PART ONE – JIM PETERIK
GOLDMINE: Congratulations on your new Frontiers double vinyl album Tigress - Women Who Rock the World. Wow! It is everything and more that you told me about previously. This is one of my favorite albums of the year. This is great.
JIM PETERIK: I am so glad you are liking it. That makes my day. Thank you.
GM: You have a variety of female singers, yet you achieve consistency. You can’t beat that! It blends nicely and everybody does a wonderful job.
JP: Wow! I am so blown away with your great reaction to Tigress. You mentioned consistency and that is the challenge with any record, especially when you have sixteen tracks and so many different singers and styles. When I started making this album, I realized that I had never written specifically for females. It had a couple of false starts. I remember I was working with Jennifer Batten and I wanted her opinion on a couple of songs. She said, “A girl is not going to want to sing that.” I realized that there is a different macho mentality when you are writing for a guy sometimes and a girl may not want to go there. I learned that there is a certain kind of sentiment that I have to respect even though these singers are all tough gals and very much in command. So, I wrote it a bit different than I would for my other groups Pride of Lions, The Ides of March, and back in the day with Survivor. It was a very interesting social experiment for me.
GM: If we can, for a moment, go back to Survivor, and writing from a guy’s point of view. “Take You on a Saturday” is definitely from a guy’s point of view. He has just met a girl and wants to be with her the whole weekend.
JP: Yes, “Loving you ‘til Monday morning,” ha ha. That wouldn’t fly on Tigress and maybe not with a guy singing it now in today’s climate. When Frankie Sullivan and I wrote it forty years ago it was a perfect sentiment, as it was what the guys were talking about and no one raised an eyebrow and the girls loved it too and could dance to it.
Flip side: Take You on a Saturday
A side: Eye of the Tiger
Billboard Top 100 debut: June 5, 1982
Peak position: No. 1 for six weeks
Scotti Brothers ZS5 02912
GM: Now let’s highlight some of the female singers on the new album. Let’s start with Kate French who opens the album with the title song “Tigress,” which continues with the “Eye of the Tiger” theme.
JP: I have different people who recommended different girls. I wanted to find the greatest female singers who I could access for this project. Jennifer Batten was really helpful in turning me on to some singers and so did our mutual friend Joel Hoekstra from Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Whitesnake.
GM: Here is what Joel said about you, “Jim is a gem! He’s talented and a great guy to boot. He gave me my start in many ways. I’m so blessed to have crossed paths with him.”
JP: That is so nice of him. I go a little further and say I discovered Joel Hoekstra. I was at a musical instrument show in L.A. and he was demonstrating a certain guitar pedal for a music store, and he was shredding on that guitar and was a real nice guy. He was probably nineteen or twenty at the time. I was so impressed. I took his card and number and told him that we would be seeing a lot of each other in the next thirty years, and I was right. In 1999, I did my first World Stage concert, where we showcase different musicians, and that was Joel’s first time on stage with me. From then on, every year until he got too busy to fly to Chicago to do a World Stage show, he was my guy. I may have given him his start, but he has brought my bands up to new levels.
GM: Donna, Brianna and I love watching him perform with his big smile.
JP: Yes, his big smile and that mop of hair that he tosses around, like the rock star that he is. We co-wrote two songs on this album. It was fun writing with him long distance. I would have rather been in the same room, but in this day and age we had to adjust. I was lucky enough to be in the same recording room with the local Chicago gals, Cathy Richardson, Leslie Hunt, Lindsay Kent and Kimi Hayes, but with everyone else, we were sending files and it worked. Sometimes I would have to do a little kibbitzing, saying, “I think you could do that again and a little tougher,” but I am not used to being that guy in another town without that local control. I am very pleased with how all the vocals came out.
GM: Kate French is joined by Joel on the bluesy “Strong Against the Wind.” Kate delivers some Bonnie Tyler-like power.
JP: She does, and I knew Joel had to be on that song with his soul. You can just hear him on that particular track.
GM: Another person we have seen him perform with is our Central Florida singer, who we see at the TSO concert each year, Chloe Lowery. Boy is she powerful!
