Spotlight of the Week: Jody Peterson

Jody Peterson is a deeply thoughtful songwriter based in Oshkosh Wisconsin. I got to meet and discuss his perspective on the industry and his musicianship.

Me: How did you hear or learn about Wisconsin Music Ventures?

Jody: I think I saw it on Instagram. I think there was a post, a suggested algorithm feed thing that showed up. I’ve been a songwriter for 7-8 years now and I’ve been focused more on what I would say is the Nashville scene as opposed to looking at strictly Wisconsin artists or other Wisconsin based songwriters. What I wanted to do was try to connect with local artists, local songwriters. I thought I would join the group and see how it would work.

Me: My next question for you is how would you describe your style of music?

Jody: I don’t like to prescribe myself to a style at all because I think you can produce any set of lyrics into any style of music. I don’t like to put myself in a box at all. Other than a lot of times I compose with the guitar, so a lot of my songs start as guitar/vocals. So it’ll be guitar based, but that doesn’t mean I can’t move it to the keyboard or some other main instrument.

I like to write songs that I call “heartfelt truth” songs – songs that inspire within the listeners, some recognition of a universal truth or a feeling. I do not like “chasing the radio” or try to be formulaic say, “oh, this is popular, I’ll write a song like that”. I focus on the emotional intent and the sought after response – what I’m feeling or whatever the co-writer is feeling – and try to flush that out. Because I believe we all feel the same emotions even though our experiences are unique. If you can get that emotion coming through the song, what you’re trying to communicate, then it should connect with the listener.

Me: Do you feel like you play a variety of different instruments?

Jody: Guitar is the main instrument I play, but I can play pretty much everything except drums. I can’t disconnect my hands from my feet.  I can play bass and piano. I can pick up most stuff, whatever instrument it is and create something. That’s one of my natural abilities. That’s kind of where it all began. Any time I pick up a guitar I just play something different and new, as opposed to the same three chords. And for five years straight, I posted what I called “Riff-A-Day on YouTube.” For five years I posted a video of whatever I created that day. And I wouldn’t think about it or anything. I’d just pick up the guitar and whatever happened, happened.  I would just follow wherever the idea leads to me if that makes sense. 

Me: If you could pick one specific main theme that you want to give as an artist, what would be your main message?

Jody: Yeah, that’s so hard because we, as humans, we don’t just feel a single emotion, right? As humans, we feel lots of emotions. So whatever that emotion is, that’s what I try to capture in the songs. I write probably, on average, 20 songs a month.

For example, the song I wrote this morning was about the realization when someone comes to you, when they realize they’ve lied to you or cheated on or something to that effect. So then what I try to do is focus on what that emotion is and have the melody and the harmony, the guitar part to have that emotion in it… And then I try to think about the lyric as it’s written, but then also the phrasing and how you deliver that against the harmony that you’re playing. It all sounds a bit abstract without having a guitar and showing you directly. But that’s what I like to focus on, is trying to create that impact, where everything just seems to go together and you’re left with something memorable or something that you can sing immediately. And you can feel that emotion that I’m trying to communicate.

Me: What kinds of things are you involved in around Wisconsin? Are you doing any gigs, working with other artists, collaborating, or releasing?

Jody: In Wisconsin, I am trying to create or get into a network of artists that I want to connect with who want to write and create – and I’ve just started this year with this group. I think it takes a while to get to know people and what they do and what their goals are. So I have co-written with one artist, earlier in the year. But now it seems like this group of folks who are mostly focused on playing out are in their playing out season, and they are not their writing season. I myself, I do not perform, I’m not a performing artist. I’m a writer and so I write every single day. I’ll focus on production work and just attend song workshops with the Nashville group this week and next week where you just get together and share songs and then talk about songwriting.

And it kind of gives you that way, you’re trying to grow organically like a songwriting group. But it takes time unless you can find people who are really, really excited about it and want to do it. And a lot of that activity happens online. But it would be nice to have some in person activities because it’s a lot easier to pick up on the energy of the people and just each other, right? So it’s hard to figure that out.

Me: Outside of music, what do you find that you do that inspires you every day?

Jody: My real job is as an engineer and I work at Mercury. Most of the time that is just problem solving and more so than just the problem itself. It’s the method to solve the problem. I’ve gotten more interested in the human side of how work actually gets done. Just to try to learn more, so that I can apply what I learn to songwriting. So much human behavior is dictated by emotion. What people say and how they act, you can try to understand what they’re actually feeling and get to the root of either why they’re excited about something or not excited about something. Which I find interesting and that if it is a problem, you try to work around the problem and if it’s like excitement, you just try to enhance the excitement so they still want to do what they’re doing. 

Me: What’s your current favorite song? 

Jody: I really like the new Foo Fighters record. If I have to pick just one thing, I would pick that. And I can never pick just one song, I like to pick records, just because of like the content, like in the old days, I would just sit down and play it through like a whole record and I just think that the Foo’s record has been able to channel the emotions that they’re feeling and make songs that connect to other people who have felt the same things. So I really like it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.