Each Wednesday night, GCA holds the Wednesday Tunes Series– a free concert series that features the works of a local musician or band. Musicians of all ages, genres, and decibels perform, but only one artist is featured each week; this provides a rare ability to engage personally with each artist’s work in a large venue space, which is what makes this series so special. However, on September 22nd, local favorites from the Wednesday Series will showcase their work together at a single show. We interviewed three of these artists– Peter Lehndorff, The Moon Chasers, and Date Night– to learn more about what drives them and their music.
Jennie: Where do you draw inspiration for your music? How do these inspirations manifest?
Peter: I am returning to performing after a twenty years away. In my past career my specialty was humorous slice of life songs in the vein of John Prine and Randy Newman. I would hear or see something and create a story about it. Now i still write about everyday life but many of the songs have serious topics. Part of aging, I guess.
The Moon Chasers: We often use our own experiences, feelings, and daydreams to generate a creative concept for a song. It always depends on the day, the week, the month, etc. Life is always handing out wild cards, so we feel a great sense of inspiration to write about these things we are going through– both good or bad. This lets people relate in a real & raw way.
Naomi of Date Night: I would say that our music is often inspired by those feelings that hit you in a moment, that can't be described with only words. When we write music, we usually have a feeling, mood, or image in mind that we are trying to tease out with lyrics and melody... in hopes of transporting the listener to a feeling or a moment, or to paint a picture in their mind.
Jennie: What is your creative process?
Peter: I try to be a sponge for things I see and phrases I hear. Sometimes I will hear an inspirational quote or see a meme on Facebook and try to turn it inside out. In the past the words came first but lately I find different sounds on the guitar that get me started. One song, “Marriage of Convenience,” was based on a young couple I saw in our local Cumberland Farms. While this young kid was working his girlfriend was in the store keeping him company. She was always dressed up as if it was a date, so I expanded on their lives and gave them a story.
Gabbi of The Moon Chasers: It's not often that a song is written in a perfectly planned jam sesh. It has happened before, but a lot of the time we bring our different styles together after one of us has written a song randomly in the car or super late at night
when the lyrics were flowing. Jake is naturally connected to a mellow, singer-songwriter vibe, whereas I (Gabbi) am inspired to write dream-pop melodies and love to perfect an upbeat chorus. Depending on who brings the roots of the song forward, we then go from there and add a contrast of the opposite style. Our voices are also quite contrasting which makes writing harmonies so fun.
Date Night: In the last couple of years our writing process has been a lot of David coming up with a song idea, starting to write the music and some lyrics... then Naomi catches onto the idea and wrestles with the lyrics and melody until it seems right. Occasionally Naomi comes up with an idea and is ready to lay out a whole song in twenty minutes and frantically gathers the band to put music to it.
Jennie: What has influenced your music most?
Peter: I grew up in a musical household. My father escaped Austria at the start of World War 2 with a few belongings some books and his old cello. Although he was never a great cellist, he was always practicing and getting us to practice whatever instrument we chose. When my older sister went to college in the early 60s she was immersed in the Boston and Cambridge film scene. She taught me my first chords and introduced me to the music of Tom Rush and Tom Paxton. I developed a lot of the guitar technique I use today from listening to Tom Rush and trying to figure it out. And Tom Paxton influenced my funny songwriting. I also watched a lot of comedies, stand-up and even cartoons.
The Moon Chasers: Definitely our story. How we met. How we became who we are, both individually and as a couple. Our collective journey continues to unfold and shapes our music everyday.
Date Night: The two of us came from somewhat different music-loving backgrounds, for David mostly pop and rock/classic rock, for Naomi a lot of influence in R&B with hints of country, folk, jazz, and pop. As a singer, through CD's, I (Naomi) would say I've studied the most intensively under Stevie Wonder, India Arie, Corinne Bailey Rae, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, and Lianne La Havas... but even better, most of my girl friends from school have some of the most beautiful voices you've ever heard, so I have some really special influences that almost nobody else has.
Jennie: Do you have any projects being released soon? How do these new projects diverge from your current work?
Peter: I am hoping to assemble a new CD or EP this year with some of the songs I wrote while I was taking care of my wife. Since my last CD “Love on the Line” was released on Signature Sounds 20 years ago my life has changed. This will be a mixture of very sad songs and a few funny ones. Also in November I have a concert with a jazz band in Easthampton, so that will be something different for me.
The Moon Chasers: We are doing a live session in Brooklyn this fall. There will be an exclusive release for the tunes. More info to come :)
Jennie: Are you involved with other community-based arts and music organizations? Which are your favorite?
The Moon Chasers: We try to make our rounds locally. We have played in our hometown (Westfield) in small festivals and Art Walks. The community is great to be a part of. We mostly bounce around to local venues and try to bring our music to most towns in the area-- places like Northampton, Greenfield, Springfield, West Springfield, the occasional venture into NYC, etc. We are specifically excited to play & work with you guys at GCA. We saw a show in the Spring and totally loved the vibe & feeling of a tight community of people who truly care. So far working with you guys has been a favorite experience for sure.
Peter: I am also a graphic designer so I do a lot of graphics for different organizations. My wife Kathy and I had art studios in the building next to Gateway City at 80 Race Street and across the canal in David Scher’s building. So we were involved in different events there. I also designed many of the posters for “Celebrate Holyoke” when it was run by Greater Holyoke. I also raise money through my music for Huntington’s Disease. I am hoping to put on a benefit folk concert to help the clinic that my wife went to. I am also involved with The Western Mass. Songwriters Collaborative trying to promote Western MA songwriting talent and I will be attending the North East Regional Folk Alliance conference in November where 700 songwriters try to get gigs.
More information about the September 22nd Wednesday Series Showcase can be found here.
Tickets are available by clicking here.
In the meantime, please join us at our Upcoming Wednesday Series events, beginning with the Moon Chasers on September 5th! Additional performers and dates can be found here.