It was a literal fall off a cliff that led Peter Katz to the music on his upcoming album. He beat all odds. After being told he would never walk again, never mind perform or tour, he is now able to do both – and his latest single “Paper Thin” is a fitting and emotive lead-off to the music he created after that experience. We caught up with Peter to chat about the new song, his influences, and his musical guilty pleasures.
From The Strait: Tell us about the inspiration for your new single, “Paper Thin”.
Peter Katz: When I was 18 years old, I moved from Montreal to Toronto to go to University. I had to be out of my place in Montreal on August 31st, and I didn’t get the keys to my new apartment in Toronto until September 1st, so with all of my stuff in the back of my car, I drove myself just outside of Toronto, and spent a night at this Motel 6 on the side of the highway. I was this perfect combination of terrified and excited, knowing that I was about to cross a ‘life threshold’, because the next morning I was going to be starting a whole new life.
Many years later, after sudden and unexpected events in my personal life, I found myself with nowhere to live for a month. So, I put myself on tour, and the final date of that tour happened to be in Montreal. That meant that at the end of the month, I was once again driving from Montreal to Toronto, with all my stuff in the back of my car, needing to start my life over again.
Without having planned it, I drove myself to that same Motel 6 I had stayed at all those years earlier. And as I walked through the door of that hotel room, I was struck by this deja-vu like feeling. It felt like I had JUST walked out of that door a second earlier. The time between me exiting that room ago and this re-entrance felt ‘paper thin’.
And yet, all of this stuff had happened. I had had so many dreams come true, and I had also had my biggest fears come true.
So I opened up a voice memo on my phone, picked up my guitar and I improvised and just let whatever was coming up fall out of my mouth, and I got the first bits of what would become Paper Thin.
I took that little idea with me to LA and offered it up in a writing session with an amazing singer-songwriter named Kyler England. It was our first time writing together, and in fact it was our first time meeting. She immediately lit up when she heard the idea. She had been going through her own challenges and there was something about our energy that day that was so in sync. We just locked in emotionally and pretty soon we had cracked the code on the lyrics for the chorus by playing around with a bunch of imagery based on the idea of something being ‘Paper Thin’, just like how we both were feeling.
The narrow space between the start and the end
The mirror that is now and then
The insides that are showing through my skin… etc.
The rest of the song came together from there.
FTS: Who were your musical influences growing up, and how do they differ from your current ones?
Peter Katz: Well in my teen years I was obsessed with The Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead. I was also a giant Queen fan, I just thought Freddie Mercury was the coolest, but I only discovered them as he was dying so I never got to see them live. I also loved the Tragically Hip. My fave band for sure though were the Smashing Pumpkins. I wore my ‘Zero’ shirt basically every day, grew out my hair, and spent a summer learning ‘Siamese Dream’ on the guitar.
As I got a bit older, I started discovering the timeless singer-songwriters like Jon Mitchell, Leonard Cohen Bob Dylan, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young… and got really into singer-songwriters which led me to Damien Rice, Glen Hansard/The Frames, Ray Lamontagne, Tori Amos.
But these days, I’ve become totally pop obsessed. There’s a wide range of ‘pop’, but artists like Maggie Rogers, MØ, Julia Michaels, Lauv, Francis and the Lights, and then also hip-hop, Jay-Z, Anderson Paak, Mac Miller. And look, I’m just going to say it, but the production and writing on the Beebs “Purpose” record was incredible. Pull those first 5 songs up on really good speakers, it’s arresting.
I’ll always have a singer-songwriter playlist, artists like Jason Isbell, Gregory Alan Isakov, Sean Mconnell, Bear’s Den, Kacey Musgraves… there’s so much great music to listen to these days, I don’t know that I have a lane anymore. I bounce around so much.
FTS: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Peter Katz: Hmmm… good question. How about “music to dance to on the kitchen floor you were crying on earlier”. I go to music to process emotion, so I’m not ever trying to be clever or cheeky or anything other than transparent. So I think baseline, my music has a lot of emotion baked into it. This new music though is very different both in the writing and sonically than anything I’ve ever done. The feeling of it is meant to be cathartic, to be felt deeply and to be released. In the past, I think I made the listener wait until the 3-minute mark, when the cello came in, to finally have a payoff. With this new music, I wanted you to be dancing and moving right out of the gate, and maybe you only realize what it’s about (or what the lyrics mean to you) on the 10th listen. It’s all in there to be discovered, but it’s designed to just be felt in your body first.
FTS: Do you have any musical guilty pleasures? (Not that we believe in them, but for the sake of Q&A we’ll pretend!)
Peter Katz: Well I already confessed my love for Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” album earlier. Some of the other artists I listed above could be defined as ‘guilty pleasures’ I suppose, but I think great music is great music, and some of the biggest pop is there for a reason. Actually, just thought of one. When Spotify released my top artist for 2019, it was Taylor Swift… But I wear that badge proudly! She’s a monster writer! No shame there. Also Carly Rae Jepsen. Another amazing writer. I have so much more respect for pop writers than I used to.
Check out the latest single from Peter Katz, “Paper Thin”!