“Who is Peter Holsapple?”
Influential Singer is Back with new Single

By Lee Valentine Smith

He may not be a household name, but Peter Holsapple is one of the most influential musicians of the last few decades. His seminal band The dB’s paved the road for the power-pop and intelligent new wave movement and the North Carolina native has successful stints with two very different southern rock bands, R.E.M. and Hootie and the Blowfish. His work appears on the best albums of both bands’ discographies. His contributions to Out of Time are well-documented and he played 16 different instruments on tour with Darious Rucker and company. Additionally, he’s logged miles as a founder of the Continental Drifters, one of the coolest under-the-radar ensembles ever to tour and record. He’s back in business - for himself this time - with the release of “Don’t Mention The War,” a new vinyl single on Hawthorne Curve, his own label. The antithesis of his familiar pop jangle, the moody tune echoes the best of Vic Chesnutt and Randy Newman’s somber, character-driven story-songs, with a chilling tale of the familial effects of PTSD. INsite caught up with Holsapple at his home in Durham on a recent afternoon.

“Don’t Mention The War” isn’t a typical single in many ways. What sort of feedback are you getting from it so far?

Recently I heard from a clinical psychiatrist in Los Angeles who deals with PTSD patients. He was taken by the message of the song and the video, too. He’s going to share it within the therapy community. I wasn’t sure who’d react to it, of course. The lyrics to the song are not incredibly uplifting.

Once released, a record becomes its own entity.

Yeah, you never know what’s going to become of it. You’re basically exorcising something from your soul and if people like it, that’s really great. If it means something to them that’s even better. And if it sells a million copies, well that doesn’t hurt either.

The records in the dB’s catalog, including the reunion album from a few years ago, didn’t sell millions of copies but they’re considered influential classics at this point.

Our resume is pretty good at this point. It’s hard to say this without sounding assholic or over-confident, but I think the fact that people still listen to Repercussion or Stands for Decibels, lo these 36-odd years later says that we did something right. And now I’m just trying to stay relevant at 61. That’s my plan, so the next forty years will be consumed with that.

Now that the single is out and you’re booking shows again, what’s the plan?

I definitely want to follow this up with an album. I’ve got at least an album’s worth of stuff, so my hope is that I can get that out this year. The single is kind of like, “Hey, I’m back,” so it’s kind of a reintroduction. Right now, I’m just looking for places to play in New York and trying to figure it all out. I don’t have an agent or management and I don’t particularly want any of that stuff. I want to call my own shots about this and I’m a big boy about whatever the reaction will be. Basically it’s just a pair of songs I wanted to get out and ones that I thought were worthy of further investigation by the public, whoever they might be in this case. I’m happy with whatever happens. It took me a long time to figure that out.

That’s the best legacy anyone can ask for.

I’ve been through the whole “Who is Peter Holsapple?,” “Get me Peter Holsapple!” “Get me someone who sounds like Peter Holsapple!” “Get me a young Peter Holsapple!” and now it’s back to “Who is Peter Holsapple?” And I’m fine with that.

Peter Holsapple plays Friday and Saturday Feb 3 and 4 at 529 with Magnapop and Elf Power

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