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Interview With
ALICE PEACOCK
Rocking the USA!



 
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Chicago singer/songwriter Alice Peacock was immersed in performing at an early age. Growing up in a big family, Alice was exposed to diverse musical styles; she listened to one sister's '70s hard rock and another sister's country-rock, as well as her mother's Burl Ives and Johnny Cash records. While attending college at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI, she joined the university jazz band and also performed with a cover band and did some jingle work. It was during this period that Alice discovered a passion for classic jazz, blues, and standards; she also found herself interested in folk and bluegrass. After college, she moved to San Francisco and sang backup vocals with an R&B band called E.C. Scott and Smoke; however, she felt musically stifled and moved to Chicago. After several failed attempts to put a band together, Peacock started playing by herself and composing her own highly personal material, drawing inspiration from Joni Mitchell and Carole King. It's difficult to label Peacock a folk, rock, or country performer, since she is really a bit of everything. After her debut album Real Day came out. Since then Peacock has done a lot. In 2002 she released a new album on Columbia's Aware album .The new album evolves Peacock's music from a folk rock to a sophisticated pop sound
 


Q: Where are hanging out these days?
A: I am in Chicago and about to head out West on Friday. So, that's really nice because it's cold and snowy here. In fact, it's really cold. It was like below zero a few days ago. And it's like 20 yesterday and it felt balmy. It'll be nice to come out to your area.
Q: Yeah I heard is was Cold and windy !
A: It can be really windy. I grew up in Minnesota originally, so I mean cold I was used to. But it's windier here.
Q: I read somewhere that you came to San Francisco for awhile?
A: I did. Yeah. I moved there right after college. I was a backup singer with E.C. Scott. Do you know her? A blues singer. She's based out of Oakland. And I sang backup with her and folded towels at a health club by day. And I was a waitress at Sam's in Tiburon for a while. I'm telling you all my jobs in San Fran for a while. I think that was about it. I loved San Francisco. I lived downtown in kind of the Nob Hill area for a about a year and then I was in Sausalito for six months. I loved San Francisco. It was beautiful
Q: Chicago is your home now.
A: It is my home now.
Q: So you own you a restaurant there?
A: We do. It's a restaurant bar. It's been a pub for about 16 years here in Chicago. And it had the restaurant part of just in the last three years and it's called the Local Option and the Local Shack. He's a Renaissance man. He designed it and all of the recipes are his. We have a really good chef and front of the house guy and so he's able to come on the road with me a lost. Q: Is it in The Gold Coast there?
A: It's Lincoln Park. So, just north of the town and Gold Coast. Q: . You have Smashing Pumpkins, M&M...; A: M&M is from Detroit I believe. He's a Detroit boy. We've got Cheap Trick. Survivor. and Shaka Kahn.
Q: I love your CD. It really is a good one.
A: Thank you Randy.
Q: Now is this a little different from your first CD. I think it's a little more whole as a musical entity. The first record I produced myself and this last record I did with my friend Joel and what's kind of cool, I wasn't intending to make a major label record necessarily. I was going to continue to do the Indie thing and a friend of mine got a copy of the advance to Aware records and basically they bought it and Aware and Columbia have had a lot of success with most recently John Mayer out of San Fran and Train. So, I'm the first female on their roster and it sort of seemed like the best of both worlds. Whereas grass roots Indie get out tour one set at a time, build it slow. But then you've got Columbia backing you when you need em.
Q: It seems like your songs are quite a variety.
A: Thank you. I think as far as it seems more like a one sound, compared to the first record, it's a little more cohesive as far as I'm finding my sound. But I hope my writing is improving and getting better and each record will be better.
Q: I hear you come from a pretty large family. Now was this a competitive part for you to excel in?
A: No. I mean there are six kids and we're all pretty musical. My brother actually lives in San Francisco. He writes Trans music. He goes by the name of Ocelot. And so we have obviously very different tastes in music, but I think we're the only two pursuing it professionally, but I have one sister who is a DJ at a radio station. My other sister just sings in church and choir and stuff. So, we're all pretty musical. But, I think for me, music was more of a spiritual thing. That's where I find solace. If I was feeling lonely or needed comfort, the radio was my pal. Writing was sort of soothing to myself. Like going to church, it wasn't so much the message, but it was the music. The music made me cry ... then that was what connected me. I don't know if it was so much competition within the family. I think it's more. That was my way to express myself.
Q: One of your songs "Somethings Get Lost." can bring tears to somebody's eye written very well.
A: Thank you. It's very personal obviously. It helps me. If other people can relate to it and can be moved, than that's really wonderful. But you know, a lot of it is sort of therapy for me. I think anybody who has ever lost anybody, whether physically or emotionally, they can identify with that sense of loss.
Q: So what is "Send My Heart Back Home." About.
A: It was kind of a fun song. People like it and it's kind of an obsessive relationship thing. Yeah, I drink too much when you're around. That person you know you shouldn't be hanging out with. Sort of Bon Jovi's "Your Love is Like Bad Medicine." Kind of like that.
