Peter Bolland exemplifies the description of a Renaissance Man.
Not only is Peter an award-winning singer-songwriter and poet, he also chairs the Humanities Department at Southwestern College. As professor of humanities and philosophy, he also teaches subjects such as world religions, Asian philosophy, and world mythology. He is a published author with columns in San Diego Troubadour, Unity Magazine, and also leads workshops and provides lectures at The Chopra Center, San Diego Oasis, and Vision: A Center for Spiritual Living.
The youngest of three boys, Peter was born in West Patterson, New Jersey and when he was four years old, his parents moved to Southern California. The family settled in the city of Ventura where he spent his youth.
Music always filled his home, and there was a natural progression into performing himself, as he watched his brothers play out and performing in garage bands as he was growing up.
His earliest musical influences were the 60’s West Coast Country Rock music from Neil Young, early Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, and The Byrds, as well as The Flying Burrito Brothers, Emmy Lou Harris, CSNY, and Graham Parsons. The musical styling of the Laurel Canyon sound is what influences and drives his music even today.
Peter began playing electric guitar in his early teens and the singing and writing of his own music first came to the front when he was in college. His first album came about in 2002. Along with Jeff Berkley and John Katchur, Peter was a regular at the original Java Joe’s in San Diego, and still performs at it’s newest location from time to time.
Peter’s first band, named The Coyote Problem, won Best Americana Album at the 2005 San Diego Music Awards, and he found that playing in front of a band brought unique perspective to his music. Peter recalls, “I never took voice lessons and fronting a band meant stepping up your game due to the dynamics of the other instruments. It is quite a bit different than playing and singing solo.” Performing with the full band night after night provided the knowledge and experience he needed to move forward with his own music and voice.
Today his influences are much the same, and he gravitates to a more simple, soulful styling. Peter says, “I am drawn to music that calms me rather than engage with music containing more anxiety.” Two of the bands he is currently listening to are War On Drugs and Son Volt. While his music does not sound like either of these bands, the production and sound they put forward inspire Peter.
These days, Peter performs almost exclusively as a solo act, measuring his performances to a more quiet, zen-like place so the audience can appreciate the spaces between the lyrics.
Peter doesn’t point to any specific person as a mentor, but rather embraces the feeling that “myself and the other musicians in his genre are all engaged in a bit of friendly competition; who has the better tours, the bigger gigs? It is all about finding a place in the overall musical community.”
As a young man, Peter was always a shy introverted person, so standing on stage and singing and performing his own music became a huge leap of faith into the unknown. As he became more proficient, and the audiences began to grow, it all became much more affirmative to what he was accomplishing and empowered him to feel that what he has to offer has real value to those who come to his shows.
Without planning for success, he finds himself performing along side his peers and other artists in places he couldn’t have envisioned before. Peter relates, “These are the moments that provide the engine to writing and performing more new music.”
The music Peter is writing currently, is more spiritual in nature. Not in a religious sense, but more in the realm of what is true and right in the world. He says, “My songs have meaning, and are simple and more poetic in nature.” Peter does not project a specific message in his songs, but rather focuses on the story and the character of whoever is living inside his verses.
Peter says, “the meaning or message of a song are the things that we cannot talk about. Songs give voice to the fears and desires we all have within us. Music is such a beautiful art form for that very reason. The musician controls the length of the experience when you listen to their music. The best musicians learn how to utilize and control that flow of time and emotion through the lyrics, the notes and the breathing spaces between the lines of the story.”