After submitting his first original recording to an international songwriting competition on a whim, Peter Graham was shocked and delighted to learn last week that he had beat 2,000 contestants to win the Grand Prize in the 2016 Spring Song Contest organized by online radio station Radio Airplay. The accompanying video was shot on a Millbrook farm featuring current residents and friends of the musician. The following is excerpts of his interview with Radio Airplay.
Radio Airplay (RA): Introducing the latest Center Stage artist, Peter Graham – A talented singer-songwriter from the small town of Millbrook, Ontario, Canada. His winning song, “For The Fall” features a refreshingly raw and calm vocal performance, soothing melodies, prolific harmonies and accompaniment, and a very honest and personal glimpse into the artist’s life.
RA: What was the inspiration behind writing and recording the winning Spring Contest song “For The Fall”?
Peter : The inspiration behind this song came from an honest conversation I had with my father about an ex-girlfriend. The lines “I learned of what it was in the moments I was more than I thought I could be and you were the only one I wanted to tell” came out of a time when a business I was working at was poached. I ended up staying on with one other employee after everyone had resigned and we decided we would try to keep the business going. After this had all come to be my dad asked me if I ever missed my ex-girlfriend and I told him that she was the only person I wanted to tell what had happened. I took that line and put it in the context of two long-time friends who had started dating.
The recording side of things was all the doing of a great friend of mine, Josh Brynaert. He told me my music was something to take seriously and showed me how to go about doing that. It’s been snowballing for me ever since.
RA: The song features some great vocals by Brittany Clarke. How did you two meet and do you collaborate often? Do you perform together live?
I actually met Brittany hanging around after an open mic. She came on as a feature act that night and she played some really beautiful songs. ..We’ve been collaborating more and more these days and we’re looking to put some shows together for the end of April and early May.
RA: Describe your sound in one ramble-on sentence.
I like simple acoustic guitar with concise lyrics that are honest, particularly ones that warm your heart or punch you in the gut, and vocals that keep you committed and interested in the story.
RA: What’s your earliest music-related memory growing up?
My aunt Rosie worked at a record store and every time she came by to visit she’d bring a box of CDs that my brothers and I would tear through. It was a mix of everything and I remember all of us sitting around making mix tapes of whatever we thought was cool.
RA: Briefly describe your song writing process.
I’m still figuring out my process. I’ve had some success finding a progression or a riff I like and then making up lines off of the top of my head. Afterwards I try to make a story out of what I have and I use those words as placeholders and start working away at them. I try to write down things on my phone as they come about during the day and I come back to that when I hit a roadblock.
RA: If you were to cover another artist’s album, which would you pick and why?
Jason Isbell’s Southeastern has everything I want in an album. He’s got a great sound, a lot of very unique stories, and really great lyrics. That album also showed me just how honest you could be in song-writing, particularly on things you’re not proud of.
RA: What was the highlight of 2015, either for you personally or for the band? What was the low point?
September 2015 was when I began putting my first EP together and reaching out to the people that are helping me make music today. Nathan Gray was introduced to me through my cousin and we met and recorded For the Fall on the same day. He really changed that song for me and makes anything he plays on better with that pedal steel. All in all, 2015 was a great year for me so the low side of things seems trivial looking back.
RA: What is 2016 looking like for you?
I am hoping to have my first EP done for October this year. I will also be putting up the second song from that EP on Radio Airplay in the next week or two. I’m really excited about this one. It’s the first song that I’ve written that when I play it for people sometimes they ask me “Whose song is that?” I think that’s a great sign.
RA: Any embarrassing on stage moments you’d like to share? C’mon, don’t be shy.
I am mostly embarrassing on stage so there’s not a moment that stands out. I’ve got pretty bad stage fright but I’m working on it.
RA: What do you enjoy doing outside of music? Does your hobby rejuvenate their creativity?
I like spending time with my family and friends mostly. I recently became an uncle for the first time and so I’ve got that cute McNugget around now. I’m also a big Toronto Maple Leafs fan and I live with the pitfalls that come with that.
To see the music video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HS4g35ForAg.