Great Peacock’s last effort, 2018’s Gran Pavo Real, found the band oscillating between smooth Americana numbers, introspective balladry, and rootsy rock n’ roll. If Neil Young’s influence was ever a question (it wasn’t), then Great Peacock’s recent rendition and rockin’ interpretation of “Cortez the Killer” satisfied any mystery. GP singer/guitarist Andrew Nelson picked up the phone ready to discuss a new Great Peacock album, the challenge of becoming a fulltime musician, and who his dream producer might be…
AI- First thing I want to talk about, man, is that brand new cover of “Cortez the Killer”– and it is a killer!
AN- Thanks, man!
I’ll be honest, I was like, “All right, how’s this gonna work?” But it’s fantastic. What got you guys in gear with that particular cover?
We were already working on a bunch of Neil Young songs that we were gonna put out– ’cause um, to be honest, we’re all big Neil Young fans. And I know me particular, I’m pretty nutty about Neil in the sense that like even like some of the guitar stuff I buy is like me trying to copy him. ‘Cause I just love that sound. There’s something about how dirty it is, but how harmonic– you can hear all these like extra notes in there. But that’s cause he plays through this magical Fender Tweed Deluxe amp, which I just can’t afford… Anyway, we got obsessed with Neil and we were doing these covers just for fun. We were like, “Let’s do some Neil Young covers for fun!” And we were gonna call it Canadian Tuxedo. We were all gonna wear Canadian Tuxedos on the cover!
So that was the original plan? To just do an entire collection of Neil Young songs?
Uh Huh. And it just didn’t come to fruition because of the time. We recorded a bunch of ’em and they’ll eventually get released. They were just home recordings that were gonna be not that great but fun. Anyway, one of them wasn’t working out. So somebody said, “Well, what other Neil Young song can we do instead of this one?” And I jokingly said, “We can do “Cortez”. Everybody does that!” And we all just like kind of laughed about it ’cause we were like, you know, there’s a million versions of it! I started playing it kind of faster… I was like, “What if we played it like if the Drive-By Truckers were playing it to a crowded room of a bunch of drunken rednecks? So we did that and we were like, “Oh shit, that actually works!” Because nobody else does that. All the other covers of that song get slower and slower and slower…
We were like, “Let’s try this!” And it was cool and so we did and then we just started playing it live! And that’s what really did it was when we started playin’ it live. We had a lot of dates this year opening for other people and you could tell the crowds knew what song it was. They didn’t know what song it was until you hit that first verse– and once they heard that first verse they knew! It was just fun, honestly! It’s just really fun. We played it last Saturday at a party at Americanafest for our publicity agency and it was… Same thing! It’s like everybody was enjoying the set and we played that and people just perk up a little more. They were like, “Oh! Oh, I see what you did!” ‘Cause they’re all like, “Man, I fucking love this song!” And then when you do that, they’re like, “Ooh, even better!” ‘Cause nobody’s heard it faster! It’s a simple concept. You would think it’s not that crazy. But uh, yeah, but that’s what happened. So then we were eventually like, “Let’s just go record it for real. ‘Cause people like it.” So that’s how I got there. We actually went to the big Nashville studio and all that and did it.
But you are in the midst of putting together a brand new full-length Great Peacock album. What studio are you working with?
Same studio we worked at for that, Sound Emporium in Nashville. We did our last record there. We’re doing this current album a little more piecemeal, a little more at a time. We’ve already recorded all our drums and our bass and rhythm guitars and a bunch of Hammond organ and acoustic guitars and stuff like that. We did all that in two days at Sound Emporium. Now we’re just working on all of the icing on the cake and the interesting things at home.
And you’re self-producing this time around. What led to that decision?
It’s probably two things. Every time we’ve had a producer up to this point, I’m sort of so vocal and neurotic about it that I ended up steering the ship in a lot of ways… So I was like, “Well, I might as well just do that.” And two, the money to pay somebody to produce it… I’d say we couldn’t have any of our dream producers on it. We’re just not that level of a band yet. So without having the people that we really want to produce it, we just figured we know what we want. This is our third album. In a lot of ways, it feels like our last chance to sort of shine and make something out of ourselves. And we figured, well, if we can’t have the people that we trust to shape that the most, then who else can we trust the most? And that was us.
