Hi, I’m Peter Kleinhans; I’m a musician who lives in New York City and I’ve just completed my first album of music. At age 51, I’m an old rookie to the music business. But while making music is relatively new to me, music itself is not. I’ve listened to and loved many kinds of music for many years, and now- after spending thirty years focused on my first love, horse racing- I somehow find myself a songwriter. This page- and my just-completed album, Something’s Not Right- is the first step in what I hope will be a continuing exploration in creating music.
I wish I’d begun writing music at an earlier age, because as a father of two who also drives harness racehorses, bets thoroughbred horses professionally, raises organic beef, chicken, and lamb, and is engaged to be married for the third time, I find that the music often gets squeezed to the sidelines. But I’m happy with what I have had the time to create, and I hope that listeners will find something to enjoy here. My wonderful children, Quinn and Becky, and my lovely bride-to-be, Colleen Cash, love the songs, so I already consider the pursuit a success.
Although I’ve only started with music over the past couple of years, I credit the years of racing horses, often in the midwest, hanging out with the Runyonesque characters of that business, and sharing their daily travails, for much of what I’ve written. I was born and raised in New York City, left it for twenty years, and am now back. It’s an amazing city, full of amazing people, but New Yorkers are just as often oblivious to the daily existential struggles of a family in Indiana as the other way around. The horses aren’t my full-time business anymore, but I still drive occasionally.
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Sometimes there can be advantages to coming into a world from the outside. I was a creative writing major when I starting working at the racetrack, and was a definite oddity; it was obvious. I would try to get my horse ready to race, taking breaks in the spare minutes to write poetry for school workshops. When I became an announcer, I would spend the time between races reading actuarial data about oil deposits or old tomes about the global economy. And after a while, I discovered that being an outsider gave me the kind of confusion necessary to approach things from unusual perspectives, and allowed me to learn things that many other people already knew- but in different ways. Now, entering music without ever having played in a band, having spent a lifetime completely oblivious to the lingo that is second nature to those steeped in musical experience, hardly able to read music and (until recently) innocent of any understanding how songs are built, I’m hoping to take that inexperience and build something worthwhile out of it.
One question I’m often asked but never really able to answer is “what kind of music do you do?” Truthfully, I’m baffled by all the categories and terminology surrounding music and music criticism. In writing songs, I’m trying not to think too much about fitting some genre or rebelling against one. Honestly, I find it too exhausting to worry about. In the wonderful biography I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, written about Warren Zevon by his ex-wife Crystal, there is a section where Zevon describes reading a review of one of his albums. He quickly recognizes that the review is all jargon- an attempt by the reviewer to look smart- and that it ascribes meanings and intent to his songs that were never there in the first place. By extension, he realizes that the same is probably the case with a lot of music criticism- it’s more about the critic than the music, and not really worth worrying too much about.
With that in mind, I figured I’d start just by trying to write songs that I’d enjoy listening to myself. I’ve played the piano since I was a kid, but not especially well- I can’t play written sheet music at any kind of speed- and I am only recently becoming versed in guitar. But Garage Band, Apple’s breakthrough software (which I almost mentioned in my album’s dedication page), has made it possible to learn music in different ways. I can focus on the songwriting, put down basic tracks, and have them duplicated by better musicians, if necessary.
I owe a lot of credit to my guitar teacher, Matt Detro, without whom I’d still be picking out the notes of random tunes on the piano. And I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Tony Conniff: attending one music workshop of his (through New York’s ubiquitous Gotham Writer’s Workshop has led me to my producer, collaborator, bass player, and friend.
I have just completed my first album, Something’s Not Right, which spends a lot of time trying to get at the feelings that so many of have had over the early part of this remarkable millennium- a confusion as to what exactly ‘the problem is’, but a pervasive, inner sense that something isn’t right. Politically, the left blames the right and vice versa; economically, we are burdened with debt on the personal, national, and even global levels; and without totally understanding why, we find ourselves caught in strange traps, a lack of neutral corners to retreat into, and a general but hard-to-escape sense of dissatisfaction. Theories abound as to how to fix ‘the problems’ within our stars and our selves, but no one seems to quite have a handle on it. It’s this emotion I am trying to capture most in this album, being so familiar with it myself, and having seen the telltale expressions of world-weariness on the visages of young millionaires from Wall Street as well as old lifers from the horse-racing world.
At the same time, I tried my best to have fun writing this, and hopefully that comes across. Some of my favorite songs of all time are depressing or sad, but I sure wouldn’t be listening to them if they didn’t also stir me in some kind of positive way. And I hope these songs are stirring in their own way.
I will be updating the links and blog pages regularly, and I’d love to hear feedback from listeners.