Peter Himmelman — Coming Home
Peter Himmelman isn’t someone who ever finds himself in a place where he is at a want for things to do. Whether it’s writing, creating art or being a husband and father, the Minnesota native is always busy.
That’s the good news of the last few years. The bad news for fans of the singer-songwriter is that making a new album wasn’t on that “to do” list. And Himmelman wasn’t aware of it at the time, but after 12 solo albums from 1986 to 2014, he had reached a point where he didn’t know if it was still worth it.
“I never noticed it, but I went through a bereavement period about a lot of things, and music was one of them,” he said. “It was a sense of no one caring about what I do, being overlooked, feeling not good enough. And then I went back with a few people, it was a casual thing, and I started listening to some of these records I made over the years and there are hundreds and hundreds of songs. And I started thinking to myself — and this sounds really bad of me to say, but it’s not really bragging — as we get older we think about legacy and how my life was so weirdly congruent with the things I was writing about. And it gives me a lot of pride. So I started recently coming back to the idea that I had something to share.”
The result is There is No Calamity, an album that not only reintroduces Himmelman to the faithful, but has the songs and performances to bring in new listeners, many of whom will likely be in Rockwood Music Hall in NYC tonight when he takes the stage. And though the music business has changed and the idea of a record release isn’t what it used to be, Himmelman is glad that he’s back home.
“Working with really great musicians, writing a song, seeing things come to fruition, maybe sharing the songs with other people, those are good things,” he said. “What does one expect to happen at my stage of the game, I don’t know. The fact that I’ve made manifest another thing in the world is nice. And I think that weighs less than the actual manifestation process, which we’re past now. I’m actually thinking about my next record.”
That’s a good thing for those who waited for his return to the recorded world, but it’s really no surprise from someone who has always followed the muse wherever it took him and ran with it. It’s an important lesson for people today, the idea that everyone can do whatever they choose to do if they have a passion for it and the desire to get off the couch and go after it. It’s something Himmelman learned from his father, David.
“I had a father that was such a serial entrepreneur,” he said. “I saw him fearlessly pursuing so many things. In Minnesota, he brought the first Japanese motorcycles to the Midwest. It was called Midwest Suzuki. He brought cross-country skis to Minnesota. He had the first eight-track cassette music shop in Minneapolis. He would just do stuff. He had an idea and just went for it and it seemed natural to me to have an idea and just do it. And I see as I matured, that’s not been everyone’s experience.”
It’s not, but Himmelman hopes that it won’t be the case in the future, that kids won’t spend their nights watching television or the screen on their phone, but will instead go out and live life.
“I think that one of the issues and one of the challenges is that there are creators and consumers,” he said. “And with a lot of my work, I’m trying to say it’s really interesting and accessible and easy for everybody to be consumers and creators, making things as opposed to sitting in your chair and being entertained. There’s something beautiful about making manifest those ideas that you carry around with you. It could be to take a fishing trip with your pals — it doesn’t have to be huge. There are so many ways to be entertained these days and mollified by these offerings. They call it content.”
And Himmelman is in the midst of it as a creator of various forms of content, including CDs, books and lithographs. But his point is that this isn’t exclusive to him. He doesn’t mourn the changing of the music industry or say, “Well, back in my day…” He’s found a way to be himself and also understand that the world has changed in the last 57 years that he’s been here.
“I miss a lot of things, but I always think about it in this light: Let’s say I was 15 and this was the paradigm I knew. It’s exciting to be able to put your music anywhere you want in the world. You could make a record for basically nothing and send it all around the world with a touch of your finger. Would any kid who is 15 want to circumscribe themselves to what it used to be like?”
No. So how does he adjust? He keeps doing what he’s doing, because all he knows is following his heart and bringing others along for the ride.
“Maybe it’s something I thought of after being married for 30 years, maybe it’s having a bunch of kids, but for me, it’s very joyous for me to find people who say to themselves, ‘Wow, I just discovered that I’m a creative person, too,’” Himmelman said. “I’m not saying you’re a masterful person or that you’re a competitive person or will make money — that’s a whole different issue. But that you are making manifest and perhaps purveying those fruits of your own imagination. I happen to think that we are so hypnotized by dancing screens and images that it’s almost like my little subversive thing is to get people making birdhouses and making great dinners and playing with their kids and doing things in the real world. Or maybe dancing to music or learning how to play guitar or speak French. That would be a nice antidote to what’s happening today.”
Peter Himmelman plays Rockwood Music Hall in NYC tonight, July 26. For tickets, click here