JP: Chloe is on the first single “Prom Night in Pontiac.” Joel talked about working with her on his solo album and he sent me the track “What We Believe” and it was great. I was in love with her voice. I sent her two songs which made the album, “Prom Night in Pontiac” and “Music in the Aire.”
GM: Donna says “Prom Night in Pontiac” is a bit country and I think both songs have a touch of Meat Loaf, especially “Music in the Aire” with Chloe and Joel together.
JP: It is funny you say that. You are right.
GM: The catchiest song of all may be “A Cappella” from England’s Chez Kane with a great guitar solo too. I also enjoy the lyric video for it.
JP: Chez sent me her recording of the song and I told her that was it. She said, “Really? That was my first take.” I told her, “That was the right one.” She was tickled that I picked her first take, and I didn’t change a note.
GM: Getting back to the Chicago area ladies, there is Lindsay Kent on “Dear Life,” reminding me a bit of Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back.”
JP: She was another discovery of mine. A dear friend runs the Illinois Rock & Roll Museum in Joliet. The Ides of March were inducted this year into their Hall of Fame along with Kevin Cronin and Buddy Guy, which isn’t too shabby. He said, “You’ve got to hear Lindsay Kent. She is in a band called The Millennials and she really stands out.” He sent me a tape and, like you, I did hear shades of Stevie Nicks in her voice. I had her over to record a demo to see how she would do and she did great. She approaches “Dear Life” so innocently.
GM: There is Janet Gardner from Vixen. I know their late 1980s Top 40 singles “Edge of a Broken Heart” and my favorite, “Cryin’.” It is great hearing her on “Lazarus Heart” on your new album. I like the keyboard to guitar bridge. There is a keyboard similar to a mellotron, which I am reminded of.
JP: That is a really good analysis. I try to capture a bit of the singers’ past. When I presented the demo to Janet, she said, “Wow. That could be my old band Vixen.” That was a huge compliment. She just nailed it. It was really weird doing it long distance, with Janet being in California, but it worked. I tried to get her for my World Stage show that I do every January, and this is the 22nd year but she couldn’t make it, but she has become a really good friend.
GM: You talked about writing for the singers to capture their sound. Well, you certainly captured Jefferson Starship’s sound with Cathy Richardson. There are four songs, and I will highlight half of those. “The Best in Us” is a melodic anthem with the line, “times like these bring out the best in us,” and the pair of 1969 references with the man on the moon and the Woodstock nation where Jefferson Airplane played an early morning set. You have blended both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship in sound and references.
JP: Thank you. That means a lot. Cathy is joined by Kimi Hayes on that one. I am also proud to say that my son Colin plays drums on it, making it a little extra fun for me.
GM: The other Jefferson Starship-like song is “Sin to Believe a Lie” and what is strange about it is I can imagine Mickey Thomas singing this one. I love the topical lyrics about a new vaccine and needing a dose of empathy.
JP: A good catch. You have mentioned two of my favorite lines. Cathy and Joel helped me write that one. You are right that there is a lot of Starship in it which was subliminal in writing a song for Cathy to perform, who I have known for years. I was pumping gas in my car and the garage owner came out and said that I had a fluid leak. He recognized me and said, “By the way, my daughter sings.” I thought, “Oh no. Another ‘my kid sings’ guy.” He gave me his number which I filed away. A little while later I received a call from the music attorney in town, who just passed away as a victim of a hit and run last month, said, “You should listen to that gas station owner’s daughter. She is amazing. Her name is Cathy Richardson.” I thought if Linda says so then I would definitely listen to her. Cathy came over. She was in her late teens and was shaking like a leaf when she nervously came into my studio, opened her mouth, and holy cow. She sang a rockin’ blues song. I produced her first album, Moon, Not Banana, which still holds up, and we remained friends all these years. I watched her go from Love, Janis off-Broadway, where she played Janis Joplin, to becoming a member of Jefferson Starship.
GM: Last year she co-wrote “What Are We Waiting For?” with Jefferson Starship’s long-time drummer Donny Baldwin and that song was in my Top 10 favorite song list for 2020. It sounds like what you are doing with her on Tigress. Now let’s talk about one more singer on your new album, Leslie Hunt. When I heard “Taller,” it sounded like she could be the third Wilson sister in Heart.
