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On December 22, 2003, Kathryn Mary Wilson was brought into this world to the accompaniment of “The Talking Heads,” and by the capable hands of Dr. Peter Boehling of Edenton, NC. Little did we know at the time how difficult the next few weeks would be, with Trish developing a serious heart condition from complications, relatives rushing in to help out at home with the baby, and everything hanging in the balance, literally, for my family, my life, and everything important to me.

Throughout this time, Peter was one constant we could count on. He always had a smile, encouragement, was on top of Trish’s care and took time he was never paid for, or required to spend to read test results, phone doctors, and generally help us through one of the most difficult periods of our life.

Somewhere in the middle of the prenatal care he became a friend, and somewhere after Katie’s birth, he became legendary – at least in my mind. One thing we learned along the way was that Peter is also a musician. We’ve heard the “Best Life Band” live at a Fourth of July party, and hope to hear them again soon, and we have both of the band’s CDS. I thought I’d take a day out here and thank Peter for this:

And this:

By bringing his band and his music to The Deep Blue Journal. I give you Dr. Peter Boehling of The Best life Band…

DBJ: My first question starts with a statement. You are an absolutely amazing man. You juggle a very busy career bringing little ones into the world (Trish, Katie, and I couldn’t possibly repay that particular debt) with a continuing musical career, while spending time with your family and (I assume) occasionally sleeping. How in the world do you manage it?

Peter Boehling: Well, music is a priority, behind family, physician, then... music. How many docs do you know who've never played golf!? I play guitar instead. Since 11 or 12 I’ve played regularly, and I’ve been writing songs since 14, when I played in my first band. As far as making time for music, I have it in my head non-stop; occasionally the stream of notes and words and images coalesces into something that won't let go, and I can't get it out of my head until I at least put pen to paper with my guitar on my lap. Or even better have an hour or two with my 4-track. This can happen at any time, and must be taken advantage of.

DBJ: How long have you been playing with “The New Life Band,” in its many incarnations, and can you give us a rundown of its history, the Discography, etc?

Peter Boehling: In 1980 I was a freshman at College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA. I met Emil the first day, a dude down the hall from me in my freshman dorm, playing nice guitar in d tuning I believe, a phat instrumental called "phoenix". He also did nice finger-style playing. I showed him the Neil Young stuff that I was literally a disciple of, and we threw some Beatles, Dead, Dylan, Allman Bros., and Floyd into the mix and added a friend who sang (with me; Emil doesn't sing); the Alchemist called it "Emil, Peter, and Tony". We played campus parties and "the pub" for drunks and stoners and a few more sober people actually listening.

The next year, Glenn came as a freshman and we added his rich baritone vocals and his piano, and he became the floor that I danced upon. Through the rest of the college years, we played a lot of obscure rock, with Neil Young and the Grateful Dead as our core. We added a few originals, but we weren't writing much back then. We never really had a "name" for the band, just added and subtracted people’s names as they came and went. At one point it was ridiculous: "Emil, Peter, Glenn and Tony, with Neil, Tad and Eric, and Virginia on flute"! Seriously. Somewhere along the way we called ourselves "Blue Light Rain" from the Dead's "Unbroken Chain,” a song steeped in images and mysticism.

After college, medical school and marriage and starting to have a family became somewhat time-consuming, as one might imagine! Glenn moved to Utah and married, and Emil stayed with his wife and kids in Williamsburg. There were maybe 6-8 years where Emil and I played on and off, and Glenn would join when he could. Then Emil and I started a band in Richmond but I had to drop out eventually because I couldn't give it enough time; I was also getting tired of cover tunes.

THEN THE SEA CHANGE HAPPENED! About 10 years ago, Mary (my wife of 22 years and mother of 5 great kids) and I were riding and listening to a group called "The Samples", a boulder, Colorado based reggae-rock band that i was stoked by. Mary said, "Peter, you could write songs like this!"

Well, I decided to stop listening and copying songs and styles, and see what happened. I started writing about life as I saw it, about the world around me, about my many blessings and about images, some real and some not. I bought a 4-track and recorded rough cuts on tape and sent songs out to Glenn in Utah and Emil in Williamsburg. With nothing but the basic chord structure and melody, they created their own bass, keyboard and vocal tracks. Emil and I practiced in Edenton (my house) twice with just the two of us, then twice with Roger (drums).

