ve got him here. Welcome to the show, Peter.
Peter Mulvey: Thanks so much. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Kent: I’ve been a fan of yours for quite a while, and you’ve been playing that song for quite a while: ‘Black Rabbit.’
Peter Mulvey: I have, yes. That’s a musical song. It kind of beamed itself directly into my head when I was just a kid. Obviously I was listening to a lot of Michael Hedges at the time, but the thing that’s always been interesting to me is that I was not listening to a lot of Irish traditional fiddle tunes, but it also reminds me of Irish fiddle tunes, even though I really hadn’t heard any at that time.
Dr. Kent: It’s intriguing. So it uses a lot of Hedges’ techniques too; the harmonics, I mean it’s ridiculous to play, in a way, unless you’ve been playing it for a long time I’m sure. You could probably play it in your sleep now.
Peter Mulvey: Yes, it does kind of play itself. I’ve been playing it at my shows since I wrote it. I really enjoy playing it. It’s an anomaly. I think in some alternate universe there’s a version of me that really pursues instrumental guitar music and has a whole bunch of tunes like that. But it’s the only one in my little canon.
Dr. Kent: It’s the way I wanted to get into asking you about the guitar in general. So you listened to Michael Hedges; who else did you listen to back then?
Peter Mulvey: I was a great big Leo Kottke fan for a long time, and still am. They were kind of my guides, and I think in that era I wanted to get into guitar playing along those lines. In truth, what sort of snagged me along the way – I think that’s what I set out for, and I was immediately detoured into songs – I think it was songs that I liked more than guitar heroism. In fairness, I think that bug also bit Michael Hedges, and it has also bit Leo Kottke. They’re known as guitar players, but I think if you ask them . . . you really can’t ask Michael Hedges any more. But songs are kind of where it’s at, and then you need to find out where you belong in songs. For me, I think I became over the years much more someone who would refer to himself as a singer than as a guitar player.
Dr. Kent: This latest album I love. Several years ago, at a show you said that you do some voiceover work. Then every once in a while you’ll insert a spoken track. I think even back on ‘Rapture’ you did the voice.
Peter Mulvey: Yes. And then on ‘Deep Blue’ there were spoken word tracks. I’ve got a spoken word track on, I would say, more than half of my records. It’s something that I do. On the new record, I’ve found a way to integrate four of them with music. They’re performed as almost a small piece of theater where I’m narrating a letter that I’ve written to a niece or to a nephew.
Dr. Kent: Do you have little nieces and nephews?
Peter Mulvey: I have 17 little nieces and nephews.
Dr. Kent: Seventeen?!
Peter Mulvey: Yes, Catholics, you know.
Dr. Kent: [Laughs] Wow! That’s impressive. I’d love to play the track ‘Letter from a Flying Machine.’
Peter Mulvey: Oh, please do!
Dr. Kent: Yes, it’s a beautiful album, the way that you link the two. But let me ask you first, what has the reaction been to having the spoken word on there?
Peter Mulvey: People really, really like it, and I really like doing it. The most fun of it is that it makes the show into almost like a small play. I start out with songs, but then these letters give it a very focused direction, and by the end of it, I’ve made a little arc of a story that I wanted to get across. You’ll see. It’s just the first letter that appears in the record, and it’s the first one that I do on the show. You’ll see more what I’m talking about when you hear it.
Dr. Kent: When you do this live in the show, are you playing a backup to it?
Peter Mulvey: No, I actually just bring along a little iPod.
Dr. Kent: You’re kidding!
Peter Mulvey: So the iPod is the rumble of the airplane jets, and then whatever music accompanies the letter. In this case, it’s a friend of mine playing the Bach violin sonata.
Dr. Kent: Wow. You bring that person along with you?
Peter Mulvey: No, it’s just -
Dr. Kent: Oh! On the iPod, yes. Here’s my little friend, and he lives in the iPod.
Peter Mulvey: Exactly.
Dr. Kent: Cool. Well, let’s listen to this: ‘Letter from a Flying Machine,’ from Peter Mulvey’s latest album. Here we go.
[Spoken word music]
Dr. Kent: That’s a great track from Peter Mulvey’s latest album, ‘Letters from a Flying Machine,’ and that’s of course called, ‘Letter from a Flying Machine.’ I love the cookie references in there.
