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Peter Rowan Upclose

August 24, 2010

Peter Rowan

Peter Rowan: Up Close


1.   Do you come from a musical family?
Yes, both my mother and father played piano and sang and my great uncle played guitar and keyboard. Uncle Jimmy came back from New Caledonia in the South Pacific and showed up at the house with hula skirts and coconut bras. He played the ukulele – that was the beginning.

2. What’s on your iPod?
We just did a road trip listening to lots of old calypso music from the Caribbean from the 30’s and 40’s, and personally, I’ve been listening the last year to Mozart choral music because it’s so healing.

3. What are 5 CDs you’d want with you on a desert island?
I’d take a collection of Chuck Berry, Bill Monroe, Indian vocal music, Chopin, Mozart, and the Stanley Brothers.

4. What would you be doing if you weren’t in playing music?
It changes from year to year, but I do miss gardening and trying to raise food. But, probably, writing in long form and I would love to be a great painter. It’s so enjoyable to work with colors and shape. Something in the arts…

5. Musical hero you’d most like to meet?

I’ve met a lot of musical heroes. Keith Richards (Rolling Stones) would be one. I’m not sure what we’d have to say to one another, but I love his guitar playing.

6. Favorite venue as a performer?
Too many to list! Audiences in Oregon, Japan and Ireland are great. Playing outdoors in Italy is a one of a kind experience! People are very responsive and they want to have a great time. In Japan, they are very respectful and listen to every note. In Ireland, music is such a tradition. Johnny Keenan Banjo Festival was a real high point a few years ago. Bluegrass can reach to folks where they have similar roots in their music.

7. Favorite concert/performance as an audience member?

I’m a career Bob Dylan concertgoer. A few friends of mine play in the band, and I do love to hear how someone at the top of our music world is still going after it. Charlie Sexton and Tony Garnier are in the band. With bandmates who have played together so long, it’s epic.

One bluegrass show experience stands out. There’s never been a moment like the first festival at Fincastle with Bill Monroe, Carter Stanley, Don Reno, and Benny Martin sang quartets. I’ve never had goosebumps like that. That’s a different part of it. It’s a lifetime experience. That’s what did it for me. The goosebump factor in bluegrass can be there.

8. What sound do you love?

I like the sound of my old D-18 guitar that I inherited from Charles Sawtelle. 

9. What sound do you hate?
The stewardess on the airplane saying that the flight will be late and that a crew is coming to examine the problem. Also when there’s an announcement that we’re re-routing through Chicago.

10. Favorite movie(s)?
Anything that Michael Caine has been in. I just saw Farewell, a French & Russian movie about the Cold War. I like all Bogart classics when he really hit it as a star. Particularly, I enjoy older narratives. When I was a kid, my favorite movie was Treasure Island.

11. Last good book you read? 
Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom

12. Favorite clothing store?
I have one, but I haven’t found it yet and am still looking. What’s fun is going to a tailor in Paris while on tour and having some clothes made and be able to pick them up in a week and wear them.

13. Favorite comfort food?
Spaghetti alla puttanesca

14. Role Model?
Dalai lama. He inspires me

15. What trait do you most value in your friends?


16. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness – musically – is when the magical notes happen and the ancient tones appear. It’s timeless.

17. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? 
“You know”

18. What is your most treasured possession?
Trust in my D-18.

19. Which talent would you most like to have?
The talent to figure out what talent I’d most like to have.

20. What is your Motto?
“Plow it all the way to the fence.”


Pick up Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band’s Legacy now available for pre-order.