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Saturday, April 19, 2014

‘Independence Day’ songwriter Gretchen Peters to perform at Ulrich

By Alice Mannette
Eagle correspondent

Gretchen Peters loves to write songs as much as she loves to sing them. But most of all, this singer-songwriter and Grammy Award nominee is moved by touching others. Peters will perform at the Ulrich Museum of Art’s Art for Your Ears concert series July 12.

Many songs in her concert will come from her recently released album “Hello Cruel World.” Peters, who accompanies herself on the guitar and mandolin, began the folk circuit in Colorado as a teenager. She eventually moved to Nashville, where her songs were recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, Neil Diamond, Etta James and George Strait.

Her Country Music Association song of the year, “Independence Day,” recorded by Kansas native Martina McBride, demonstrated the horror of abuse. Through these lyrics, Peters opened up conversation, education and compassion.

“I had basically invented this situation (in the song), and then people came up to me and told me it was the truth,” Peters said. “It was really humbling.”

Peters has taken the realism of “Independence Day” and made her seventh album a search for truth.

“I really wanted to be honest to the point of my own uncomfortableness,” Peters said. “If I feel slightly inhibited, then I know it’s really true — that’s when you really go to the good stuff.”

Inspiration for “Hello Cruel World” came out of Peters’ tragic and uplifting times in 2010 — a year of turbulence. Inspired by the floods near her home in Nashville, the oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico — where she writes her songs — the suicide of a friend, her marriage to her longtime piano accompanist and partner Barry Walsh, and her 26-year-old son revealing he was transgender.

Peters said that with this album, she examines how the world throws obstacles at you, both good and bad, and how you respond.

“I was interested in writing about the internal emotional workings that go on when you have a year like that,” Peters said.

Because of her heavy touring and recording schedule, Peters has become a “binge” songwriter. By carving out large blocks of time to write and then going cold turkey, Peters said she could go deeper.

“I like to go in all the way down the rabbit hole,” she said. Her physical rabbit hole is in Florida. But Peters, who was raised in both New York and Colorado, considers Nashville home.

The staff at the Ulrich museum believed that Peters would be a special part of the Art for Your Ears series.

“People love live music, and they love hearing singer-songwriters, so we thought it would be a great opportunity to bring art for their ears and not just for their eyes,” said Teresa Veazey, public relations manager at the Ulrich.

Peters said she is excited to bring her music to Wichita once again.

“Music is really powerful,” Peters said. “It goes straight to your insides. It’s got a direct link to your gut and feelings.”

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