Why I Want Eric Peters in My Corner

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So I was having a bad day. I woke up, for no apparent reason, at 5:30 in the morning, and my brain was already two hours ahead of my body. It was the kind of day that usually lands me in front of the mirror with a mental baseball bat. But on this day, I did not have the wisdom to walk away in defense. Instead, I moved in closer for a beat down. My arms would not reach up to fight, but remained stubbornly, helplessly at my sides. My face, totally unprotected from the oncoming head blow, narrowly dodged clear at the very last second, and I closed my eyes in relief. A minute or two passed and I gained strength enough to push away from the glass and head for the safety of my computer. I put my head down and got to work, hoping to shake off the shadows, but an hour later I found myself crying through the proofread because I hated every single letter on the screen.

chromecoverThankfully, my three kids were in school, and I had a lunch date. So when the sobs returned to normal breathing, I got up and took a shower. An hour and one bagel later, I was clean, dressed and made up enough to face the day. I got in my van to head to the restaurant, turned the ignition and searched for available CDs.

Not the time for happy, drummy rock bands, but certainly not come-to-Jesus-worship-time either. What’s left?

How about a little Eric Peters?

Yep, he might just do the trick today. Maybe he can silence the zombies in my head.

So I popped in the disc, and was greeted by a catchy, familiar “Dooh dah do da doo, Dooh dah do da doo” beat. Followed by the words:

One of these days I’m gonna shed my skin
Become somebody who I might have been
Look outside and jump right back in
The very next day

Of their own accord, my fingertips drummed the steering wheel, and the scene through my sunglasses grew brighter as I pulled out of the driveway. Scarce became the perfect soundtrack for that day, each song digging a little deeper to pull me out of my funk. And by the time I reached the restaurant, this human had seen the grace in the sky and was ready to point another in the direction of hope.

My husband first tried to interest me in Eric’s music years ago, when he bought a Ridgely CD after seeing them in concert. I liked a song or two, but it connected more with John than me. Later, when Eric went solo, John kept tabs on him and would always tell me when a new album came out. The thing is–my husband always has something new for me to listen to. That’s what happens when you spend lots of time in a car alone, commuting to and from work. Conversely, what happens when you spend time driving a minivan filled with small children is that you never listen to said music, until you’re really ready.

My readiness came last year in the form of a concert we held for the young married life groups at our church. John had recently joined the church staff and had the idea to bring Eric over for a show. I did not want to be totally clueless in the audience, so the week before, I listened to our CDs enough to know a few choruses. And the concert experience that night won me over.

Imagine sitting in the same room you’d visited a hundred times as Kindergarten leader for children’s worship where you sang words like “higher, higher, higher, higher, higher, higher, lift Jesus higher,” and hearing a short guy in faded jeans and a plain white t-shirt sing “faith feels just like murder.” Not something you’re likely to walk away from without pause.

But the way Eric delivers the line is what makes the impact last. Here’s a guy who writes melodies both the Beach Boys and James Taylor would envy, with meaningful lyrics to boot, whose demeanor and humility suggest someone sincerely seeking affirmation and encouragement. That’s not to say you feel sorry for him (you can’t help but admire a man brave enough to sing falsetto), it’s just that his presence on stage is a serious one, despite the jokes and jibes he makes. Perhaps it’s seeing the emotion he still shows for a song he must have sung a hundred times, and knowing it’s not contrived, that fills your tank equally with amazement and thankfulness.

I left the concert that night determined to make time to get to know this music, and Eric, a little better. And the months of driving (and reading) time it took have certainly paid off. The content and honesty of songs like “The Maginot Line” and “Dust to Dust” impress me every time I hear them. While the sweetness and light of tunes like “Waterloo” and “You Can Be Yourself” help brighten the darker days of my life. The collection is more multifaceted than five CDs should allow, but for me, the best thing about Eric’s music is his questions.

There’s a familiar saying: to get the right answers, you have to ask the right questions. If the saying is true, then I believe Eric Peters has a head start on the rest of us. My favorite of his songs, “Kansas,” asks weighty ones like these:

How deep is love?
And how long and how wide?

Can there be living,
when we’re all dried up inside?

Of course questions and struggles, though not often found in popular Christian music, are really nothing new. But rare is the seeker who can relate the answers God has given him in a lyric like this:

A picket fence with a gate that freely swings wide
Out here is Kansas where the groom takes his bride

Nice, huh?

Eric and I have exchanged a few e-mails over the last few months, and it seems to me he is as genuine as his music. Of course, the only way you can find out for sure is to invest some time (and maybe even money) in Eric Peters yourself. If you’re a regular Rabbit Roomer, you’ve probably read a pleasant little essay or two by Eric and are no doubt aware of his impressive vocabulary as well as his upcoming album release. For the rest of you out there, Eric’s new record is called Chrome and you can check out the cover art, as well as the rest of his music, at his main website, here. Eric has also detailed, with more than one fancy word, a bit of the recording process for this album on a blog located here. Oh yeah, and for the “already fan”s, be sure and leave some comment love for EP below.


12 Comments

  1. Arthur Alligood

    A couple of years ago Eric came by and sang on a record I was working on. He didn’t really know me from Adam, but he was very gracious and did a great job.

    My friend David did the artwork for his new record. From what I hear it is amazing. Go Eric Peters!! Thank you for making music and being such a nice fella.

  2. whipple

    This was the guy who, when I handed him my own CD at Andrew Peterson’s annual Ryman show, asked me, “Are you playing anywhere in town?”

    How I longed to give my “Aye” with the assurance of a professional, but I was struck nearly dumb that this kind, unassuming poet would ask with intentions of coming to the show. I seem to remember stuttering some floundered response as the inner geek took over, saying that, hopefully, that day would come when I played in Nashville. I walked away feeling like I had carried my failures to Cloud 9 for storage. Nice fella? Indeed, I do concur.