Let’s talk about that last chance thing. You’ve been to Macon, you’ve been to the Creek, you’ve been in the studio to do the Creek Sessions. Talking about Making Ghosts… It nearly burned you out. Gran Pavo Real hadn’t even been released yet. But it looks like this past year’s been pretty good to you guys. You’ve stayed busy, you’ve been out. Where are you at spiritually now as far as Great Peacock and moving forward?
That is a day to day, undulating thing (laughs). It goes up and down! The thing is, we’re all… Our hearts are in it 100%. That’s not an issue. It’s just the reality of the business. It’s a hard business, man. I mean, you gotta be good but more than that, you gotta be lucky. You gotta be really lucky. And for some reason, we’ve always had a sort of positive career trajectory. We really haven’t taken many steps back. And if we have taken steps back they’ve been very, very small ones that were then followed by like five steps forward. I sound terrible if I complain about it ’cause there are a lot of bands that are just as good as us, some probably better that probably haven’t even gotten to the level of where we are. They can’t even get a radio interview, you know what I mean? Like what’s happening right now! They’re probably going, “Man, what’s he complainin’ about it? I’d love to be interviewed by radio stations!” But at the end of the day, we’re just not at the place where it’s financially doing what you want… And what you want is more than anything just the ability to only do [music] and only focus on that. It’s not really about being rich… Everyone wants to be rich, so it’s a lie if we say we don’t. But the thing is, we just want the opportunity to really only focus on [music]. And that’s just hard. There’s so much music now. I really do feel like there are more people trying to do it. Number one– population’s increased. There’s more people. There’s more people and there’s more platforms to put it out music without the help. And I actually wish… This is gonna sound terrible… I wish there was a greater barrier to entry like there used to be. ‘Cause it would weed out a lot of people.
I completely agree with that. With the advent and surge of reality television and competition and you have everything that the Internet makes available, all the opportunities that creates for people who– and I’ll say something that’s gonna sound terrible– who haven’t put the work in, have not put the miles in, and they get to a certain point. Yeah, I agree with you wholeheartedly on that statement.
I’m not saying that we’re the best band in the world or anything like that. The marketplace, the cosmic conscious collective has not decided that for us at this point in time. But we’re a really damn good band and we’ve put our dues in and we’ve worked our asses off– and we continue to do that! And we will continue to do that no matter what. So that’s a good answer right there for you, spiritually. But yes, there are so many people out there trying to do it and they’re sucking up the space that the everyday person has to give a minute of their time to listen and find out if they would like something. It’s not just music– it’s TV, it’s movies, it’s news. There’s so much information flying at people so fast now. You remember when Facebook first came out and when you put an event invite up there for your band’s show, people would pay attention to it. They’d be like, “Oh that’s cool!” No one gives a damn anymore! When you got written up in Rolling Stone and you posted that link on your page, people would freak out! And you would literally go from like selling 20 tickets in the club to probably like selling 150 now or 200. Now? No one even clicks on it.
Well, let’s imagine big. Let’s think big. I want to go back to your statement about dream producers. Who? Give me your top three dream producers for Great Peacock.
Wow. Definitely Daniel Lanois. I would say Daniel Lanois is probably number one. And then number two and three…That’s so hard…
Daniel has a conflict. He can’t get to you until five years from now. You’ve got to go with this next one.
Man, I haven’t been put on the spot like this in awhile. I don’t totally know. Even though I know, I would know if I had five more minutes to think about it.
That’s okay. We got Daniel Lanois out there in the universe. So we’ll just let that like trickle out there into the stratosphere: Daniel Lanois or bust for Great Peacock.
Absolutely. You know I’d really love to work with Jay Joyce. I think that would be a good thing for our band. I don’t say that like in a careerist movement, I think he would really make a great Great Peacock record.
Speaking of Great Peacock records– do you have a timeline for the next project?
We’ll be done by the end of the year. I think we’ll be done recording by the end of the fall and then hopefully we’ll have the album mixed and mastered at the early winter. Right now we don’t have a current record label. I mean we have the record label that put out our last record– they’re called Ropeadope. They’re mostly a jazz label, but they’ve been good to us. So I don’t want them to say we don’t have a record label, but that’s only a one album deal. The next record will be that fun time period where you’re out there trying to convince people that they can make money off your music!