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June 16th, 2017

The critically lauded singer, songwriter, and now author teams with producer Steve Berlin of Los Lobos for his incisive new CD, set for August 11 release.
HuffPost premiered the lyric video track for "245th Peace Song" at

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Some songwriters wrestle with demons. Peter Himmelman wrestles with dialectics. In “Sacrificial,” a central song on his new album There Is No Calamity, Himmelman ponders questions like “How angry is too angry? How sweet is just too sweet?/How do you call out for love when love feels like defeat?” Later, he defines his song title “Ropes or Wings” as being among “the deepest choices of the human mind … With ropes we stay tied up, and with wings we can make this troubled world aligned.” His all-too-prescient “245th Peace Song” states, “the anger in people’s hearts needs to be cooled” before noting: “but you’ve got to be careful what you cool it with.

” The album’s brick-and-mortar release date is August 11, 2017 on Himmasongs Recordings. There Is No Calamity ’s existence arose with a touch of serendipity. The Minnesota-bred, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter has had conversations of late with his musician friends over the dilemma they are facing: “Why make a record these days, especially when no one's buying them?” For Himmelman, the answer is easy: songwriters need to write songs and need to record them, and then get them out into the world. Making an album also, in Himmelman’s words, “taps into something I loved as a kid when a record was something cool.”

The road to Calamity really began when Himmelman’s longtime tour guitarist Scott Tipping mentioned that his friend, Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin, was a big fan of Himmelman’s music. Himmelman contacted Berlin and things clicked. Berlin expressed interest in producing his next album and asked to hear all his demos. Himmelman sent him 53. After not hearing anything for months, Himmelman thought it was one of those “not meant to be” things. Then Berlin, back from a Los Lobos tour, got back in touch, and he had a list of songs for the album.

Himmelman admits that the songs Berlin picked weren’t ones that he would have selected, but he found Berlin’s perspective on his music refreshing and the choices “put things into focus for me.” In the past, Himmelman has been hands-on when it came to making his albums. This time, however, he stepped back and let Berlin take the helm for this record.

For his part, Berlin appreciated the trust Himmelman placed in him. Their collaborative process, Berlin explained, “ was remarkable in that when we started he really didn’t know me or my taste yet he basically said ‘just tell me what to do and I'll do it as good as I can.’ A producer can’t ask for anything more than that, and I can tell you that too is rare in my experience.” Berlin strove to capture the dynamism of Himmelman’s voice and music, as well as showcase the rare moral and ethical perspective that he sees in Himmelman’s songwriting.

While Berlin was a new collaborator, Himmelman brought in his longtime touring band to record with him. He had long discussed using these Chicago-based musicians — bassist Matt Thompson, drummer Chuck Lacy and guitarist Scott Tipping — but it had never worked out before. Last spring, they all convened for four days at the B-Side Studio in Portland, Oregon. Playing in the studio with his touring band for the first time “brought a sense of adventure,” according to Himmelman, over whether it would succeed; however, the recording sessions “worked out well on all counts.” More old friends — keyboardist Jeff Victor, percussionist Jimi Englund and vocalists Kristin Mooney, Claire Holley, and Willie Aron — also contributed to Calamity, as did noted producer Mitchell Froom, who guested on the Hammond organ, Celest and Mellotron.

The results thrilled Himmelman, who says it “captures the elusive sound of a record — as opposed to a well-wrought demo.” He was so excited that he had friends come listen to Calamity’s tracks in car. The new album delivers one of his most musically diverse efforts, from the hooky rock of “Memories in This Heart of Mine” to the gospel-toned “Ropes or Wings.” Himmelman’s rapid-fire wordplay in “Ribbon of Highway” gets propelled by a driving rhythm line, while smoldering, bluesy guitar-play enhances the sense of urgency coursing through tracks like “Smoke and Flames” and “Sacrificial.”

On this album, Himmelman examines the darker side of man on tunes like “Rich Men Rule the World,” which suggests a Randy Newman piano ballad that throws punches and not punch lines. However, he doesn’t point fingers here, but instead spotlights a world where “what money buys is what every man craves/as if we could carry it down to our graves.” Himmelman balances out his darker moments with rays of hope in songs such as “Love Is What Carries Us Away” and “The Depth of You.”

A particularly key song on There Is No Calamity is “Fear Is Undoing.” It is one of several Calamity’s songs that address how fear rules human’s lives, but how it can also be controlled. It is a concept that the Grammy- and Emmy-nominated musician explores in his recently published book Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life. The book grew out of the work he does in Big Muse, a company he founded that does music-based creativity seminars for Fortune 500 corporations and organizations. As a result of his Big Muse work, Himmelman earned a scholarship to do a yearlong program at Northwestern’s esteemed Kellogg School of Management, and was invited to the Army War College’s annual National Security Seminar. All of these experiences, Himmelman says, are things that he brings back to his music.

Himmelman, who Time magazine has said “writes songs with the same urgency that compelled the Lost Generation to write novels,” has long explored a variety of creative outlets. In addition to his dozen solo albums, he has recorded several children’s CDs (including the Grammy-nominated My Green Kite) and composed scores for numerous films and TV shows. For Himmelman, it is all about taking action and doing something he loves — making music. “Life happens,” he says. “This is it.”

