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Peter Kleinhans - Something's Not Right | Album Review

 Peter Kleinhans is a New York based singer-songwriter who started his music career a little later on. He had a career horse racer but was forced to give up his career at the age of 47. In a search for new meaning, Peter took an introductory song writing course. Over the last five years, he wrote the lyrics and music to his debut album 'Something's Not Right'.

I do like this album - it might not be an album I would put on repeat but I do like Peter's artistic take to music. Through out the album, it seems like Peter has experimented with several genres which is what I like to see small artists doing. I am not sure if it just me but I can hear mainly country-folk infused melodies underneath the other lively rock-folk instrumental.

A mixture of vocals (both male and female when the chorus arrives in some songs) and a mixture of different acoustic instruments really put a good feel to the album. When listening to the album, I certainly don't feel like it is debut album - it feels and sounds more advanced than normal debut albums that are released.

I don't have a favourite song from the album; I think they are all as good as one another. I am looking forward to hearing some future music from Peter as this is only the start - as an artist will progress each time and I am excited to see it.

Keep up the good work Peter!

I got the chance to do a little Q&A session with Peter Kleinhans about his debut album 'Something's Not Right'.

What was the inspiration behind your album ‘Something’s Not Right’?

Originally, I don’t know if I had any specific inspiration into writing this album- I hadn’t set out to write an album at all.  This was really my first foray into music, and I would have been happy to come up with one or two songs I was happy with.  But Something’s Not Right turned into its own thing- an ode to different characters with a special empathy for those struggling or feeling stuck in place.

I began with a song called Travelling Blind, which didn’t even make the final cut of the final album.  It was about an every man, braving the Minnesota winters, with a son still living at home at 29, a wife with what could possibly be the beginnings of dementia.  None of their problems are exceptional these days, and yet I found that they’ve rarely been the stuff of songs.  Having lived in the Midwest for many years, I wanted to tap into a certain kind of dissatisfaction that I’d sensed- the feeling that something was just off.  I wrote that song in 2013, but I still think that this feeling of “off”ness is with us- and is behind so much of the divisiveness in American society today.  Everyone knows something is wrong, but can’t agree on what it is, exactly, and who is to blame.  In my next album, I explore some of this phenomenon, but here I only wanted to capture that initial feeling of uneasiness.  The title song, Something’s Not Right, now remains the standard-bearer for that feeling.  The song begins with the banality of Applebee’s and Lowe’s- it could be anywhere in America and would look exactly the same.  That’s part of the sense of quiet tragedy I’m trying to communicate.

Slowly, the album began to take on a shape, and it became an interesting challenge to try to balance it out, so that it combined empathy with fun, thoughtfulness with whimsy.  I wrote a song about an ageing man- in either a nursing home or hospital- and his daily struggle just to deal with that day.  I added one about a single mother, one about an itinerant worker who has just gone through a breakup and is at loose ends.  The characters are still what this album is all about- a tribute to people who aren’t given enough attention.  I also put a lot of energy into the photography that goes with each song, and with the cover and packaging, because I wanted the album to feel like something substantial, not just a collection of songs.

How long did it take to write and record the album?

From the point I decided I was going to work on a completed album to its completion was about three years, from late 2013 to late 2016.  Again, since I hadn’t contemplated the idea of a completed album, it progressed slowly.  But once I teamed up with Tony Conniff to produce the album, we really hit a stride, and it was exhilarating.  I’d write the parts at home on Garage Band (I’ve since switched to Logic), and then we’d get musicians to replace most of my parts- because while I’m decent on piano and mediocre on guitar, this team we’ve put together is so much better.  I love being in the writer’s chair, watching and listening to the whole thing come together.  It’s thrilling to write a musically-complex part that I might not be able to play perfectly, then listen to someone like Larry Saltzman, an incredibly-talented session guitarist, take that part and bring it to life.  It’s become a more streamlined process, and I’m almost done with the second one.  We’re also playing gigs every three months at The Bitter End, and we’re developing a little bit of a following because we really are committed to giving the audience an hour- and no more- of enjoyable and thoughtful music.

How would you describe your music to people who haven’t heard it before?

I find it tough to describe my music to others, because I don’t really know exactly where it falls.  It’s definitely closer to classic rock or folk rock than anything else, I think, but I’m always trying to bring in new influences.  My new song, 91st Street, for example, is a tribute to subway graffiti and its hip-hop roots, but it would never be confused for hip-hop itself.  One thing I can say is that none of the songs are “throwaways”.  I don’t know if they all succeed in “saying something that has to be said”, but that’s the hope.  I’m also pivoting a little bit more towards humour in the second album because I’ve realised that a little whimsy goes a long way in connecting with a crowd.

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?

I hope the next five years will be extremely prolific.  At age 53, I’m acutely aware of the need to create efficiently and quickly, or else face the fact that I might end up with nothing but two or three albums.  I’m not interested in being any kind of “star”, but I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe I’m capable of creating something that will add to others’ experience of the world.  If I were thirty years younger, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel the same urgency, and I intend to use that feeling to my advantage.  If I can get this current album finished, do two more, and plenty of regular gigs, I’d say that would be a great next five years.

What have you got planned next? Any new music?

Yes.  I’m about nine-elevenths of the way through my second album.  I’ve changed gears a little; this next album will be a little more lighthearted and hopefully a little less wordy than my first.  My undergraduate degree was in creative writing with a focus on poetry, and I think that comes through pretty clearly in the first album.  But I’ve realised that the change of even one of two words can make enormous differences in a song, and so I’ve become much more forgiving of my first drafts of a song.  I don’t have to have every line just right at first; there’s no shame in revision.  Musically, I’ve found certain concepts that I’m really enjoying playing around with, such as randomly-alternating major and minor chords that add to a sense of surprise.  Not being a music “lifer”, I think I have the advantage that sometimes comes with being an outsider- I may discover something musical that hasn’t been thought of completely before.  That’s exciting to me!

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