TIM PEPPER is one of my favourite soft rock musicians. I met him years ago in South Africa, had him on a promo compilation and did the odd, small show with him. He’s been in Nashville (USA) the past 4 years, looking for the big break. His debut album was the wonderful Beautiful Frustration. This year, he released 2 E.P.s, Alive in the ‘Ville’ and Hotel. If you haven’t heard them yet, i highly recommend that you do.
WM: You left South Africa for the USA. Is the grass greener on the other side?
Tim: Not really. I’ve learned that every place has it’s positives and negatives. I like Nashville a lot but I miss South Africa all the time as well. Certain things are easier and more affordable here but then the pond is so much bigger and there’s so much competition (especially in Nashville) that it ends up being kind of the same.
WM: What’s the biggest challenge the Nashville music industry has presented you?
Tim: There’s so many musicians, singer-songwriter’s and bands in this town that it becomes almost embarrassing to tell people you play music…and that you want to do it for a living. So most artists don’t get paid to play in Nashville unless they have a great draw and people are willing to pay to see them. But the plus side is that you learn a lot from talking to other artists and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
WM: Your song, ‘The Killing Kind’, ties in with that. It’s like a requiem to Nashville. Anna Johnson seems to be making a name for herself. How did she come to sing the backing vocals?
Tim: I met Anna through my drummer and sound engineer, Chris Wright. He and my bassist, Jason Navo, were in her band too so we started booking a few shows together. We are playing one together this Friday in fact. I think Anna just really appreciated that song and we’d done it live together a couple of times so I asked if she’d mind singing back up on the single. I love how it turned out.
WM: Can we expect more collaborations in the future?
Tim: I think collaborations are a lot more fun than playing by yourself all the time and they also offer each artist involved an opportunity to access listeners that they might not otherwise reach. So yeah…I’m up for all kinds of co-labs.
WM: If you could choose anyone in the world to duet a cover song with, who would join you and what would the song be?
Tim: Tough question: It would have to Emmylou Harris…and I would love to do a song like Robert Plant and Allison Kraus’s version of ‘Gone Gone Gone’.
WM: How often do you get to play? Does it cover the bills?
Tim: I play a few times a month. It doesn’t cover the bills at all. Most musicians I know in Nashville still have day jobs like me. The ones who can afford to get on the road and tour a bit do okay but right now it’s still a little out of my reach. I’ve been working towards doing a few small tours a year. Right now I play music because I love it and I want people to hear it.
WM: What drives you to get up and face the music industry each day?
Tim: I have two loves in life…my daughter and music. It’s not an easy industry no matter how you look at it but I keep coming back to it. I guess I’d rather fight the obstacles in the music industry than settle into a life that makes me feel more dead than alive.
WM: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Tim: Talent is wonderful but it isn’t nearly enough. I went through a phase when I thought I was “good enough” to “make it”. I got a bit jaded that the world wasn’t pouring it’s resources at me. I think I grew up a little and realized that’s just part of life no matter what you do. So I guess I learned to be humble and accept every good thing that happens and to work hard at being a better artist and business person. It’s a better place to be when you aren’t expecting things from people anyway…I think it makes you more interesting when you aren’t hoping someone you meet is going to get the job done for you.
WM: What’s been your musical highlight?
Tim: I played a festival in New York City a couple of years ago and that was pretty awesome but I think my best moment was coming off of the stage at a small festival, JJS, in Pietermaritzburg: I played a solo set for about a thousand people immediately following this massive 8 piece band and they had the crowd all pumped. I was nervous to go on because it was just me and my guitar but the crowd was really into what I was doing. I was shaking when I walked off stage. Festivals are definitely the most fun for me. People always seem super nice at festivals.
WM: Are bar gigs pretty much the same the world over?
Tim: I think so…there’s always two or three people who are really into it and the rest of the crowd are just there to drink some beers and have fun. You have to learn how to play to bar crowds and throw in a few pub-standards to get their attention…all the lame songs that people will swear they hate, like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Free Falling’, go over well in bars.
WM: Hotel, your latest E.P., possessed some of your classiest music. It was darker than your previous releases. Where was your mind at when you were composing and recording these tracks?
Tim: I’ve been trying to write more honestly in the past couple of years. Some of the stuff on that album was a little scary to write as a pastor’s kid who’s supposed to have it all figured out. I was admittedly feeling a little down when I wrote some of that stuff and I figured that putting it into songs was probably the best thing I could do with it. I’m really proud of the writing on that album and would love to fully produce some of those songs.
WM: As you said, you’ve become a dad to a baby girl. How do you cope with babysitting and gigs?
Tim: t’s difficult. I’ve turned down many gigs because I had to take care of my girl. But I wouldn’t trade time spent with her for anything. She’s such a bright and sunny thing in my life and gives me a lot of happiness. I know that eventually the two of us will tour together or something like that so I just do what I can when I can and don’t worry about it. The universe will reward me for being a good dad I think. I’d rather regret not playing a gig than regret not spending time with her.
WM: What do you do to relax?
Tim:What’s this “relax” thing you speak of? (Ha ha). I’ve started fishing again. I live pretty close to lake and it’s hard to think about anything else when you’re fishing…so I do that sometimes. I like to watch movies on Netflix too…because it’s free. I dabble in the visual arts a bit too and that’s something else I’ve discovered that can take your mind off of everything else. Mostly, though, relaxing for me involves a cup of coffee and playing my guitar.
WM: Have you watched any good shows?
Tim: So many…a few months ago I watched the Cumberland Collective, a local group of songwriters who collaborate on a regular basis…picture 13 people on stage at the same time in a small bar…all of them excessively talented. That was the best thing I’ve seen in a while. The Protomen always put on a good show as well…it’s a band based on a video game. Most recently, I watched Natalie Prass and she pretty much blew me away!
WM: What can we expect from you next?
Tim: There’s always the threat of an album coming out soon. I’m working on another right now, Acousticophony. As the name suggests it will be fairly stripped down versions of songs but I do want to make extensive use of the stomp and clap in the percussion section. My website, www.timpeppermusic.com is being overhauled so check into it from time to time. The big project I’m working on right now is getting myself and a blues playing buddy of mine to the Durban International Blues Festival 2012 this October. I’ve been doing some campaigning for that and have been writing some blues songs specifically for the occasion. We’ve got a bit of hard work to do to get there though so we are holding thumbs.