Web site: Pre-sale link: Big Muse: Book:


HuffPost premiered a lyric video and kicked off news of this album:

April 30, 2014


The critically acclaimed singer/songwriter enlists a talented crew
(Jim Keltner, Leland Sklar and David Steele) for this
thought-provoking musical journey, out on July 15th.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — On his newest album, The Boat That Carries Us, out on July 15, 2014 on his own Himmasongs Recordings, Peter Himmelman is a man on the move — whether it’s in a dark El Camino wrestling the wind outside of Reno, on a plane floating 33,000 feet above the Midwest or, on the title track, in a boat that needs no sails.

It’s no coincidence that a variety of vehicles (planes, trains and even 10-ton tanks) roll through this CD, since Himmelman wrote many of the tunes while on cross-country flights. This sense of being in transit also influenced the nature of his songwriting, with each of the record’s characters in a kind of perpetual motion. “Being so high above things,” he says, “gave the songs a particular perspective — physically and metaphysically.” The “bleary-eyed travelers” in “Afraid To Lose” who wear their “doubt like a skin” aren’t just shuffling through a bus station, they’re also are on existential journey. The world-weary airplane passenger in “33K Feet” is “too tired to explain what I mean” when relating his epiphany of feeling “somehow complete at 500 miles per hour/and 33,000 feet.”

The Minnesota-bred, L.A.-based singer/songwriter describes his albums as “just chronicles of my life at a given period of time. I’m essentially a journalist. I write as I see things and I try to report objectively.” After several albums filled with narratives of the emotional struggles he saw before him, Himmelman now feels like he has succeeded in scaling a mountain, and the songs on Boat reflect this new perspective of hopefulness.

The songs that bookend Boat especially embody Himmelman’s more optimistic (at least for him) point of view. The title track, which opens the CD, offers reassuring words of survival: “though the current’s strong/it can’t break our will,” “the Northern Star/will surely guide us home” and “the darkest sky/gives way to dawn”. The closing number, a folksy, gospel-flavored “Hotter Brighter Sun,” similarly conveys the idea that something better exists “over the edge of what’s expected/off to the side of what’s been done.”

Even the disc’s darker tunes offer rays of light. “Green Mexican Dreams” finds a man experiencing a Castaneda-esque south of the border trek before returning home to Los Angeles, while “In the Hour of Ebbing Light” delivers a swamp-pop apocalyptic vision of a city about to burn yet suggests that “we can make it back to Eden.”

Boat marks the first time that Himmelman composed the lyrics first, which he discovered to be an extremely liberating way to write. “Seeing the structure of the words on the page was very visual, almost like drawing the lyrics,” he explains. A visual artist as well as a musical one, Himmelman described this songwriting process as being similar to painting as it induces a semi-dreamlike state, or, perhaps, he suggests jokingly, that comes “from the lack of oxygen on the plane flights.”

To record Boat, Himmelman also altered the way he creates an album. Instead of utilizing elaborate demos like he often had previously, he only brought in rudimentary song sketches, which he recorded primarily live in the studio with few takes. He found this approach to be “exciting, challenging and stimulating.” It helped that his core backing band featured a pair of legends — drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Leland Sklar — plus the talented David Steele (John Prine, Lucinda Williams) on electric guitar. “They took me to a higher place,” Himmelman confesses, “We each elevated one another.”

These musicians, he says, know how to transform a song into “a transcendent thing with the power to hypnotize listeners.” They also are such intuitive players that he didn’t have to tell them what to play. Keltner changed the drumbeat to “Green Mexican Dreams,” turning a track that wasn’t quite working into one of the CD’s standout cuts. Steele’s guitar work so impressed Himmelman that he wound up playing just acoustic guitar and piano. Steele unleashes some particularly nasty guitar work on “Angels Die” while using jazz licks to color the sardonically twisted love story “Tuck It In.” Keyboardist Will Gramling joined the Boat party after the main sessions; however, his organ work fits in seamlessly, especially the soulful tones he contributes to tracks like “For Wednesday at 7 p.m. (I Apologize)” and “That's What It Looks Like to Me.”

Boat, Himmelman says, wouldn’t have been made without the urging and input of his longtime friend and collaborator Sheldon Gomberg. Serving as producer, main engineer, sounding board and mentor, Gomberg helped shape the album, advising Himmelman to not camouflage himself in these songs. As a result, Boat stands as the warmest, and most spare sounding, album in his critically acclaimed catalog.

Himmelman first surfaced on the American music scene in the Minneapolis New Wave band Sussman Lawrence before moving on to create a uniquely diverse musical career. He’s best known as the thought-provoking singer/songwriter that the San Francisco Chronicle described as someone who “probes the depths of all the passions, from anguish to lust, to depths few rockers can even imagine.” Himmelman’s restless creativity has led him to record a series of children’s albums (including the Grammy-nominated My Green Kite), compose scores for numerous TV series and films and, for several years, host the live podcast show Furious World. Recently, he founded Big Muse, an innovative new company in which he uses song writing to show companies how to improve, communication, innovative thinking, and leadership skills.

To get Boat made, Himmelman turned to Kickstarter and found his inaugural crowd-sourcing endeavor to be a truly galvanizing experience. Although claiming that he basically writes songs for an audience of less than ten: (his wife, his mother, his best friend, his kids, and himself) Himmelman was able to see, through the Kickstarter campaign, the many fans out there who care deeply about his music. For the CD’s release, he has created an artfully designed lyric book as well as a cookbook, which he admits is really is the work of his wife. Well known for his witty, wry live performances, he will share his excitement about The Boat That Carries Us with some selective touring while also working on the music for the new USA Network show DIG.



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