Great Peacock is a Nashville based band with an exciting and original sound rooted deeply in Americana, Southern rock, country, and folk. Recently I spoke with frontman Andrew Nelson about the band, their influences, the power of music in our lives, and about their new album, Forever Worse Better. Our conversation, edited for clarity and length is below.
Americana Highways: When thinking of your band Great Peacock, how would you best describe your music?
Andrew Nelson: I would describe it as rock and roll, sometimes country. Some people are pretentious when it comes to answering a question like that but that’s really where we come from. It’s a healthy dose of what would be considered classic rock but without trying to sound too retro.
AH: Who would you consider to be your biggest musical influences?
AN: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Petty’s solo stuff. I don’t think you can get away from him as far as being my biggest musical influence. I was a kid in the nineties and I felt like he was just as relevant then as he was in the late seventies or eighties. I remember seeing the videos to “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels” and I could really relate to both of those songs. I grew up in a very religious home and I was sheltered from a lot of popular music, but when I heard him and his band, I remember thinking I can hear that they like country music but I can also hear that they like rock and roll. I could hear where they were from and what they were about and there was an honesty to it. So there’s that, and honestly, I also have to say that I personally wouldn’t have started playing music if it wasn’t for Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Allman Brothers. As far as my bandmates, everyone loves The Eagles, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, especially his Freewheelin’ Dylan phase, and of course Neil Young. You know it’s funny I am mentioning all old musicians but we are all also massive fans of bands like The National, War On Drugs, and Phosphorescent. There is so much great modern music that isn’t like the classic rock that we’re into. I feel like we’re influenced by it all. We get a little taste of it all.
AH: What would you say inspires you as a songwriter?
AN: I would say that life inspires me as a songwriter. I’m not a sit-down and write a song kind of person. For me, songwriting is about being at the right place, the right moment, and the right time. I know there are people who can just sit down and write songs, I just know that I am not one of those people. I have to be aware of how I am feeling and what’s going on in my own life. Whatever I am vibing on artistically also plays into it and that could be certain sounds, a movie that I am into, or even the way the trees look on a certain day. All of these things tend to influence me. I also make sure that I pick up my guitar and do something musical every day. I don’t consider what I do to be songwriting or craft. I consider it more to be like song discovery. It’s like that song is out there with that melody and with that BPM and with those chord changes and arrangements and it already exists and it’s up to me to kind of be in attune with myself and the world around me to find it. I also actually do a lot of songwriting when I drive long distances. I have this theory that your senses are heightened more when you drive long distances. A lot of times when I’m driving like that I can just start singing a melody in my head and lyrics will come to me. When I write a song I can already hear how it sounds in my head, and the work comes from getting it out of my head.
AH: What are some of the challenges and possibly some of the benefits of self-producing and being self-funded like you were on our new album Forever Worse Better?
AN: Well, being self-produced means it’s cheaper because you don’t have to pay a producer. Also, if you have a vision for the sound of the album that you are making it’s easier to work towards that because you are only answering to yourself. As far as covering the costs of recording by self-funding, it was just out of necessity. We all have day jobs because we simply have to have them because we don’t have a record deal with any label. The thought is if we can squeak by on our day jobs and not pay ourselves for a few years, it will pay off in the end. You just kind of get used to not paying yourselves. But I also think that when you make records like that, you end up putting a lot more of yourself into the records than you would otherwise. It’s like you care more about it because it’s your money that is paying for it.
AH: What would you say are some of the overall themes of the songs on the new album Forever Worse Better?
AN: I think they reflect where we are as a band right now and they also definitely reflect me personally. I think the biggest theme with all of them is ambition and about fighting and never giving up when you are going through tough times. While I was writing the songs for the album, I was going through an on and off relationship at the time with a significant other and it was weighing very heavily on me. Coupled with that there was this vague feeling about this being our third record as a band and that we had hit a wall in the sense that this was all there was ever going to be. So, I was going through some pretty dark emotional places while writing the album because I was just a pretty unhappy person.
But, it’s funny that at the same time I am feeling this, I’m trying to write the songs that will pull me out of it in my head. It’s like everything else in life when you’re a musician. You can never discount the value of wanting to be happy as a motivating factor.
I also think that this sense of ambition with the songs is also linked with a sense of my own mortality because I am in my thirties and my dad died in his forties. I have seen a lot of death around me in my personal sphere over the last few years as well as seeing all the deaths of a lot of musical figures, so as I am approaching forty you couple your ambition with your idea of success and you find yourself trying to get as much out of life as you can. I think at the end of the album the songs are more like whatever happens is going to happen. They are saying that I’m still going to try to do my best and I am still shooting for marrying the right person and the band doing well and taking off, but if it doesn’t happen, it just doesn’t happen. I’m going to beat all of the feelings of not having enough either way because whether I get what I want or not I’m going to learn how to be happy.
AH: How would you best describe the power of music in our lives?
AN: I think it’s different for everybody. For me, it’s about finding a place in the world.
AH: To qualify the last question a bit, can you think of a specific moment or moments when music helped you rise above your circumstances?
AN: Oh, yes it happens all the time. Usually, when a song hits me I find myself dropping some tears when I am alone. A great song has the ability to encompass everything that we are feeling, not necessarily being just happy or sad, but everything that we are feeling. It just stops you in your tracks and reminds you that you’re alive and that one day you won’t be alive or that today you may be healthy but maybe one day you won’t be so healthy.
AH: What would you like the listeners to your latest album to feel after listening to it?
AN: Everything. That’s the goal. As far as on an intellectual level, I would like for them to be thoughtfully entertained. I think that is one of the goals of the band. We are entertainers and we don’t ever want to get away from that. Our music can make you move or sing along but it also has the potential to make you think as well.
AH: What are some of the future goals for Great Peacock?
AN: To become the favorite band to a lot of people that don’t know about us right now. To just keep getting better at creating our music. Play more places, see more things, sell more albums, sell more tickets to our shows, make more friends. Keep working to create something that people are going to enjoy even after we are dead and gone.
Forever Worse Better, the new album from Great Peacock is now available on their website .