JP: I am sure she would love to hear that because I know that Heart is a big influence on Leslie. She is magic. I have been working with her since she was fifteen. She is another one who I discovered.
GM: Yes, Leslie told me that. She said, “I was so honored to be a part of this album and alongside such incredibly talented women. Jim has always been a champion for musicians and singers at various stages of development, both musically and professionally and this compilation perfectly showcases his natural ability to shine a light on people's best assets and set them up to succeed. The song ‘Taller’ is such a great rocker for me to belt it out with an incredibly powerful message and ‘Brave Is Beautiful’ is both vulnerable and epic, especially when he wrote the ending part and had me come back in to track it. I think we all knew we were creating something really special when that haunting ending came together. I've been honored to work with Jim on many of his projects on and off since I was fifteen and I really hope people enjoy this great body of work, inspired and performed by women he has taken under his generous wing over the years.”
JP: Wow! I used to go to her house in St. Charles and jam and sing and recorded her first professional recordings, which were incredible. I have been working with her for so many years, and like fine wine, she keeps on getting better with age.
GM: Let’s end with the album’s finale, “Brave is Beautiful,” which Leslie mentioned. You talked about getting the content proper for females. This is a great example where she sings about abuse, “it’s not your fault what someone did to you,” which is a great message.
JP: Well, thank you. Again, you really got into this. I am blown away by the depth of your knowledge of this record. “Brave is Beautiful” is really a strong message. It brings a tear to my eye for all the women who go through this.
GM: Leslie mentioned the ending and what an ending that is with Mindi Abair on saxophone. It is a soft song until that kicks in and ends with great power with Mindi and Leslie.
JP: What I was channeling on that was Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” when that amazing sax player with that long name played on his recording.
GM: Yes, Raphael Ravenscroft.
JP: I knew you would know it, being the music fanatic that you are. I was going for that at the end. Maybe we touched the hem of his garment, but the idea is there. It has been a real pleasure talking with you again. It really means a lot. Thank you and please stay in touch.
Jim Peterik links:
PART TWO – LESLIE HUNT
GM: Congratulations on your Spirit of Unicorn Music/Cherry Red Records pair of EPs Ascend and Descend and thank you again for your input on your wonderful songs on Tigress. You released Ascend earlier this year, so let’s begin with that EP. The opening song “Starting Over” shares its title with one of my favorite bands from my hometown of Cleveland, The Raspberries. Like with their hit record, I enjoy hearing the guitar and harmonies on your song.
LESLIE HUNT: "Starting Over" was the first of the batch of songs for Ascend and I believe it sets the tone for the whole EP. It explores the concept of releasing the constraints of an overactive editor and finding an abundance of peace and love from within versus seeking it externally. It came together incredibly fast, almost in real time, which always makes it feel like more of a divine gift than a creation of my own. I just channeled that song into being.
GM: “Your Wind” is such a pretty song. I found myself playing this one over and over.
LH: Thank you. "Your Wind "is probably one of my top five favorite songs I’ve ever written. The melody, chord changes and changing meter make for my favorite combination of twists and turns while staying within a motif and keeping the listener in a certain vibe from start to finish. It’s about staying calm and curious in the beginning of a relationship and somehow not rushing into things or making any big choices before you’ve gathered enough data. I’m referencing the disorienting feeling of falling in love when I mix and match sensory responses to experiences with various stimuli. The song captures that dreamy blissed out feeling, including the vulnerability and uncertainty that comes with the odd meters that are thrown in, almost sonically mimicking what it sounds like to stumble through those early days where everything is new and slightly awkward.
GM: My favorite song on Ascend is “Wolf Cried Boy,” a song with a clever title and a powerful chorus.
LH: This was a song that came together slowly as the acoustic guitar part was written when I was nineteen years old, and the rest of the song arrived twenty years later. It takes the known tale of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and reverses it. In this version, the wolf is a woman who keeps crying boy, claiming that each of her relationships are “the one” and as a result, the people stop believing her. She feels frustrated and paranoid, imagining that the village is gossiping and rolling their eyes, but she also desperately wishes that they would empathize with her pursuit to find lasting love and admire her for never giving up on the quest. The verses are from the perspective of the observer and the chorus is from the perspective of the defensive wolf.”
