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Salt Lake City Weekly Megan Peters, Free Agent

By Bill Frost

Megan Peters won the annual South By Southwest Showdown and a trip to Austin about 100 years ago, it seems. Since then, there's been a mountain of rumors, allegations, speculation and confusion about her Big Rock Career: Did she really get a record deal? Did she move to Austin? What was with the shaved head?

All (well, some) is answered with her independent, family-financed debut CD About Time, a raw, restless and intimate 12-song collection of the old and the new. "Lock Me Up" and "Give Up And Go" are in heavy rotation on KRCL, and the rest of the CD is everything that anyone who's followed her soaring vocal gymnastics and earthy song-styling have waited for and more.

Peters and her Volvo are on the road most of the time these days, but she was recently in Salt Lake City long enough for me to buy her dinner and ask all sorts of intrusive questions.

So, what's up with Megan Peters right now?

Well, I'm going to the Kerrville Folk Festival, a two-week songwriter's conference/camp-out. It's in Kerrville, Texas; it's on a huge ranch, thousands of people come — it's a real Texas thing. People like Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl King and Nancy Griffith come, everyone camps out and the campfires are incredible. Last time, I got to jam with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary — he's like, "You're precious!" He doesn't even remember the words to his own songs, the classics that we all know! (laughs)

Are you still doing the Utah-Texas commute?

Yeah, the Austin-Dallas area. It's been really nice to go down there, I get to be special and treated like a queen. Texas is cool, they really like music there.

They like it here, too — as long as it's disco.

I know! Can you believe the fucking disco movement that's going on? It scares me.

That aside, what do you like about Salt Lake City's music scene?

There's a cool community on the folk-end of things, the open-mic and writing sessions we had for awhile here. We were tight, we'd loan each other gear, go to the shows — it was very interactive, very supportive. On the downside of things, I got fired from Cisero's for not playing covers. When I started evolving into an all-original act, they fired me — right on the night of a show, even. The great thing about not playing those places anymore is that you start to hear what you're supposed to be writing in your head, not just what makes clubs happy. I'd say that the best thing about the Salt Lake City music scene is that it's only got room to go up! (laughs)

Here's the question that inquiring minds want answered: What was your record deal all about?

The deal was that my producer owned an alternative radio station, we recorded more than 30 songs, and he tested every song on his station. We never released an album. In my contract, he had 18 months to release and he didn't. I was free to go or stay, but I wouldn't be receiving a per diem anymore. I learned a lot, but it didn't happen, and he still owns those recordings. The associate producer, John Duarte, was a god. He and I wrote together, and I learned so much: I'm twice the writer that I was before the deal and a couple of those songs are on About Time.

So there was never any major label involvement?

No, it was an independent producer with a major label distribution deal through MCA, blah blah blah — he was a schmuck, and I knew that going in. It was an opportunity for me to make some money, and maybe something could happen, but I was never counting on him to make me a big star or anything. This guy produced Kim Carnes, Tiffany, Bel Biv Devoe — he's had some big hits! He basically owned me, our deal started right after he caught the last song of my set at SXSW in Austin and ended in December of last year. I lost the publishing on 10 songs, some of which I recorded for About Time, the rest I wouldn't want: They were experiments, like, "Let's see what you sound like trying to be Courtney Love," "Let's try some Sheryl Crow." He was successful at molding people: he found Tiffany when she was 12. I just said, "Look, I'm 36-years-old — I am who I am. You're not going to make me into someone else." I was at a Tori Amos show recently and all I did was count these young girls' bellybutton rings — I'm too old for that shit, I don't even have a tattoo. Maybe that's why the deal fell through.

Where's Tiffany today?

She's in Nashville, trying to record country songs.

What do you want to do with the CD now?

Hopefully get some better gigs. I've been very lucky, I've gotten some amazing shows without a CD or anything up to this point. As far as distribution, I'm wary of signing any contracts right now — I just want gigs. I've put 30,000 miles on my Volvo in the last seven months.

You're playing exclusively solo these days: Do you miss having a band?

I like playing solo, no one has to deal with me first thing in the morning. Having a band is great, it's like group sex. But just like group sex, there's a lot of talking about it later, it gets messy. It's always safer to do it by yourself.

As a near-Texan, how close to reality is Fox's King Of The Hill?

I love it — if you're from Texas, it's even better.

About Time is available at Salt City CDs and elsewhere. Megan Peters can be contacted anytime via e-mail at MegPeters@aol.com.

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