Interview with Peter Smith of Project Charlie

by guestofaguest · January 8, 2008

peter smith

We realize many of you have never heard of Peter Smith. Actually, being the common name that it is, you probably know one. This Peter Smith, however, is anything but common. He is one of the lead singer's of the up and coming rock 'n roll band, Project Charlie, the band that is "making rock & roll music the way it was meant to be". Peter is a born and bred Manhattanite, and has a pretty large following of hipsters, socialites, and Rock 'n Roll groupies (read: everyone that goes to Bar Martignetti's). He has his ex girlfriend to thank for many of his angst filled lyrics, and is set on spreading "warm fuzzies" throughout the world. Oh, he's also single ladies, and though feels he is "doomed in love"...is still holding out hope. Here is a glimpse into the life of a rockstar trying to break free.

What were the best and worst parts about growing up in Manhattan? I’d say growing up in the City is a bit of a Catch 22. It’s certainly one of the most cultural places in the world and one gets exposed to a lot. Yet you also grow up a lot faster because of this. I remember going to my first bar in 9th grade. Granted that bar was Chihuahua’s, and was more of a third rate Mexican restaurant, but we were being served at 14. That really put me off tequila for life. But beyond alcohol consumption there is so much to do in the city if you take advantage of it. I also love how the city really has a pulse that I’ve never experienced elsewhere. It’s like every corner, block and neighborhood has its own thing going on. So much can be happening in one square block it still amazes me how alive this place is. That being said it’s hard to live anywhere else after growing up in the city. I mean where else can you find a great slice at four in the morning.

What music did you listen to growing up? Part of me was definitely shaped by the effects of MTV, raised on crap and rap (yet not as bad as what’s coming out today.) But there was great stuff being recorded in the 90’s as well. I listened to my fair share of Nirvana, Sublime, Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers. But I had my first love affair with the Grateful Dead. My sister gave me “In the Dark”, which wasn’t their best album but good enough to wet my appetite. I was always into the Beatles and Classic Rock in general, but I think it was the Dead that really got me into music.

Where did you go to high school, and what was college like at Franklin & Marshall, have you kept a lot of your childhood friends? My high school experience was the product of my rambunctious and misspent youth. I went to Choate for high school at the insistence of my parents and for the most part I did not enjoy it. I grew up in a fairly relaxed household so I didn’t really appreciate being told I couldn’t smoke or go into a girl’s room by a complete stranger. In addition I wasn’t thrilled about having to leave the City for Wallingford C.T. Franklin & Marshall was a breath of fresh air compared to boarding school but even that soared after a while. Although I did start writing music seriously at Franklin & Marshall due to a not so amicable break up. It was such a tiny school that it was kind of shoved in my face everyday so I vented by writing songs. Most of those were really spiteful and angry so they’ve been retired. But that got me to a place where I could realize my creativity and then use it to deal with stuff. I almost want to tell her thanks for the heartbreak it lit a fire in me. But beyond music, I’ve gotta be honest I really enjoyed learning at F&M. It was the first time in my life I took my studies seriously and I really got into it. How lame does that sound?

"Project Charlie is making Rock and Roll music the way it was meant to be" How was rock and roll meant to be made and how is that different from the other bands of this genre? Old Remington St. James wrote that so I’m not sure how he meant it, but I think there is a tendency to play follow the leader in music. You saw it a lot when the Strokes broke into the scene and suddenly every band sounded like they wanted to be them. We don’t have a particular “sound” or even a genre for that matter. One critic recently described our soundscape as being “punk rock to roots rock and roll, prog and jazz.” I think we also write about a lot of topics that aren’t necessarily typical to rock n’ roll. We’ve written songs about the Hell’s Angels, Ed Norton’s character in 25th hour, and even story songs like “Holy Roller”. We don’t like to be pinned down to subject matter or perspective and I think our music represents that.

