- - Monday, January 4, 2016

Peter Case burst onto the music scene in the 1980s as leader of the L.A. outfit The Nerves. When that band failed to ignite nationally, Mr. Case moved on to his next group, The Plimsouls. Their song “A Million Miles Away” was in the film “Valley Girl” and became a popular alternative rock radio staple.

As that band started to fade, Mr. Case made a conscious decision to leave the world of rock ‘n’ roll behind to travel the road as a modern-day folk-singing troubadour. The result was his stunning 1986 self-titled CD.

Since then he has released over a dozen albums of well-crafted, storytelling folk with a rock edge. For his latest album, “HWY 62,” Mr. Case recruited such musician friends as Ben Harper and DJ Bonebrake, the drummer for X.

Mr. Case We discussed “HWY 62,” his time in The Plimsouls and why he prefers to play alone.

Question: Do you prefer touring solo acoustic over playing with a band?

Answer: I feel what I do with acoustic is more unique. It is something I know that I can really pull off in my original way of doing it. It allows me to really put the songs across in the purest forms. I like playing solo best.

Q: What inspired you to play solo?

A: I’ve always loved solo-type stuff. I saw Lightning Hopkins play when I was 16. I hitchhiked from Buffalo to Boston to see him. He was just up onstage alone playing guitar and telling stories.

When you’re a kid and you see something like that, it really makes an impact. It just blew me away. I had a model for that in my head when I got to the West Coast, but then I joined up with bands for 11 years.

Q: When you did your first solo record in 1986, you made a conscious decision to be a modern day troubadour, yes?

A: That was the whole point of it. If I was just gonna stay in a band, I would have stayed in The Plimsouls. The Plimsouls were a really great band. We worked in a style of music that was very unique. We had our own way of playing rock ‘n’ roll. When I went solo I really decided to go completely solo.

Q: With that impressive of a catalog, how do you decide what to play in your live shows?

A: Mostly I’m playing new material plus some songs off the last two albums [and] a few from earlier records. It changes. I don’t do a three-hour show. Even for an audience that is into it, I feel like a three-plus-hour [concert] like Bruce Springsteen does is a bit over the top.

Q: Why was there a four-year gap between the new CD and your last one?

A: Two things: There is no point in making a record unless you have something to say. I wrote a hundred songs before I felt it was a record. The other thing was, businesswise, I left a manager, left a record company. I went out and did a rock ‘n’ roll tour with Paul Collins that took a year. Then I went to Australia and played with the Flamin’ Groovies. I was in a bit of rock ‘n’ roll thing.

Q: You mentioned the 2012 with your old Nerves bandmate Paul Collins. Why was Collins “dismissed” from the tour?

A: We did like 28 or 30 gigs. Somewhere along the line it sunk in why The Nerves broke up. [laughs] I don’t harbor any ill feelings toward him or vice versa — I don’t think.

Q: What was the recording process of new CD “HWY 62” like?

A: It was two weeks. We went in there pretty much with the people you hear on the record: Ben [Harper], [David] Carpenter and then [DJ] Bonebrake.

Q: How did you get DJ Bonebrake from X and Ben Harper involved?

A: DJ was on my record “Wig.” I go back with DJ on other projects. I have always loved DJ. He is a great drummer. Great musician. Everything he does is recordable.

Ben I met through his family. They own this place called the Claremont Folk Music Center [in Claremont, California]. I had been playing there for years. One night I was playing and Ben came in. He said, “Call me when you’re doing something.” So I did. Really great guy.

Q: The CD is all originals except for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Long Time Gone.” Why did you decide to cover that song?

A: I just liked that song. I have been playing that song since I was a kid. I don’t know how I came up with the music for it. I learned the lyrics back in 1973 when I was living in San Francisco. There was this bookstore, and I would go in and read this book of Dylan lyrics [and] write down the lyrics to things I needed.

I started singing it on the street. It’s not a recorded song by Dylan. There must have been a demo of something I heard. I have been playing it all these years on and off. I just pulled it out.

Q: Is there one place you have yet to play you would like to play?

A: Like Carnegie Hall or something like that? I don’t know, man. There are a million gigs out there. You try to play in all the states. You just go out there and play. You never know what the next gig is gonna be.

“HWY 62” is out now.


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