INTERVIEW: Peter Kirk of Panama Wedding
    • WEDNESDAY, MAY 25, 2016

    • Posted by: Lea Weatherby

    Peter Kirk of Panama Wedding is a born musician, with a creative drive that slowly, but surely, impelled its way to the forefront of his life. As a classically trained pianist, Kirk's appreciation for songwriting and production led him to late night studio sessions where he spent three years cultivating his identity as an artist, balancing his personal passion with a 9 to 5 job. With an enviable sense of practicality, Kirk acknowledges that "at the end of the day, you've got to make money no matter what you do," and it was his combined work ethic and abiding patience that gave way to Panama Wedding.

    Eventually, as tours got longer and the crowds got bigger, Peter Kirk realized that he had achieved something not only sustainable but truly fulfilling. In early 2014, Kirk signed with Glassnote Records, releasing Panama Wedding's first EP, Parallel Play, selling out shows, booking appearances in the Late Night circuit, and touring with bands like St. Lucia, RAC and Smallpools. Currently on the road with Magic Man and The Girswolds, we caught up with Kirk before load-in, somewhere in Austin, Texas.

    LW: When did you start playing music?

    PK: I started playing music when I was very young, as far as I can remember. I started playing on the piano that I had at home and taught myself guitar. Eventually, I got into recording and production and have been doing it ever since.

    LW: You found yourself at a crossroad in life, in terms of having a traditional 9 to 5 job and pursuing a career in music. What led you to that point and what informed your decisions thereafter?

    PK:I think that for me, there was never really a roadmap to where I wanted to go. I always loved writing songs and making music, but I never really had a plan as to how to do anything with it. I went to a normal college, studied economics and finding a job in finance seemed like the obvious transition. At the end of the day, you've got to make money no matter what you do, so it just so happened that I had a job in finance and I was doing it for a while and eventually was able to do music on the side and got better and better at it. As people found out about it more and more, which eventually allowed me to make the leap from just having a job-job to Panama Wedding and being able to do something creative full time.

    LW: Would you say it was a gradual transition rather than an impulsive choice? Like, "I'm going to flip this damn desk, storm out of the office and make music right now!"

    PK: [Laughs] No, it wasnt quite like that!

    LW: Obviously, it's crucial to have great chemistry with your bandmates, how did that come about for your project?

    PK: I do all the writing and production and some people help me with it but it's mainly my thing. The band has changed over time but most of the people I found were either friends or friends of friends or people that knew my manager, knew the label [Glassnote], people who have been touring, so it's sort of a combination of that. A lot of what I do is in the studio, by myself, so to go out on the road and play with great musicians and bring the songs into a live context is really exciting.

    LW: Is there a song on Into Focus that you found particularly challenging to write, either emotionally or technically?

    PK: There was a song called "Younger Love" that went through a lot, there were many different versions of it, we were really just trying to lock down the production on it. I spent a lot of time with the lyrics on that song and that was definitely challenging. I would say, "Halfway to Heaven" also had a lot of different versions in production and that was a bit of work. Aside from that, most of the EP was written pretty quickly and the production was quite seamless.

    LW: What would you say is the overall thematic intent behind the EP and what would you like your audience to take away from it?

    PK: So Parallel Play, our first EP, was very much just taking a handful of songs that I had written, putting them out into the world, and seeing what happens. Into Focus was much more of an intentional effort, taking a lot of the experiences as a touring band for the last two years, playing with our friends and working with other producers while also, learning so much over time and incorporating those things into an Ep. So that's really, literally what Into Focus was about and what it meant, which is why that song is at the heart of the EP. It's about getting rid of all the distractions in your mind and your world and your day-to-day life and being present and connected to something you really care about. I think certainly, people draw parallels to that in their life, working a day job and finally being able to do music, but it really just the idea of getting rid of all the noise and the clutter of the world and just focusing. A lot of times, when you create anything, there are a lot of voices telling you what to do, but this was a matter of taking stock of everything that we've learned and turning that into what I wanted Panama Wedding to sound like.

    LW: Can you recall a distinctive moment where you felt like, "Wow, I built this, something special is unfolding and I get to be exactly who I am."

    PK: I think when we were able to do our first headline tour and we did it on our own. We weren't taking any money from the label, we were booking these shows ourselves, some of which were selling out, and that kind of felt like, "Okay! Like, we have fans now, this is a real thing, and we've been around for a while! We weren't the new shiny thing, but we do have fans who were paying money to come to our shows and we had new music we were excited about and excited to share. We were on the road and realized that as long as we keep making the music great, and connecting with the fans, then we can keep doing this. So for me, that was a turning point

    LW: So what can you tell me about the future of Panama Wedding?

    PK: Right now, as you know were wrapping up a six-week tour, were playing a handful of festivals this summer around the east coast, some on the west coast, Lolla is one of the big ones that were really excited about. There's some talk about playing more shows in the fall, but really beyond that, it's just finishing up our full-length record and recording more music and getting ready for what's to come.

    And check out our Bands + Brews session with Panama Wedding:

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