The line "I just want to make music and friends/Been that way since I was 12 years old" is from "Music and Friends" off Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band's recent "So Delicious" album. Hearing the words fed back to Josh"Reverend" Peyton elicits a smile from the trio's founder.
"I wrote that song for myself, " said Peyton. "Sometimes the music business can be ugly and lonely. You know, people you thought were your friends, you realize they aren't when it comes to the business of it. I wrote that song to remind myself just why I started doing this."
Peyton was born and raised in Brown County, Indiana. He still lives there with his wife "Breezy" Peyton. It's an area he adores for its flora, fauna, big valleys and hills. Browning Mountain is a particular favorite.
"You climb out there and look out over all the hills and down the hollows, you hear coyotes calling. It's a beautiful place," said Peyton.
That landscape informs and infuses his music. As does the culture.
"Especially with the kind of music I play," said Peyton. "It has to be 100% from the heart. You can't fake it or create it out of thin air. You know everyone's like this: You go 'there's no culture here, you've got to go somewhere else to get it.' And then you go somewhere else and you're able to look back and realize it was rich in culture."
On the band's just released "Front Porch Sessions" album, you can hear that culture manifests itself as their most stripped-down set of songs since 2011's Charlie Patton tribute "Peyton on Patton." An itch to get back into the recording studio spawned an organic process Peyton said he wasn't sure would turn into a full blown album.
"I didn't have a ton of finished material. I called up my buddy and said 'I want to book the studio if you have space next week,' He said 'I do, what do you want to do?' I said 'I don't know 100% yet, but I want to make a record'" said Peyton.
So he wrote furiously and realized by the time he was ready to record, he had a mitt full of songs he could turn into a full album. And when the recording light turned on, Peyton said the magic began.
"My intent was to make a very stripped-down record, and only build it up from there if it was absolutely necessary.
For example, the kick drum on the record is a suitcase. What?
"Max was sometimes hitting it with his hand, sometimes with his foot," said Peyton. "There's tambourines, there's just a little bit of washboard. There's technically no real drums on the album."
The lyrical tone on "Front Porch Sessions" veers from optimism to unvarnished truth to festive. With lyrical content that includes "Even when we're losing/it feels like we are winning," the song "We Deserve A Happy Ending" kicks off the album in the spirit of the former.
"I wrote that song when (wife) Breezy had a health scare," said Peyton. "Ultimately she's ok, but that's where I was when I wrote that song. I think that one is the one that will appeal to the most people."
Peyton goes dark a bit past the albums's halfway point. He said "One More Thing" is likely the saddest, darkest song he's ever written.
"People talk a lot about homelessness, and it's a real issue," said Peyton. "But I think a larger issue is how close so many people are to being homeless themselves, and all it takes is one more catastrophe, one more misfortune, one more mistake and that's it."
There are festive songs on "Front Porch Sessions" as well. Click the "Listen" button below to hear Peyton discuss more from the album, with accompanying song samples. You're likely to hear many songs from the new album as well as old favorites when Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band returns to The Castle Theater in Bloomington March 23.
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