Interview: Peter Cincotti
Thu, 26 Feb 2009 08:17:47
Peter Cincotti is a piano man for the 21st century. With flourishes of Billy Joel and a whole lot of jazz training, he's got the part down. In fact, he could be a character from a Billy Joel song. However, his latest album, East of Angel Town, proves he's more than that. In this exclusive interview, ARTISTdirect.com spoke to Cincotti about "Angel Town," writing songs for movies and what to do when you're on The View.
Do you typically get visions of different stories you want to tell and then go write songs?
For this record, I just wanted to write about things that I either knew or thought about: personal experiences, observations. I didn't want to write a record full of "I love you, you love me"-type songs. It was kind of like a debut for me, even though I have a couple records out. We called it that because I felt like certain ideas and lyrical themes have been building up for the last few years. That's just where it came out.
Would you say there's a common thread to these songs?
I think there is. I'm not so sure I can tell you what it is, but they do feel unified in there variety. I feel like it's an eclectic record, but at the same time, there's a theme and a thread. The title of the record is there to unify that this is all East of Angel Town because of all the location references in the record. There are several things that listeners can come up with.
What inspired the idea of Angel Town?
I've spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. Even for this record, I was going back and forth between New York and L.A. If you spend time in either city, you know there's a lot to talk about with both. "Angel Town" was actually written in Angel Town, and it became the title track.
Do you like Los Angeles?
The song can answer that [Laughs].
Well, it's like a totally different world from New York.
Oh yeah. I'm not running to go spend time there, let's put it that way [Laughs].
There's a jazzy, noir sensibility to your music. You don't fit into one genre.
A lot of people ask me about the genre and the style and what I was hoping for and that stuff, but to me, it was just about the songs. That was it. It was about the writing, the storytelling and the actual song. Whatever style came as a result of that came. That's why I feel like there is a variety. I really wasn't worried about making sure all of these songs fit into a musical genre. It was about making sure the song got what it needed. After the song's written, you know the arrangement or instrumentation it's calling for, and you follow that.
You let the song speak to you.
The song would basically dictate the genre or the style. It all came from the song.
Does it start with piano melodies or lyrical ideas?
On this record, it was generally music first. There were a bunch of ideas that I wanted to talk about, but even when the lyrics took the lead, there was still a musical tilt in there. I would say the music led the way on a lot of the songs.
Is it a very "New York" record?
A lot of people say that. On the one hand, it's intentional. You write what you know. On the other hand, it really wasn't. I didn't out to write an East Coast record. I'm from New York. I was born and raised in New York. It's flavored a lot of the songs. No one song is about a location, other than "Angel Town," which is about L.A. New York is subtext to the greater ideas of the songs.
What's the story behind "Witches Brew" and "The Country Life?"
"Witches Brew" was one of the first songs written for the record. I wanted the music to be a musical brew to mirror the lyrics. I think there are a lot of different styles in that song, from the classical to the blues elements. "The Country Life" just came to me. I hope I got it right, but I'll know in 30 years when I'm of an appropriate age to sing it [Laughs]. That song is pretty much a guess. The emotion is real, and that's timeless. Somebody my age can feel that, but it is from an older perspective looking back at youth. It's pretty much a shot in the dark.
You've done some movie work, would you want to do more?
It depends on what it is. What I most recently enjoyed was the movie work with December Boys. I wrote a song for the film. It was the first time I've ever done anything like that. I'd love to write more music for film. It's a little bit of a different muscle, writing for a particular purpose other than just yourself. You have these limitations, at the time, that can be very helpful.
What was it like playing The View?
It was great. They were all very nice. I didn't get into any political discussions with anybody though. You've got to keep your mouth shut. I went in there, played, and I shut up. That was it [Laughs].