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In the final part of our interview, I ask Peter how we would like to be remembered.

Q: I know you’re still a young guy with miles and miles to go, but I’m sure you’ve thought occasionally of how you’d like to be remembered, what you want your legacy to be. Performer, songwriter, musicologist… have you ever thought of how you’d like to be remembered?

Peter: I think that my most noteworthy chararistic, compared to everybody else, is that all my life I’ve been aware of how many artists do their best stuff early on, and after a couple of decades, there’s a clear diminishment to what they’re doing. There are so few exceptions, like Jerome Kern. He was only in his late 60’s when he died, he got some disease that took him before his time, but he died in 1946 and he wrote “Long Ago And Far Away” in 1944, and “All Through The Day” in 1946. And those are absolutely at the top of his work. And yet he started writing in 1912, and by 1914 (at age 29) he had written “They Didn’t Believe Me,” which many people is the first modern jazz composition, the birth of modern pop. So from 1914 to 1946, that’s 32 years of producing top-notch stuff.

My songwriting really started approving after I stopped drinking in 1988. I always used to drink when I was writing unless I wrote a dream song, and wrote it down as soon as I woke up before I started drinking that day. But my songwriting ability basically has grown because I’m still not satisfied. I’m deeply aware of the fact that I would like to do lots of shit that I can’t do yet. I’ve been so conscious of the fact that I don’t want to get worse, I don’t want my songwriting to diminish, and one thing that helps a lot is collaboration. One smart thing about the Nashville scene is that songwriters are much more aware of how much fun it is to collaborate. As opposed to the songwriters who say, “I’m an artist, I work alone, I don’t need any help from somebody else.” Art is collaborative, or at least it should be. Even if you’re collaborating with dead people who are your predecessors. So I’m constantly getting better. I don’t know anybody of which that’s true. Do you? Also, I wasn’t so good when I started out, I was very mediocre. And I’m a very slow learner. A lot of musicians are the early gifted, the teenage prodigies. And a lot of those people, it comes so easy to them that they don’t value it. Like Joni Mitchell had a genius for killer melodies, and at a certain point, she started to feel that jazz was superior to pop and started getting jazzier because it was somehow more “important” than writing great pop songs. I might be dead wrong, but I feel that her genius for melody came to her so easily that like the teenage prodigies, she didn’t respect it. She didn’t work for it. She didn’t kill herself for it, so it wasn’t that valuable to them. But it just because it comes naturally, just because it comes easily, doesn’t in any way diminish its value a fucking milligram. Subjectively, most people seem to feel that it does. And then there’s the New Orleans Syndrome. Great musician, man, fucking amazing, and then a couple of decades later, hasn’t worked out anything new in ages, doesn’t practice, and just crawls into a venue and goes through the motions.

So I’d like to be remembered as someone who kept on getting better and better, and proved that you don’t have to artistically decline, that’s it’s possible to constantly grow musically until you drop dead.


Peter Stampfel & The Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Mandolin & Fiddle Squadron ( to be released late 2014)

Have Moicy! 2 (to be released Fall 2014)

Peter Stampfel & The Brooklyn & Lower Manhattan Banjo Squadron
– Better Than Expected (2014)

Peter Stampfel & The Ether Frolic Mob
– The Sound of America (2013)

The Jeffrey Lewis & Peter Stampfel Band – Hey Hey It’s… (2013)

Peter Stampfel & Jeffrey Lewis – Come On Board (2011)

Peter Stampfel & The Worm All-Stars – A Sure Sign Of Something (2011)

Peter & Zoe Stampfe
l – Ass In The Air (2010)

Peter Stampfel & Baby Gramps – Outertainment (2010)

Peter Stampfel – Dook Of The Beatniks (2009)

The Holy Modal Rounders – Live In ’65 (2008)

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