  3. Lori

    I have personally not heard Eric Peters, but I’m going to listen to shim now! Thanks for the advise!

  4. Janna Barber

    We already have the electronic version of Chrome, but of course it’s on John’s laptop, so I haven’t listened much. Checking the mailbox everyday for my real copy. Eric, what happened with the teaching gig?

  5. Alison

    What a thoughtful essay. His ability to tease out the doubts and questions of our faith while clinging firmly to the Light of Christ and the hope of redemption is something I’ve always loved about Eric’s music.

    Having known Eric for probably 8 or 9 years now (having been introduced at an AP concert, I think, by the Proprietor himself), I can vouch for his genuineness. He’s quite the humble guy in spite of his prowess at songwriting. He and his wife also make a mean batch of nachos.

    We can not say enough good things about Mr. Peters around these parts. We got our copy of Chrome in the mail yesterday and have been walking on air ever since. My son has been begging to listen to it all day, and I’m glad to say it is one CD that I will never get tired of hearing repeatedly. Every listen offers new insight into his lyrical craft.

  6. elijah

    Two and a half years ago I took my 10 year old brother to a humble church in a small North Texas town for an evening with Eric based on the recommendation of a few other square pegs I admire. After the show, we stuck around for a minute to thank Mr. Peters for the warm music, and he knelt down to talk to my brother like he was the only person in the room. My brother is 13 now, and he still fondly remembers that evening. I bought the EP collection that night, and it has proven to be a boon to me.

    I can’t wait for Chrome.

  7. Rob

    Though I’m a long-time fan of the Pegs, it’s only been in the last few months that I took a leap of faith and purchased an Eric Peters’ CD. I say “leap of faith”, but what are we talking here – $15? Must be the cheapskate in me, combined with the aprehension I still seem to have after purchasing CD’s haphazardly in years past… only to find out that a given artist wasn’t for me and I was $15 poorer.

    Earlier this summer I happened to run across Eric’s “Land of the Living” CD and finally (thankfully) forked over the dough. One listen and I was hooked… and simultaneously kicking myself for not purchasing his CDs years ago.

    [Sidebar: We have two young ‘uns and have found that playing some tunes during dinner is a good thing. So we pop in “Land of the Living” and in the first words of the first song, Eric sings “Don’t drink the water…” Hilarious. Probably not the reaction Eric was going for on that song, but hilarious nonetheless.]

    Since our landmark purchase, we caught two of Eric’s shows within two months. And there we picked up two subsequent CDs – “Miracle of Forgetting” and “Scarce”. And a classy EP t-shirt. All three of these CDs are excellent. “Scarce” seems to grab me the most. I love those lyrics that Janna wrote above:

    One of these days I’m gonna shed my skin
    Become somebody who I might’ve been

    His songwriting astounds me at times and I end up lost in the words, then replay the song again and again just to figure out what else I missed and end up getting lost in another verse.

    From “Miracle of Forgetting”, I’ve been challenged by these words:

    We are made for blessing and we are made to break
    We are made for second chances that we often fail to take

    On Chrome, I’m being challenged by these words:

    Son, don’t waste your words tuned to a whim
    Cast out your net, slowly drag it back in
    Your catch may be small, and your belly may burn
    But live for the language that speaks few words
    Live for the language of love

    Thank you, Eric, for sharing your gift of crafting meaningful words.

    And for anyone not yet fortunate enough to discover Eric’s music, wait no longer.

  8. Joel Bassett

    Eric Peters is the king of album openers. “I know the Mountains,” “The Ending,” “Radiate,” every one of them sets a perfect tone for both the musical and thematic content of his cds, and they are just plain enjoyable. I also agree with the observation that Eric asks poignant questions that people resonate with – here is one example, from “Tomorrow,” off of Scarce.

    “Is this the feeling of redemption,
    or the shoulders of despair?”

    It is a brave question, not unlike many of the questions the Psalmists brought to God, but questions that it somewhere along the line became silenced in the music world. I am thankful that Eric isn’t afraid to ask the questions that living here brings to people who are willing to engage the difficult road of faith. And through it we see that the answer is not always what you think it is, but it is exactly what we need:

    “It is a long road to nowhere…
    but as long as you’re beside me,
    home is where I’ll be,”

    I learn something real from Eric, because he asks the questions to the only one who can answer them, and allows us through his beautiful music all the benefit.

  9. Ron Davis

    I really enjoyed reading this post and the comments about Eric. Over the past 7 or 8 years, I’ve gotten to know Eric a bit more than the casual listener. He and his family are dear friends (and a wonderfully reliable source for a warm place to sleep when I go to Nashville). (Little known fact: Eric owns the most comfortable couch on the planet.)

    “Chrome” is amazing. My iTunes says I’ve listened through it 37 times, but the real count is much higher because I haven’t sync’d my iPod in a while. The songs are beautifully written and really reflect the Eric that I have come to know.

    To take it to another level, he recruited Ben Shive to produce the record, and Ben’s touch is absolutely fantastic. I can hear bits of production that are distinctly Ben, but he did a great job of making the production match the song.

    To anybody reading this post that doesn’t have Eric’s music, you really should introduce yourself to Eric and his music. You’ll be so glad you did. And you’ll be kicking yourself for not doing it sooner.

  10. Janna

    Yesterday the mailbox held our goodies. At first I was worried there were no lyrics, CD design was a little to clever for me. Thankfully I found them. Been listening a bunch. Love the art, love the words, and of course the sounds. Kudos and S’mores for EP!

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