Peter Mulvey: Thank you. It’s Midwest Airlines here in Milwaukee – I’ve been flying for years to get out to Boston, and they bake you chocolate chip cookies on the plane. A million times a week I find an occasion to just shake my head and say, ‘My God, primates! The things we primates have thought up. Chocolate chip cookies baked in the sky, that’s right! The opposable thumb. Look out everybody!’
Dr. Kent: I really love that you’ve brought us back to all of our childhoods. For me, listening to ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ with Meryl Streep and George Winston, this has got that same vibe to it. You’re bringing us these intellectual concepts, and these wonderful ideas, and yet you always bring it back to cookies, and to childhood, and to the simplicity that kids see the world with.
Peter Mulvey: Thank you! I appreciate that. I mean, that’s kind of what I’m after. I think it’s kind of where I’m coming from. They always had ‘Free to Be You and Me’ on the Muppet Show, and what I always liked about that, and Sesame Street, and that Peter Rabbit and all of those things, is that there’s just something both felt and childlike. There’s something both high-flown and very simple about it. I think two books that have been really good to me over my life were both written by E.B. White. One of them is of course ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ but the other is Strunk & White, and that’s the style manual. I’ve always been attracted to that marriage of basically very grown-up and childlike things.
Dr. Kent: They’re basically short stories in a way, but in the way you present them on stage and on these albums you’ve got me sitting there listening to a story, and I don’t generally pick up books these days. How about your folk audience that you’re out there singing to all the time: does it feel like story hour at times? Do you really have them in the palm of your hand?
Peter Mulvey: You know, people have really responded well. People really like this show, and they like the letters. I like doing it. It just makes sense. My degree is in theater; that’s what I went to school to study. I’ve also just been a fairly restless soul. I’ve made all kind of records. I’ve made live records, dual records in Ireland; I’ve made big, loud rock and roll records; I’ve made acoustic records; I’ve always been into old Americana folk tunes, but I’ve also been into spoken word. I listen to avant-garde stuff. I listen to Steve Reich; I listen to traditional fiddle. And so, for me, it’s always been interesting to try to find various unorthodox combinations of things. In this case, with this record, I really feel like it’s kind of in the wheel house. This is what I’ve spent my time getting ready to do: all of the study that I did in theater, all the guitar, the study of singing – just the study of jokes, and the mechanics of jokes; even little grace notes, I try to tack it all into the record. Like the record begins in the key of B minor, and it contains a reference to a poem by William Butler Yeats called ‘The Second Coming.’ Then the whole record ends in a relative major key of B, which is intentional, but they both are related, the first and the last song. There’s another shout out to the exact same poem in the last song. That stuff has always fascinated me. It’s always been my goal to try to create a little complete world. It’s just art [laughs].
Dr. Kent: Also, in a world of iTunes – and we both love our iPods I’m sure – but in that world you’ve created a real album.
Peter Mulvey: Yes, yes. You have it exactly right. This thing is meant to be listened to in a given order. I’m not going to compare myself to Shakespeare, but the funniest thing comes right before the most serious thing. I’ve got something I’ve learned, a little bit of the mechanics in Shakespeare: you ever go check out his tragedies, just before the heaviest part reaches the tragedy, he gives you a breather, and sort of takes you in one direction so that he can take you in the other direction. That’s just a little bit of craft. I’m just sort of trying to soak up another artist’s craft. I’ve always admired that about Shakespeare, that he was very thoughtful about the way he treated us. I try to do the same with whatever audience I can assemble. On another note, and speaking of iTunes and the iPod and culture, I’m perfectly aware that as a live performer, I’m competing against the Internet and television. It was David Mamet that pointed out that we now a’days are competing against the Internet and television, but bear in mind that Shakespeare had to compete against bear bating and public execution, and he came in third as well.
Dr. Kent: Cool. I’d love to listen to another track. When I bought this album, when it came out, I gave it to my fiancé to put in the car. In all honesty, she wasn’t a huge fan of your music, and I always have been. I was like, ‘One of these days, she’s going to come around.’ I put the CD in the car, and she listened to it, and she came back, she said, ‘We’ve got to sing this song together.’ And I said, ‘What song?’ She said, ‘Mailman.’ I love this song. To me it kind of hearkens back to that album you did: ‘Glencree.’ It kind of has the sound of Ireland in there, some kind of lilt to it.
Peter Mulvey: Yes, thank you, thank you. That one came all at once. I’m proud of that tune.
Dr. Kent: Before we play this song, tell me a little bit about the ‘Glencree’ record. You did a little bit of that all on the streets over there, right?
Peter Mulvey: Yes, 20 years ago this year, I was living in Ireland as a foreign exchange student. I cut classes to be utterly frank and just would take the bus into Dublin and hang out with all those guys; that’s what they did full time. So I sort of fell in with that crowd, was singing Waterboys tunes, and Peter Gabriel tunes on Grafton Street in front of the Burger King, on a pedestrian cobble-stone street. Then, I didn’t return there until about 1997, eight years later. Things had changed some, but I’ve been touring Ireland ever since then. I made a record there in ’98. You travel, and then you pick up what you travel through. My experiences of touring in Ireland have become definitely a part of what I bring to the road. I’ve had my head altered. Ireland is a lot to wrap your head around.
Dr. Kent: One of the songs off of – I think it was ‘Rapture,’ but you sang it live all the time – was ‘The Whole of the Moon,’ a great, great tune.
Peter Mulvey: That’s where I learned that tune, was right there on Grafton Street from all those guys. Standing in the rain in Ireland, you’re 19 years old, it’s something else, man.
Dr. Kent: Well let’s listen to a beautiful track called ‘Mailman’ from Peter Mulvey’s latest album, ‘Letters from a Flying Machine.’ Here we are.
Dr. Kent: What a beautiful song, ‘Mailman,’ from Peter Mulvey’s latest record, ‘Letters from a Flying Machine.’ I have a mother who’s a poet, and I understand the beauty of cracking those books of poetry open, and the sense of the divine that’s within the pages.
Peter Mulvey: Oh, it’s the best. It’s the best. In this case, it was Tony Hoagland, the poet, and I’d been on tour with a woman named Chris Pureka; she was the opening act on this tour I did. She sent me the book of poems as a little thank-you, and I mean, literally, this song, I love it when this happens, and it’s rare, I guess, or it’s rare we actually get to notice it. The song was just recorded. I went up to write her a thank-you note, and just wrote, ‘Dear Chris – the mailman came. Thank you for the book of poems.’ And then just set the pen down, picked the guitar up, and four notes later, the entire tune was done. All good things are true, you know?
Dr. Kent: Wow. There’s a couple of lines in there that really, really resonate with me. One of them is, you say, ‘The pack of lies.’ The part about what God wants. Then, later on you talk about, there’s a part that we can’t quite name, and of course you’re talking about a funeral of someone you know. So this song really is about the divine, about God. But I wanted to point out that part, the pack of lies part. There’s so much hatred out there right now being shown in the media, but there is a flip side.
Peter Mulvey: There is. That whole line, ‘It’s beautiful, but it’s a pack of lies’ is about the way that I would say it. I am so, so, so tired of hearing people tell us what God wants as though they’ve got a direct line. These things are mysterious, and they are mysterious enough that I don’t think we can safely say we know what God wants. We just can’t say that, and especially in the past 10 years, when we have watched, more so than ever as the world comes together. We’ve got people who are absolutely convinced that God wants them to do atrocious things, on every side of all of the arguments that we have. It’s so tiresome. I wanted to just put a strong, blunt argument out there maybe for all of us to perhaps chill out a little bit and admit that we just can’t name it. We’re going to have to go on instinct here. We can name love, we can name behavior, but we cannot name what God wants. The minute you start telling somebody else what you’re sure God wants, you should probably just shut your mouth.
Dr. Kent: You’ve written some great, I wouldn’t say ‘political’ songs, over the years, but really issue-songs. Early on, your song, ‘I Smell the Future’ – tell me about that one a little bit.
Peter Mulvey: Yes, that’s how I approach a political song. I’ve never been the overt, sort of Phil Ochs, Woody Guthrie variety. There’s a certain use for that, God knows: Utah Phillips, and Ani DiFranco, they’ve managed to be overtly political in very powerful ways. But I cannot achieve what I need to achieve, it just falls dead when I try to speak in those terms. When I am able to speak about things, it tends to be detail oriented, and it tends to be just focused on a simple human story. ‘Smell the Future,’ I guess is about the Rodney King beating, but the most that I’ll say of it is my experience, which is I think most Americans’ experience of just seeing things on television and then being personally hurt and outraged and troubled by it. Bruce Springsteen’s sort of my hero for that. I think he’s so good at writing. It’s very, very tough to write overtly about a situation, but it is very resonant. He does this, and I try to do this, to just get into one character’s head. Once you’re in one character’s head and you’re sympathizing with that character’s experience, I think you’re better off.
Dr. Kent: Absolutely. There’s an aspect to your music that I was actually going to bring up. Early on you did a cover of ‘Clap Hands,’ and I heard you do it live before you recorded it. I love this song, love your version of it. Actually, sometimes you’ll sing, what is that sweet Tom Waits song, ‘Time’?
Peter Mulvey: Yes, that’s a great song.
Dr. Kent: Tom Waits is one of those guys that paints his characters really well, and I think that’s something that you also do very well, and Springsteen does very well: to create characters and really paint them. What’s it like living with these characters?
Peter Mulvey: Well, it’s like living with anybody that you know. I think that we all create characters, maybe more that we are even aware. We make up a little character of even our friends, and sometimes we don’t really see them: we just sort of see this idea of them that we made. The nice thing about writing is that at least the characters don’t come and bite you on the posterior, and prove to be different than you thought they were. It’s certainly an interesting thing. I like writing in terms of characters, and I like trying to tell other people’s stories because somehow that rings more true with me. I played a gig this summer, just on the street in Madison, Wisconsin. This guy came up to me – he’d never heard me before, he was just wandering by – and he stopped and he watched the show. When I was done, he came up to me, and he said, ‘Man. Everybody’s singing about themselves, and you’re singing about everybody else.’ I thought, ‘Oh my, God! Thank you! That means that I actually manage to do some of the things that I was trying to do, and that you noticed!’ It was a real good day.
Dr. Kent: You know, that’s part of the beauty of this ‘Letters from a Flying Machine’ concept: you are writing about yourself, but it’s in this wonderful form that we’ve had for so long. The letter is the lost craft. Some of my cherished possessions are letters from my grandparents that are gone. We keep these things because people sat down and poured their heart into them.
Peter Mulvey: Yes, absolutely. I also love what a modestly little contained form it is. It’s just a little moving line of ink on a piece of paper. That’s all it is! It’s just a human action. It happens to leave a trace that lasts a little while, and, wow! I really love letters.
Dr. Kent: It’s a lot like a song: something that you can listen to or read over and over again.
Peter Mulvey: Yes. Exactly.
Dr. Kent: Speaking of characters links well into Vlad, of course my favorite character on your newest album. Is he indeed a true character?
Peter Mulvey: Oh yes! His name’s Vladimir Chaloupka. He’s an astrophysicist, or a physicist; there’s hardly a demarcation. He’s a physicist on the department in the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle. I met him at the National Youth Science Camp; several times I’ve met this guy. He more or less told me this whole analogy about the way the world actually is. It was one of the most mind-altering things that another human has actually told me. As soon as he told me, I thought, I have got to find a way to get this into my show and onto my record. I finally did. The thinking up the idea of framing these things with letters allowed me to get this word out. I figured, it’s one of the most valuable things anyone ever said to me.
Dr. Kent: I’d love to play the track, ‘Vlad the Astrophysicist.’ If you were just zooming through the album on iTunes or somewhere else, it’s not necessarily the track you’d land on, because you have to listen, but in listening through this album, it’s really a moment that you stop and think about your life. Let’s listen to ‘Vlad the Astrophysicist,’ from Peter Mulvey’s latest record, ‘Letters from a Flying Machine.’ Here we are.
[Spoken word music]
Dr. Kent: That’s a beautiful track called ‘Vlad the Astrophysicist’ from ‘Letters from a Flying Machine.’ I love how you’re able to bring it from the universal down to the crib. If you had left us all alone there in the universe, and you looking up at it, I wouldn’t have felt the same completion. Bringing it back to the crib is an incredible circle.
Peter Mulvey: That’s what I was after; that’s the entire point of that track, and kind of the entire point of the album: to make that confrontation with the physical universe that we live in and the scale of what we have learned sort of check in on a real, demonstrable level; to say, ‘Here’s what we know.’ And knowing that then, do we still care? Is it still significant to us? And I think the answer is probably different for everybody, but my answer is ‘Yes.’
Dr. Kent: To wrap up here, I appreciate this interview; I love your music. You do these crazy tours, but in the same way, very earthy, natural tours. You bike from place to place. Where did this whole idea come from.
Peter Mulvey: It’s just biking to work on an enormous scale. That’s all it really is. There’s a little club called the Cafe Carpe in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, about 50 miles from our house. I thought for years, man, I could just ride my bike there and play the show, ’cause I go there all the time. Fifty miles is not impossible. Then one year I had the fatal thought, wait a minute, then I’d only be 35 more miles from Madison, and I could do a little weekend. Then I expanded it into doing an entire circle in Wisconsin: 300 or 400 miles. Then just a few weeks ago, I did an entire tour out to the east coast on a bike. For me it’s an enormous undertaking: it’s time, and it’s pretty staggering, but it is a tiny little gesture in the grand scheme of things. I’m just saying that we could bike to work. We can all bike to work, even people like me who travel regionally: if we need to, we can bike to work. It’s a meditative little thing. I don’t feel like I’m going to do this and then every city on earth is going to install electric rail and we’re all going to become sustainable because a little folk singer made a point on his bike. In my own tiny little way, this is just me pointing in a direction for my nieces and my nephews. That’s really what matters, isn’t it?
Dr. Kent: And for folks to think about on the radio, what does your biking rig look like?
Peter Mulvey: This year, it was a long wheel-base recumbent bike, sort of like one of those big long aluminum lawn chairs, with tires front and back. It was great until I hit the mountains. It’s not really designed for those, and it was quite an effort to climb the green mountains in Vermont, but it was worth it.
Dr. Kent: The beautiful thing about that, too, is the simplicity of it. It’s such a simple concept. The people that are touched by it are probably very moved by it. What kind of reactions have you had from folks when you come biking in?
Peter Mulvey: I think most people thought we were pretty crazy, but they appreciated it too, definitely. It speaks for itself. It is so simple. Get on your bike and go to work.
Dr. Kent: In the early days, I remember you pulling up in your car, but you definitely had your car parked at the little place in Middlebury, Vermont. I recall, you had your guitar stolen back then. Have you ever heard tell of that guitar you loved so much?
Peter Mulvey: I never have. It’s been nine or ten years now. I guess that day, that was kind of a drag to lose my guitar. But the thing that came out of it was that I became much less attached to guitars. A guitar to me now is like a pencil. Pencils don’t have thoughts; people have thoughts. Guitars don’t make music; people make music. That was a lesson for me. A rude way to learn it, but . . .
Dr. Kent: You’ve been with so many different folks through the years. You’ve opened up for some amazing people. You’ve played with amazing people from Greg Brown and Chris Smither, and folks like that, all over the place. Who are you hanging out with now? Of course, David Goodrich toured with you for a long time.
Peter Mulvey: It’s David Goodrich, Jeffrey Foucault, Kris Delmhorst: my colleagues. It’s been so interesting to meet a bunch of young songwriters who are the next generation beyond me, like Anais Mitchell, and Brianna Lane, and Gregory Alan Isakov, Carsie Blanton. It was my mentors, and then it was my peers, and it still is my mentors, and still is my peers, but it’s a little strange to think that there are people considerably younger than me going after that, but that’s life.
Dr. Kent: I’m a guitar player, and some of my first lessons – I had that ‘Goodbye Bob’ album where you played ‘Deep Blue,’ and it changed the way I thought about a guitar.
Peter Mulvey: Oh, good!
Dr. Kent: Have you gotten some young people come to you and say, ‘Your techniques really changed me?’
Peter Mulvey: Yes, I have. That’s really all you can ask for, I guess, as an artist. We find some good people to draw influence from, and then if people actually find some value in what you’ve done down the line, that’s great too.
Dr. Kent: What do you think about your voice? It’s changed a bit over the years, and of course you now have a great deal of skill doing the voiceover kind of thing. How has your voice changed over the years?
Peter Mulvey: I just settled into it; finally gave up trying to be a tenor, and decided that I was a baritone. Fine by me. One part Greg Brown, one part Hogi Carmichael, one part Mark Knopfler, it’ll work.
Dr. Kent: Greg Brown hasn’t quite given up the tenor part. He’ll come out every once in a while with a good tenor.
Peter Mulvey: Once in a while, yes. He’ll still croon.
Dr. Kent: Can you also be persuaded every once in a while?
Peter Mulvey: Yes, once in a while; depends on the jazz standard.
Dr. Kent: That’s one thing you talked about in the past also: David Goodrich, in playing with you for so long, influenced your guitar playing a bit. Your guitar playing is astronomical now, beyond reach. Whereas when you began, you had kind of your thing, but now you do all sorts of things.
Peter Mulvey: Yes. It’s been an expansion. In the past four or five years where I’ve been at is just finding the old American jazz standards, and standard tuning. Hank Jones put it really well: the best thing about music is that it’s never over. You can be better at the age of 94 than you were at 93. It’s such a limitless territory. It’s like an enormous mountain, so wherever you are it’s just like one little speck kind of moving up that mountain. That’s deeply satisfying. Music’s pretty large. It’ll do.
Dr. Kent: Looking back over a dozen-plus albums, what are your proud moments in all those albums?
Peter Mulvey: I don’t know. It’s just the emergence of the voice, which takes time. I’ll say this, you play for a long time, you learn to sound like yourself. Hopefully, we all are, and everybody ends up sounding like themselves. I think I have a certain voice; I think you could hear something written and know that I wrote it. That took a lot of work.
Dr. Kent: There’s this one song for me that’s always resonated, and it’s called, ‘Shirts.’ I love corduroy shirts. That’s part of it. The song is about growing older. I feel like all of your songs, it’s like this emergence also of getting older. This album is so mature. You’re looking at younger people in a different way. How have you gotten older in the music? How have you grown up in the music?
Peter Mulvey: I think I was always a little too old for my own good. That race to become a curmudgeon. But it’s over now: I’m a curmudgeon. I’m an old uncle. I’m only 40, but I’ve been talking like an old man since I was a little kid. Now I think, hopefully, I’ve settled into it, and maybe I’ll get to be childish over the next 10 years, 15, 20, 30.
Dr. Kent: You can do the reverse aging, exactly. Some of the rock and roll kind of stuff that you were doing for a while, will there be a return to some of that?
Peter Mulvey: Oh, yes. You’ve got to make a loud record every once in a while; you’ve got to.
Dr. Kent: Nice. It’s really fun to see you every time also because I saw you down in Tulsa, Oklahoma at a place down there. I believe it was just you. Then, I’ve seen you in groups with other people. Your style changes from gig to gig.
Peter Mulvey: Yes. You’ve got to stay interested. You just have to. I’m not going to run out of things to say, and I’m not going to run out of ways to learn about music and express music. That’s a nice thing. It is not a limited supply. That’s just the way music is.
Dr. Kent: What are you working on now? Are you just taking some downtime after your bike tour?
Peter Mulvey: No, I’m just on the road playing the new record. In the future, I could see a record of jazz standards, a record of old Americana tunes, a record of songs by my friends, and there’s always the next batch of my own songs. That should get me going until about 2013.
Dr. Kent: So you’re still in love with it.
Peter Mulvey: Oh, sure. Absolutely.
Dr. Kent: Do you ever find yourself just pulling out the guitar and just playing for fun?
Peter Mulvey: Every day.
Dr. Kent: Wow.
Peter Mulvey: I love to play. My favorite thing about being off the road is that I don’t have to play, so I can play anything I want to play.
Dr. Kent: The road is really the hard part, isn’t it?
Peter Mulvey: Yes, although you just get a sense of balance. I’m not too hard on myself anymore.
Dr. Kent: Totally random question, what do you eat on the road? Do you always go to the potluck dinners they make for you when you get there?
Peter Mulvey: Oh, I sure do. I do, I just eat whatever’s at hand. Although, what I make a point to do early in the tour is to go to a grocery store and get a bunch of apples and bananas and nuts, I mean plants. You’ve got to eat plants.
Dr. Kent: Nice. Cool. Well it’s been such a pleasure. On the way out, I’d love to play just one more track from the new album which is, ‘On a Wing and a Prayer.’ So tell us about this, and then I’ll be really happy to talk to you when the next one comes out. I’m a real follower of your music. Let’s say, I try and get everyone else to be too.
Peter Mulvey: I appreciate it. Thanks a lot. I do appreciate that. This tune, ‘On a Wing and a Prayer,’ actually my friend, Tim Fagan, out in Los Angeles, wrote the lyrics, and I just made a few tweaks to it. It was one of those shot in the dark things where I just sent him an mp3 of a little melody that I had. Back with his lyrics, and it’s almost like he was able to sum up everything I was trying to get at in this record. It was one of those strange experiences.
Dr. Kent: Isn’t that interesting? So you work both directions: you’ll work with lyrics first and then make the music, and you’ll do the other way around.
Peter Mulvey: Of course, yes. Anything that works; any port in a storm.
Dr. Kent: On that note, before we go out: you talk a lot about journaling all the time. Do you have just notebook upon notebook after being on the road for 20 years?
Peter Mulvey: Oh yes. Every five or six years, I’ll burn them all.
Dr. Kent: [Laughs] Do you really?
Peter Mulvey: I do, yes.
Dr. Kent: Wow. That’s part of the corduroy shirt song you sing.
Peter Mulvey: Exactly.
Dr. Kent: Does it burn a special color? I mean, a blue flame or something?
Peter Mulvey: Nope. Just your ordinary paper.
Dr. Kent: Awesome. Well it’s such a pleasure. We’re going to listen to ‘On a Wing and a Prayer.’ I hope you have a wonderful day. Where are your next tour dates?
Peter Mulvey: Chicago and Milwaukee, the 9th and the 10th of October.
Dr. Kent: Very nice. All right, well thank you so much Peter. It’s such a pleasure.
Peter Mulvey: Thank you. Talk to you soon.
Dr. Kent: All right. Let’s listen to ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’ from ‘Letters from a Flying Machine.’ Peter Mulvey put this out this year. It’s a gorgeous album. Combines storytelling and songs and it’s the kind of album you’ll want to put on and get a cup of tea and listen to the entire thing. Put it in your car for a half hour drive or a 45 minute drive. Listen to the whole thing. Really an incredible album. So here we go, the last track from Peter Mulvey, ‘On a Wing and a Prayer.’ Here we go.
Dr. Kent: What a gorgeous track from Peter Mulvey called, ‘On a Wing and a Prayer.’ What an up-note to end his album, and end the show today. My favorite tracks from this album are called, ‘Vlad the Astrophysicist’ and ‘Mailman.’ It’s an incredible record; you’ve got to go pick it up. It’s something you can listen to from start to finish, back to front, over and over. Just like letters, it’s something that can grow old with you. He’s really matured as a singer/songwriter, and what a great guest he is. We talked to him all of this hour about his music and career. It was also my pleasure to speak to two authors at the beginning of the show. Of course, Tony Fucile talking about his new picture book, ‘Let’s Do Nothing,’ and Tom Edwards, the author of ‘Blue Jesus.’ What a fascinating story and I can’t wait to read more of that. It’s been a great show today. Later on this week, tomorrow, we’ll be talking to Elizabeth Fournier, ‘True life dating stories of a marriage-minded mortician.’ That’s a hilarious interview that’ll be coming out tomorrow at 3pm. 3pm every day at Sound Authors. Then of course on Sunday, we’ll be talking to Del McCoury, who’s a bluegrass legend. He’s been around the business for a very long time. We’ll talk to him about his music. Then on Monday, we’ll talk to Marcus Wells: ‘Understanding body thermodynamics for a healthier lifestyle.’ And all of next week, at 3pm, we’ll talk to fascinating guests, and then next Friday, we’ll have a show with multiple guests again, and I’ll look forward to that. Pick up a book, in the meantime, and pick up a CD. Peter Mulvey’s CD certainly listens just like a book reads. It’s been my pleasure, and be safe everybody. We’ll talk to you the next time.