Who Is Curtis Peoples?
It's 1977... And there I was carrying my guitar and pushing a P.A. system into the "Papa's Pizza and Pasta" just off Highway 98 in Daphne, Alabama.
I was auditioning for a job playing and singing in the NUMBER ONE Pizza place in Daphne, Alabama. It didn't matter that it was the only pizza place in Daphne, Alabama – musicians have no need for the fine details. I had been asked to come in and play for a mid-week crowd and if the audience liked me, I was going to be hired.
Certain memories stick out--- Pushing a PA system across a bleached-oyster shell parking lot is an exercise in futility. When you have long hair and a "Grateful Dead" Blues-for-Allah t-shirt, you aren't exactly part of the good ol' boy network and you won't elicit much sympathy. The only air thicker than a summer night in Daphne, Alabama is the chemically enriched environment at a Reggae Festival in the San Diego Sports Arena.
Of course, no one knew why I was lugging in the sound system because the person I was auditioning for didn't tell anyone. He didn't even bother to show up. So, I'm not sure if it was at that moment or during the fourth request for FREEBIRD that I concluded with extreme prejudice that being a musician wasn't a glamorous life.
I was 19 years old, and I was having an epiphany.
This is the life of a musician: lugging gear, auditioning for people who aren't really going to show up to hear you, playing for live audiences who don't really appreciate your technique or give a rat's ass about your dedication.
But it doesn't matter really anyway because when you love playing - YOU never notice the negatives.
All this brings me to Curtis Peoples.
KPRI had just finished a FREE Concert last year at Borders Books in Mission Valley when Eve Selis walked up to me with a lanky mop-haired kid with a deep voice clutching a CD in his hand. Most of the time I would have turned and run but Eve is one of the most talented people I know. She introduced me to Curtis Peoples. Curtis had burned some tracks from a band project he was working with at the time - a project called Three Simple Words. He asked me to listen to it. And I said I would.
If I say I'll do something, I will. The real question is when. I receive hundreds of requests to listen to music. Over the years, I've come to realize that most people who ask my opinion don't really want my opinion; they want my approval. In addition, I listen to so much music that I'm a bit jaded. It's not that I'm close-minded; it's more as if you need a password to get in sometimes. And so, I took the raw "Three Simple Words" CD and gave it a listen. It was a poorly mixed demo. After about three weeks and a few calls from Curtis (I kept telling him that I hadn't listened to it,) I finally called him back.
"Curtis... This is Madison. I've been listening to your demo and here's my advice. Next time you give me something, remember you are competing with U2 and Lenny Kravitz, and The Who."
And you know something? Curtis listened. The finished EP (extended play) from "Three Simple Words" was actually rather good. Nothing "jumped" off the album, no "ground-breaking" songs or "earth-shaking" lyrics, but it was a solid effort in the right direction by a 20-year old and his band. The best part of it all is that Curtis wanted to hear feedback.
So about two months ago, Curtis sent me his new album "To the Floor". And it's impressive.
He's found his voice, tuned his writing skills, and tapped his natural sensibility for crafting a tune. A particular favorite of mine is “Hope It Seems” (you can hear it by clicking that link.)
Right now, as you read this, Curtis Peoples of San Diego is probably driving some lonely eight-hour long stretch of highway with his guitar so he can get a quick nap for a few hours before he plays a gig and gets back on the road for another eight-hour long stretch of highway. He's doing what he loves and, I hope, not getting too many requests for FREEBIRD. If you see him, tell him "GOOD JOB"... and then when the night is over, buy his record.