A Chat with Peter Broderick
Over my years as an obsessive music consumer and researcher, I've noticed Peter Broderick's name everywhere. Producer credits. Accompanist listings. Collaborations. Label discographies. Interview shout-outs. In conversation with folks around Portland. Everywhere. We have a few of the same friends. I've seen his sister, Heather, perform a number of times. I even reviewed his mother's debut album last fall. But Peter and I don't know each other. We've never connected.
So I reached out.
Sometimes I conduct interviews via email - it's quick and easy, but not super conversational. I knew that this chat with Peter would need to be a phone call, though, due to the likelihood of an annoying amount of follow-up questions on my end. So Peter and I figured out the eight-hour time difference between Oregon and Ireland, I gave him a ring, and we chatted for a while about his recent work, live shows, Portland's music scene, his "One Song" podcast, the coast, and the oft-overlooked bounty of wild plants.
Peter Broderick, sourced from the artist's website and taken by Joshua Rain.
Our conversation began with a bit of "how have we not crossed paths?" and "who do we both know out here?" Peter left the Pacific Northwest for Ireland in 2016, so he's been away a while, but has fond memories of his time in the area. He is a native Oregonian, after all. In the mid 2010's, Peter didn't live full-time in Portland, actually, but instead resided in Pacific City, a small town on the coast. There, he rented a cabin owned by his uncle, and in a detached garage, set up a recording studio called "The Sparkle." Musicians traveled down from Portland, but also from other parts of the world to work in the secluded space, and the recordings rendered there were often pretty stunning. Broderick was drawn to the coast in the first place due to exhaustion - a byproduct of his taxing lifestyle touring across Europe without many breaks. So to him, those years in Pacific City were a welcome respite.
But Peter had his hands in Portland's indie music scene, too. One project I had forgotten about was his work with the enthusiastically amateur Beacon Sound Choir. For a time, Broderick held weekly get-togethers in Beacon Sound's now shuttered North Portland storefront, inviting anyone to show up and sing. The number of participants ranged anywhere between 15 and 35 in a given week, and Peter would bring coffee and tea to wake up this Sunday morning "hangover choir." No traditional sheet music was allowed in order to keep things loose, and this informality fostered beautifully unstructured, organic experiences. Peter called these meetings "wholesome fun" and eventually, some of the tunes were collected and released on vinyl and digitally.
But Broderick never found a ton of traction as a solo artist in the Pacific Northwest like he did abroad. So five-ish years ago he moved to Ireland, and in the time since, Broderick has built quite a robust collaborative and solo music career. Our talk centered mostly around his 2020 release, Blackberry and his upcoming EP The Wind That Shakes The Bramble, companion works inspired by Broderick's curiosity-about-turned-reverence-for the common blackberry plant.
Though Broderick currently works on an organic farm, his deep dive into the world of blackberries began before the spring of 2019. Somehow he came across a blackberry vine basketweaving tutorial on YouTube, which led him down a rabbit hole. He, too, began weaving, but also making blackberry tea, and baking + preserving much more regularly. When he visited London, Peter noticed vines everywhere in the city, and became interested in both urban and wild foraging. He gave dandelions (often seen as a pest) their due attention, eating them in soups and salads. When I phoned, Peter had just returned from a wild blueberry picking excursion.
So what began as a simple curiosity resulted in a shift. Broderick considered humans' relationship with food more deeply. He began to research the medicinal properties of common plants. He questioned traditional agricultural practices and the "invasive plant" label. And yes, these ideas began to inform themes in his music. Blackberry and The Wind That Shakes The Bramble are very much products of this inquiry period, so when you listen to them (one is out now, the other next month), lean in to learn about these wonderful plants, and maybe you will see brambles and berries in a new light, too.
Before I let Peter go, I could not resist "one songing" him. To give a bit of context, Broderick recently started his own podcast called One Song (think Song Exploder but with more storytelling, humor, and tangential trivia), and for each episode, he invites a different guest to talk about, you guessed it: one of their songs. The featured artists don't just explain their chosen song's origin, but also the different paths that specific song has taken from idea to demo to recording to live performance. Discussions last over an hour each, and I just eat them up. They're all gold. 10/10 recommend.
At the very end of 2020's two-and-a-half hour Piano Cloud Series - Volume Five compilation (which DC wrote about last year), Broderick offered up a bouncy two-minute ditty titled We Rejoice. I first heard this song during those dark, early-pandemic days, and it stood out to me as a sort of ray of light. Like the title suggests, the song is just so joyful. I asked Peter about its origins, and he told me that the melody was originally composed for his wife's brother's wedding. He played it as the happy newlyweds walked down the aisle after exchanging their vows. So there you have it: some context to consider as you listen.
Finally, we touched on Peter's future projects, though he admitted that it's tough to make solid plans at the moment, given COVID's resurgence. His aforementioned EP is set to be released next month through Erased Tapes (which you can preorder here), and he also has a few tour dates scheduled. Peter had actually just played his first live show in over a year a couple days before we spoke, and though he said it took a him few songs to shake off the cobwebs and feel relaxed, he really enjoyed the act of performing again. So if you're in Ireland or Britain: keep a lookout for a stopover in a city near you.
It was great fun chatting with Peter and hearing all about what he's been up to. If you have not done so, make sure to check out his new work, but also explore his past albums, collaborations, and his One Song podcast. There's a lot to appreciate and enjoy.
A huge thanks to Peter Broderick for his time, thoughtful responses, and general enthusiasm.