Jamestown native Brent Peterson had a steady job.
He didn't need to pursue a full-time music career, but the Charlottesville, Va. resident did just that. His career will bring him to his hometown tonight, when he will play a free show at the Labyrinth Press Company.
Peterson, a 2003 Southwestern High School graduate, became interested in music as a student at Kenyon College in Ohio, where he played in a Motown cover band.
Southwestern High School graduate Brent Peterson will return to Jamestown tonight for a gig at the Labyrinth Press Company. The free show will start at 7:30.
Upon graduating from Kenyon in 2007, he decided to pursue a music career for the first time, moving to Chicago.
Shortly thereafter, Peterson got out of the music business and moved to Washington, D.C., working for the Department of Energy for three years.
"I was kind of burning out, working really long hours," he said. "It was really stressful. Music just kept calling me."
Peterson decided to try music full time again, leaving his job behind.
"Doing music well is very demanding as far as the time it takes to promote, book, write, record and all that," he said. "I figured if I'm going to quit my job, a very good job mind you, to do this half-baked idea of playing music, I need to figure out what I need to do to take the fastest route possible to a successful music career."
That route led him to an internship with Red Light Management. The company had helped Dave Matthews, Peterson's hero, get his start.
Peterson made the move to Charlottesville, where he spent seven months with Red Light, learning the basics of booking tours, media outreach, getting radio play and building a fanbase.
"A lot of artists like to get caught up in the emotional and artistic aspects of making music, and that's fine; that's where your inspiration comes from, but it's a business at the end of the day," Peterson said. "I learned the quick and dirty ways to run the business side of things."
In the past six months, Peterson has played 100 shows. He frequently performs with his three-piece band Brent & Co. but also books solo-acoustic gigs, such as tonight's show at the Labyrinth. The show will mark the release of his band's five-track, self-financed EP "Not How We Dream."
"I'm incredibly excited for it," Peterson said. "It's been a long journey to get to this point. I'm ready to finally dive in and do music full time. I just wanted to get it out there, get some radio play and see what the public reaction is. If it's good, we'll build from there. The show is going to be the first public airing of a lot of these songs, particularly in the state of New York and in my hometown. The goal is to share this with my friends and family who have been incredibly supportive throughout the whole process, so I thought it was fitting that the first public release of this would be for friends and family."
The all-ages show will begin at 7:30, and the CD will be available for purchase for the first time.
According to Peterson, the disc features several genres, including country, jazz, alternative rock and acoustic pop-rock.
"We tried to straddle a lot of genres while still holding onto our acoustic rock roots," he said.
Among other artists, Dave Matthews continues to influence Peterson.
"How I learned to play guitar and how I learned to sing was playing along to his records," Peterson said. "I know that sometimes that can kind of alienate people because he is very popular and very successful, but people have very strong opinions on him. They love him or hate him. There's always a risk when you identify with that sound. Dave Matthews has a very percussive, aggressive acoustic guitar playing style. That's definitely something I think I bring to my music as well. I like to think I also add a soulful vocal element that I picked up while playing in that Motown band in college."
Following Peterson's one-off area gig tonight, he plans to continue touring in the mid-Atlantic region, where he has begun building a fanbase.
He might play more local gigs down the road. In the meantime, however, Peterson will continue to focus on finding success in the music industry.
"I'm trying to make a livelihood," he said. "That's often a crude summation of what a musical career is, but yeah, you're trying to make money. At the end of the day, I endeavor to do what I love, but also, if I can, I want to be able to give back to the musical community which has given so much to me. I find so much peace and tranquility in music. That's kind of where I retreat. It's brought me great joy, it's gotten me through tough times and it's helped me build relationships with others."
The Labyrinth is located at 12 E. Fourth St. in Jamestown. For more information on tonight's show, call 708-2471. For more on Peterson, visit brentandco.com.
"Backstage Pass'' is a feature of The Post-Journal showcasing local artists, their music and their accomplishments. Send recommendations for future "Backstage Pass'' subjects to Scott Shelters at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 487-1111, ext. 253.