GM: Now let’s move on to Descend, the second volume in your 2021 EP series. It opens with another title I enjoy, “Don’t Make Me Come Back There.” Its big bridge reminds me of the power you delivered on American Idol with our family favorite “Feeling Good,” which Paula Abdul loved.
LH: She was a big supporter of me. We had things in common and stayed in touch after the show, too. “Don’t Make Me Come Back There” is a song about patience on a long road trip, with a slight scolding tone from the driver to the antsy kids in the back. I was feeling frustrated with how much complaining everyone was doing about how long it was taking to get things back to normal during the pandemic. I knew in my heart that we all had to just do our part to stop things from getting worse and to make the best of the forced break from reality. I had some of these thoughts walking around in the world, peering out from underneath a face mask, giving myself good advice to keep my head on straight amidst the uncertainty. That big bridge takes it to a morbid place as I wanted to remind the listener that people’s lives are at stake and to please stop complaining, because if you’re able to do that, it means that you’re one of the people who are still alive.
GM: “Again & Again” is not only exciting but it is important.
LH: It is. It was written during the height of the George Floyd protests which felt like the biggest uprising of my lifetime thus far. The song discusses the global outrage and general lack of trust for law enforcement in black and brown communities. It’s an exasperated song set to a very funky, danceable tune in hopes to unify and call in rather than call out and further alienate. We can all agree that there is little trust to be had in the current climate and that it needs to be gained back somehow by actually doing things differently. My hope is that the spotlight will never leave the importance of increasing the screening and training processes within the police forces.
GM: While achieving a nice flow on your EPs, you certainly offer variety, too. “Big White Flag” sounds like it could be a Taylor Swift pop hit.
LH: That is another song about surrendering to the current state of affairs and trying to have some fun with it. I found that the silence that came from not having gigs to prepare for was really hard to adjust to and for the longest time I struggled with whether or not to keep my mind occupied or let it go silent, hence the opening line about turning the speaker on and off, unable to decide what in the world to do with all the free time and feeling overall very indecisive about it. I loved walking my two Havanese dogs, Linus who is two and Sparky who is six, around St. Charles. I would see other people having little driveway hangouts or see two women sitting in the backs of their respective SUVs in a parking lot to chat at a safe distance. I was a full- blown introvert during that period of time but I found other people to be quite inspiring and my observations ended up in the songs. From a production standpoint, this song was the gateway to working with Christian Cullen again, which resulted in him producing both EPs. I knew he needed to be the one to make this song sparkle. It was so poppy and unlike anything I had written thus far and as I was working on sending him the demo, I realized that he should just produce all fourteen songs.
GM: He did a great job. I love the sounds he brought to your recordings, especially on my favorite song on Descend, “So Many Times” with the atmospheric strings in the chorus. There is such variety just in this one song with your light jazz vocal and lyrics you pay attention to about Saturday celebrations versus the state of mind you are in, plus you are joined by a male vocalist on the bridge.
LH: "So Many Times” is about being in a private event band, which I have been in since 2008, Entourage! I wrote the song many months into the quarantine, missing that outlet of connection but also reflecting on how much I had been missing out on my own family’s celebrations by being the main entertainment for others. I reflect on being able to reach out and touch members of the audience and how such a small thing suddenly felt so powerful and scary during a global pandemic. I knew that I wanted Jerome Matthew Jr. to sing on this track as he is the other singer in Entourage! that I have been leading since 2015 and he and I have a blend that is only achievable after six years of singing together at hundreds and hundreds of gigs. He has one of my favorite voices on this earth and I wrote the bridge the day he came in to sing it. We tracked vocals for both EPs in my walk-in closet. I utilized the chorus chant as a nod to a lot of the dance music we perform and the wordless choruses that Top 40 songs often employ. I am so glad you are enjoying my releases this year. Thank you so much for this Goldmine article.
Leslie Hunt link: