The Burden of Unshakeable Proof – Q&A with Vanessa Peters

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Official release day for a favourite singer-songwriter Vanessa Peters’ album The Burden of Unshakeable Proof, once again the Dallas based artist has put together a collection of beautiful, thoughtful and melodic songs; recorded by husband Rip Rowan (Old 97s, Rhett Miller) in their home studio, the material for the album and the studio itself were written and built respectively by Vanessa and Rip over a period of around two years, then when work on the studio was completed the pair gathered together friends and tracked twenty five songs in all before carefully selecting ten for album – the songs that made the final cut share a common thread “determination in the face of despair, and the willingness to shed the shackles of the past in order to move forward“.

I asked Vanessa to share some background and insight on the album and this is the result.

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The album title suggests a profound, maybe metaphysical mood? How did you decide on it?

Well, the album title is taken from the first track, All of These Years, that was almost the title, along with 206 Bones. Either would definitely have been a more manageable title.

But The Burden of Unshakeable Proof was more encompassing for me. Both of those other titles, at the end of the day, would have made those songs “title tracks,” and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to assign that weight to either. 

The title is about those truths/proofs that you search for with a certain amount of dread. You know that, upon proving your suspicions or fears to be correct, you’re now going to have to bear the weight of that, of confronting an awful truth. Ignorance is, if not bliss, sometimes easier to deal with. Once something is incontrovertible, you have to accept it and move forward with that new knowledge, and that’s often as heavy a weight to bear as the uncertainty was.

How important to the album was the ‘freedom’ of recording in your own studio?

It was amazing. It’s so nice not to watch the clock. When you pay by the hour or the day, there’s so much pressure to nail every take, and it’s harder to relax (for me at least). It’s also kind of creatively stifling to record on the clock, because you don’t have the financial freedom to say, “hey, let’s try this song as a ballad? What would that arrangement sound like?” You just try to knock it out quickly & efficiently. The flip side of course is that recording can drag on into months while you search for the “perfect” take. But ultimately I loved doing it in our own studio, absolutely.

There’s a vinyl release on the way, a first for a VP album. When putting the album together was this in your minds? Virtually at this point, “side two” feels much more melancholy – was this deliberate?

It actually wasn’t entirely. We weren’t sure until after we’d already agreed a track sequence and had sent the album to mastering (for CD) that we were going to take the risk and do vinyl. But we had always kept the album length in the back of our minds, knowing that more than 10 songs wouldn’t really be great for vinyl. I think my albums tend to be sequenced with the top half being a little “lighter” anyway, so it just worked out nicely, but yeah, this album absolutely has a clear A and B and I love that.

Rip actually wanted, at one point, to do 4 EPs, because the songs seem to divide themselves nicely into 5-song groupings.

Like that Seinfeld episode, where they are trying to sell muffin tops… Everybody knows the muffin top is the best part… We wanted to make, instead of a double album, 4 album tops.

But ultimately we decided to break up the massive bunch of songs we had started on – we tracked 27 – and concentrate on this 10-song batch.

Paralysis Bug is an interesting song that deals with those physical lows that affect all of us at one time or another, do you have a favourite album or track that always lifts your spirit or reignites the muse?

Great question! I have been turning to Hello Saferide more and more over the last few years; her last two albums have such a delightful pop mentality to them that I sometimes forget how sad the lyrics are. Same thing with The Weepies – their album “Hideaway” is excellent, and something I can always put on and sing along to.

The songs Delicate and Mending Fences deal with feelings of being overwhelmed by modern-day life pressures, given your relationship with Italy where would you recommend staying to escape the stress of the 21st century?

I’m afraid there is nowhere to hide. 🙂 I do feel like Italians to an amazing job of dealing with stress. Their economy is in the tank, they are struggling mightily with so many issues right now, and yet they never fail to stop and appreciate simple things like a good meal with family or friends. Their way of life, while maybe more frenetic than it was a century ago, is still light-years more centered and calm than ours is in the US.

What are your recording and touring plans for the reminder of 2016?

Not sure yet. We have some shows planned in the US (mostly Texas) for March and May, and we are supposed to do a fairly extensive tour in Italy in July/August.

I’d love to get back to the UK but need to find a new booking agency. Any takers out there? 🙂 Seriously though, the last time I played the UK was 2009 – far too long!

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The Burden of Unshakeable Proof digital release CD and vinyl are available now via Bandcamp

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