The life and career of New Jersey-based singer-songwriter Peter Karp has undergone a lot of changes since Karp entered the world of music nearly 20 years ago.
From the New York City music scene of the early 1980s to films and commercial work, to raising a family, traveling extensively and a second attempt at life as a musician, Karp has followed his heart when deciding what direction his life would take.
Karp is performing tonight at the final Tunes at Twilight for the 2004 season and at a Saturday Underberg House Concert. These will not only be Karp's first performances in Cape Girardeau, but his first performances in Missouri.
Most of Karp's gigs take place in the Northeast with his band, The Roadshow Band, although that has changed due to a recent move to Nashville, Tenn. -- what he refers to as his second home base.
For his most recent album, "The Turning Point," Karp again worked with collaborator and producer Dae Bennett, who produced Karp's 2000 live CD "Live at the American Roadhouse" and the 2003 record "Roadshow."
In addition to being an established producer in his own right, Bennett is the son of singer Tony Bennett. Karp said he was not even aware of his producer's famous lineage when he first started working with him, and Bennett's talent as a producer is much more important than his famous father.
"He's a real seasoned professional. He's all about
the work," Karp said of Bennett. The resulting recordings bring out the best of an artist, Karp said, not some slick recording that hides behind studio tricks.
The in-studio albums he has recorded with Bennett have the sound of live performances and are not "dressed up," Karp said.
Karp also worked with former Rolling Stone guitarist Mick Taylor -- who played with the band from 1969 to 1974 -- on "The Turning Point."
Taylor played some shows with Karp after the album was released in late 2003.
"Playing with Mick was really fun," Karp said. "He's a very enthusiastic and incredibly talented musician with a tremendous history."
The two musicians got together when Taylor heard about Karp from a radio deejay and fan of Karp's music. Soon Taylor and Karp were e-mailing each other and when Karp sent Taylor some of his songs, the former Stones guitarist signed on to work with Karp in the studio.
"I was flattered and happy," Karp said. "But its like any other thing, when you meet other people who are into what you do, it's just a couple of guys working, talking and having fun."
Taylor's work does not stand out on the tracks where he is featured, Karp said. Instead, his work blended very well with the work of Karp and The Roadshow Band.
"I think the best work Mick has done has been with songwriters. I think that's where he really shines. He's one of those guitar players who can take a song and color it and not overwhelm it with a big guitar solo," Karp said.
Karp sees songwriting as the most important part of what he does.
"My whole thing is to bring across a story. Lyrics are very important to me," he said.
Lyrically, Karp is influenced by musicians like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and John Prine. Karp's musical influences, however, come from the blues and musicians like John Lee Hooker and Freddy and Albert King.
Karp's music could be described as a blend of blues with folk and rock and roll, while the stories he tells through his lyrics run the gamut from comical to serious and dramatic.
"You have to be simple and direct," Karp said of songwriting. According to Karp, he learned this when he had to play in bars and venues that were not exactly inviting to his presence.
"I think a lot of singer-songwriters develop themselves in places where people come specifically to see them. At least around here in New York City, they'll perform for family and friends and some fans. Those people are going to hear everything they sing."
Karp is unlikely to have any problems with the audience at tonight's Tunes at Twilight performance. And for this performance, as with all his others, he will not rehearse or make a set list.
"I like the spontaneity," Karp said. "I don't like rehearsals. I just play it like I feel it at the time. It's about getting a feeling across and connecting with the audience."
335-6611, extension 182
Want to go?
What: Peter Karp performs today (Sept. 17) at Tunes at Twilight and Saturday (Sept. 18) at an Underberg House Concert
When: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. tonight and 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: Common Pleas Courthouse gazebo, Grace Cafe in case of rain tonight; for information on the Underberg House Concert, call 334-7692