Q: You had some collaborations?
A: John Mayer and Emily Saliers is singing with me. She's singing some harmony. I love her voice and a wonderful writer. Q: They are incredible.
A: Yeah. They are incredible and very down to earth and very nice people.
Q: What song did she sing?
A: She is singing and we co-wrote two songs together, "Imagination" and "I'll Start With Me," which she and Kristen Hall and I wrote and we wrote that actually right before September 11th, we wrote that in August. It was pretty bizarre because I was down in Atlanta to write with them and the news came on and they said one 1 out of 3 people couldn't read and that floored us. It was like wow. In today's day and age to have a illiteracy rate that high. They were talking about other states. Massachusetts has a really high illiteracy rate and you'd never think Massachusetts. So, that got us talking about that and all the other kind of problems in the world and all the political infighting and how nothing ever gets done and there are still people who are fed or clothed or take care of their medical needs and it can seem really daunting sometimes. You have to start with self, that's the only person you have control over. And so we wrote the song "I'll Start With Me" and then September 11 happened and I was like I hope this doesn't sound anti-American. But it's not, it's very much personal responsibility. It's like hey, I can blame the government and I can blame this and that person, but what am I doing to make a difference. Maybe that's just a small thing like being a mentor, or I don't know. Whether planting a tree, or helping in your community. So, that was kind of fun to write with them.
Q: Are you apolitical?
A: It's not that I'm apolitical. It's interesting. I don't define myself by a party. I'm definitely an independent. What I find frustrating about the two party system in America is that there is so much ... if you believe one way on an issue, then immediately you're labeled as you're this. Then they throw in the rest of the blanket stuff. I think it's too black and white. It's hard for people to actually get stuff done when you have stereotypes about people and I did a couple of shows with Arlo Gutherie last summer and the last one was at the Newport Folk Festival which was great. He said that in the '60s he always knew where someone stood by ... if they stood a certain way on something, he's say I'd know what side you're on. You could pin what side someone was on. And he said that as he's gotten older, he's realized that it's not so much what side you're on that matters, but it's more divided by people who care and people who don't care and I thought that's really wise. Because we can come together even if we have different beliefs about things and take care of basic issues like health care, and the homeless, and illiteracy and education, gosh there are so many... the environment. So, I wouldn't align myself with any particular group but with people who are interested in making a different. Those are the people I like to support and encourage and be a part of that if I can.
Q: I think that's why your songs come out so wonderful. You're able to put it down in lyrics and express yourself in all kinds of different ways and when people listen to it....
A: You know I don't have the answers necessarily, but I can certainly pose the questions and I think we need to remind ourselves of the questions a lot of the time, just so we stay on track.
Q: Kind of food for thought.
A: Yeah. It's not that I'm saying here's how we should solve it, because if I knew how to do that then I'd be President or not, but if we keep asking questions ...how can we fix this? what needs to be done? how did this get here? All those kind of things, then I think we can come up with the answers or at least keep it in people's consciousness. It can seem daunting. And like what can one person make a different. Then we realized with the election. Everybody's vote counts. We can all make a difference. So, it's important to not just assume that "oh well, little old me, what can I do."
Q: With your people comparing who you sound like. I think I hear a little Cheryl Crow.
A: Well thank you. It's hard, because people have to kind of compare it to something so they can kind of conceptualize what kind of music it is. I'm intrigued by songwriters, story tellers. People who are honest and share interesting bits of themselves, but maybe can paint it in a certain way like Rickie Lee Jones and Tom Waits, and Neil Young, and Joanie Mitchell and Carol King. Pop sensibilities like that. James Taylor, Jackson Brown. They're songwriters. And Cheryl's great. Cheryl does that pop thing really well. She comes up with good hooks and makes you want to sing along.
Q: She really took off this year.
A: That album is like wildfire.
Q: Now it's your turn.
A: Yeah, well I hope so. We'll see.
Q: Are you touring soon?
A: You're based out of the bay area?
Q: Yes. A: I'm actually going to be at the Filmore with Toad the Wet Sprocket. We're doing a couple of weeks with them and we'll be there on the 6th. So, it'll be me and the full band. So that's coming up on February 6th at the Filmore. I believe I am support for that show, so I believe I'm on right before Toad. Then Blue, are you familiar with him? He's also on the tour and he will go first that night. We're doing a whole west coast, kind of coming back through Colorado, Salt Lake City, Nevada, that whole thing and back to the mid-west.
Q: Did you something with John Mellencamp,?
A: I did. I did a month of dates with him in November. So that was fun. Biggest places I've ever playedWe had a blast. It was fun for us to just sort embrace our inner rock star and get up on a big stage.

By Randy Cohen

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