Peter Siegel | Radical Roots Music
October 2, 2009
Dr. Kent: My next guest on the show is kind of hand-in-glove with similar kind of music: Peter Siegel has an incredible brand of music that he calls ‘Radical Roots’ music. Welcome to the show, Peter Siegel.
Peter Siegel: Thank you very much.
Dr. Kent: Good to talk to you again. I love your music. Give me a nutshell of how you came into this radical roots.
Peter Siegel: [Laughs] I kind of have some radical roots; I’ve got communist grandparents, and socialist uncles, and all sorts of stuff like that. I grew up in New York City area. My parents were very active in the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, which kind of put me in touch with people like Pete Seeger and all the folk singers that hang around the old sloop on the Hudson River. So that was kind of my childhood. Although my grandfather was a radical, he was a classical violinist, and he wasn’t too fond of the fact that I was playing folk music, but [laughs], it was his radicalism, and his music sort of manifested itself in my folk music later on.
Dr. Kent: The only words more hated among conservatives than ‘liberal’ are of course ‘communist’ and ‘socialist.’ We’re going into every realm on this show so far. What do you think about this madness happening these days?
Peter Siegel: [Laughs] Which madness? There’s so much madness.
Dr. Kent: The healthcare madness. It’s insane. My first guest, Roy Zimmerman, mentioned the fellow who was hanged with the ‘feds’ on his chest. It’s madness!
Peter Siegel: I know, it is madness. It’s just, I don’t know, there’s just so much rhetoric out there. I just feel like there’s so much of a lack of information that the powers that be are capitalizing on, or the right wing is capitalizing on. The one thing the left has never really done in this country is capitalize on ignorance the way that I think the right does right now. I think my personal way of dealing with that is to, not so much ‘tune out,’ but sort of bring it home a little bit more, and not think about what’s going on in the national and international level, but just sort of focus more on staying local, and just trying to sow as many seeds as I can as close to home as I can, which is probably one of the most radical ideas you can possibly have, is to stay home [laughs].
Dr. Kent: Absolutely. So I’m going to start off here, let’s talk about your song, ‘Boxed Up.’ Give me an intro for that.
Peter Siegel: Well, I wrote the song on the plane ride home from Chicago, and it was sort of a song originally just about my own feeling about being boxed in by my economic situation. Actually, my wife, who’s a writer, did a blog entry recently that – what did she say? – her entry was ‘Not Poor Enough.’ I feel like that’s been my position through most of my life. I’m a member of the middle class, but I’m not poor enough to sort of be eligible for any kind of health, and I’m not rich enough to really feel like I can do anything, but I’m sort of boxed in by the way society’s constructed right now. So that kind of led to writing this song.
Dr. Kent: Perfect song for this healthcare situation.
Peter Siegel: Exactly. It’s the perfect thing. The idea kind of expanded to how we’re boxed in by all of our own notions of ourselves. There’s just so many ways you can take a song that I feel like I need to write another song in the same theme, but just expand on it even more. The song was partially written by my wife as well. When I got home from that plane ride (she’s also an English teacher), she saw my laptop and when I wasn’t looking edited the song, so now she’s got credit for half the song as well. There it is: ‘Boxed In.’
Dr. Kent: Very nice. So let’s listen to ‘Boxed Up’ by Peter Siegel.
Dr. Kent: Great tune from Peter Siegel, called ‘Boxed Up.’ Beautiful song, great sound to it. Thanks so much for that. What album’s that off of?
Peter Siegel: That’s off of an album called ‘Living in Rome.’ It just came out last year. ‘Living in Rome’s’ sort of the reference to the Empire, our own empire.
Dr. Kent: Indeed. Are you stewing in a whole new set of songs with all these new things happening?
Peter Siegel: I am, and I’m not. I’ve been steering away from a lot of the same direct political commentary that I used to write. I used to sort of furiously write down songs as I’d bubble over looking at the state of the world. These days, I take a little bit of time to sort of reflect on it, and maybe think of stories that just bring out the emotions of the moment instead of stating the way things are. I think, ‘Boxed Up’ is sort of a step in that direction. But I tend to sort of look at the people around me and write songs about what their stories are, and how that is a reflection of the way that things are in the world. I wouldn’t say it’s ‘easy,’ but I could probably sit down and write down a nice little protest song about our healthcare debacle for a protest happening tomorrow if I wanted to. I’ve actually come up with a couple of those here and there, but whenever I do that, I don’t feel like they’re worth recording. I feel like, that’s a nice little song for the moment, and we’ll just let that take it’s course and fade away with the moment.
Dr. Kent: So on that note, I do want to talk to you again in the future. I love your music, I love the concepts. As we wrap up here, I’m going to listen to ‘Polka Dot Bathing Suit.’ And of course we can check out Peter Siegel’s music on PeterSiegel.com, and there’s some great photos up there, and music and all the rest of that info. So tell me about that song, and then we’ll talk to you next time.
Peter Siegel: It’s my one attempt at a pop song. That’s all I can say. There’s nothing to it. I wrote it about my wife in her polka dot bathing suit next to our house and the green river where we often skinny dip. You know you need to write a song like that, and I did.
Dr. Kent: Awesome. ‘Polka Dot Bathing Suit,’ Peter Siegel. Thanks so much for being on the show.
Peter Siegel: Thanks so much for having me, I appreciate it.
Dr. Kent: We’ll talk to you the next time. Here we go: ‘Polka Dot Bathing Suit’ by Peter Siegel.
Dr. Kent: That was a great tune by Peter Siegel. He told us that that was his attempt at writing a pop song. A great little tune, ‘Polka Dot Bathing Suit.’ He wrote about his wife’s bathing suit. Very touching and sweet.