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Why the name Project Charlie? It was a program I was in during Kindergarten. I know other schools had it as well because every now and then somebody gets the reference. It was primarily an anti-drug program but there was an aspect that was aimed at teaching kids how to deal with each other. They had these catch phrases like “give warm fuzzies not cold prickilies,” which I always found amusing. I liked the idea of naming the band after something that aimed to make people get along better. In a way music can often have the same effect so I thought it fit.

How long have you been playing in bands? First band? I played music throughout high school, although I didn’t write much and when I did it was terrible. My buddy Alex McMahon, who’s the lead singer for Inouk, used to play the guitar when a group of us would hang out in the woods doing what teenagers do. He taught me some basics and when he went on term abroad it was on me to be the minstrel. That’s were I started to pick up the guitar. But this is definitely my first band. I was on my way to law school took a wrong turn and wound up in Project Charlie. At first it was just fun jamming but once we started to get the sound organized and put together a line up, we wanted to showcase it. And as soon as you play on stage you’re hooked and it’s damn hard to give up.

Do you think have a good following? What's the best and worst part about being a lead singer and guitarist of an up and coming rock and roll band? Well I’m not the only lead singer in the band. Neill MacCallum, who also writes a lot of the songs, sings lead as well. The best part is clearly playing live. A lot of work goes into not only writing, but also arranging and practicing the material that it’s really a lot of fun to finally perform it. Yet the worst part about being in an up and coming band is that you have to do all the leg work yourself. It’s up to you to promote yourself, and I hate promoting.

What is the dynamic of your group like? Do you all get along and hang out outside of playing? Well we’ve recently been plagued by guys having to leave the group so it’s a bit different now. Our drummer of two and a half years had to leave due to medical problems and our lead guitarist was replaced a few months ago by a really talented guy, Matt Anderson. We actually just found a new drummer, Sammy Rogers, who moved from California to join a real working band. He is hands down gangbusters. And we all get along really well. Every now and then I go surfing with Jay our keyboard player. He’s got a nice surf shack out in Rockaway and when the swell gets good I head out there. But with Sammy we plan on going out and getting in bar brawls just to test our metal.

Where can we find you guys (venues, schedule)? Well like I said we’ve had to do a bit of rebuilding so as of now the only show we have booked is Jan. 2nd at R Bar, which is a great venue. But you can buy our first album “These Days” on iTunes, Amazon, CD baby and more. You can also get the hard copy from our labels website RomulusXrecords.com, which I suggest because the artwork on it is so cool. A real Ralph Steadman feel to it. And of course you can go to the myspace.com/projectcharlie page to find out about shows.

Favorite place/s in New York? Central Park. I try to go at least once a day. And I love the subway. So many people hate the train but it’s the fastest way to travel. You also get a good look at the real New York when you’re underground. It kind of forces all aspects of the city into one place.

Coolest person you've ever met Roger Waters. I’m not normally star struck at all but I was speechless. I wanted to at least tell him he was the man and maybe thank him for the songs but I just starred dumbly.

Are you single? Yeah I’m single and I think maybe doomed in love. But I haven’t given up hope.

Your favorite song you've written/performed. I’d have to say one of the newer songs, FM Crush. It’s about a girl who becomes a prostitute so that she can buy vinyl records because there’s nothing good on the radio anymore. Its kind of a parable on how bad the mainstream music scene is.

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Is Rock and Roll dead? You know when we first started out Neill and I put up all these signs that said: “Rock n Roll is not dead, but it’s dying.” I think it came really close to being dead but it’s on the rise again. I think it’s mainly up to the people to no longer be apathetic about music. It seems like the times are ripe for a rock n roll renaissance.

Do you believe that "only the good die young"? I mean if you look at it in light of the 27 club, there’s certainly an element of that in music. There are those figures that are grand in everything they do and so burn out early. But I hope that it isn’t entirely true because I know a lot of talented good people that I’d hate to see check out early.