The day before we went to the studio to record "She" (released 8/03), Glenn flew in and he and I worked for about 13 hours on harmonies and arrangements. The next 2 days we spent about 20 hours in the studio and recorded all 18 cuts for "She"; Paul and I had worked out mandolin, lead guitar and conga parts that he so tastefully added. All tracks were recorded live, the whole band! It was an incredible first two days in a 42 track digital studio in a 1 stoplight town, Hamilton, NC. A few more trips for overdubs and tweaking, and we were done. I decided on the name "Peter Boehling and the Best Life Band" after one of the song titles.

About a month after our CD release party down at the Edenton waterfront, Isabel reared her ugly head and decimated our once lovely town...a song that had to be written. Around that time I was sitting at a very long and boring meeting and found myself deep in my head in the past and wrote out all ten verses of "Cannon's Ferry" on scrap receipts and napkins. I realized then that "She" was just going to be the first of a series of recording projects that I hope never to complete. Over the next two years I wrote and we recorded the next CD, "Sage", released this past march '06. It was done in much the same way as the first, but a little more piecemeal. Even before "Sage" came out I was working on new songs for the next project, which will hopefully have fewer tracks, ie. more breathing room, and more acoustic guitar with open/alternate tunings.

As far as playing live goes, with us spread out across the country and each of us with day jobs and families, the live gig is a rare treat, a several times a year occurrence, like a family reunion of sorts. Our love for the music and each other is most evident.

DBJ: Along with the singing, and the guitars, your songs often tell a story. There is the story of the hurricane, Isabel, that we both survived, and there is the story of the Civil War soldier and the ghost of his wife. What is it about these story telling ballads that appeals to you, and where do you find the inspiration for them?

Peter Boehling: During hurricane Isabel I kept a journal (which I take on trips, etc.), and jotted down some of the experiences and the evoked emotions and the reactions of others and things that were said. It was a very powerful storm and an equally powerful experience. once I started writing the song, I realized that it was "Dylanesque" in the number of sentences and verses, and that sort of fueled the flame so to speak, with songs like "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" and "Tangled Up in Blue" setting the cadence in my mind. A friend and neighbor mentioned how the smell of felled evergreens reminded him of Christmas...that was immediately written down and incorporated into the last verse. We "...turned havoc wreaked into blessings shared", with a real sense of community in helping each other literally chainsaw our way out of our drives, and cooking and sharing meals without electricity or running water.

"Cannon's Ferry" was inspired by a gig that Paul and I played, a dedication to a public access dock and boardwalk at the historic site near Edenton. We did a guitar and mandolin/violin duet, and Paul came up with a simple melody and we called it "Cannon's Ferry". Later at a boring meeting I grabbed a stream of consciousness daydream by the horns and came up with the lyrics about a soldier dying on a Civil War battlefield, being visited by the ghost of the young wife that he left behind, not knowing that she was with child, and that she died while pregnant. She probes his wound and dislodges the clotted blood and round, allowing the blood to flow freely, thus hastening his death so that they can be "a family in glory".

DBJ: I noticed in your last e-mail that your children are starting to perform as well. Is the whole family musical, and do you see any budding stars among them? Which is the next American Idol?

Peter Boehling: Isabel is my 4th child, 13 years old and writing songs already. She comes up with some poignant lyrics (remember how profound everything seemed as a teenager, when you discovered that you are the only one on the planet with INSIGHT?!). I help with the phrasing and putting her melodies to chord arrangements. I’ve been teaching her guitar for a little over a year now, and she's got natural talent. We will include at least one of her songs on the next disc.

My son Jimmy (9) is playing a little bass, has metronomic rhythm and a nice voice. We take it slowly, at the kids' pace; all of my kids are involved with everything under the sun, so music has to remain something done for pleasure, not a chore. It thrills me to no end to practice with them!
My oldest, Emily, is a sophomore at Chapel Hill. She is quite artistic and is studying graphic design. The title track from "Sage" is about sending her off to college last year, evoking "an ocean of emotion". She’s great!

My son Alex will graduate top of his high school class in a few weeks. He’s very much into beats and rap, and will study economics/investment banking at either Wake Forest or Washington & Lee in Virginia. Besides being a math whiz, he can do flips on a wakeboard!

As far as the next American Idol, that might be my middle daughter, Liza! This summer she goes to live in Manhattan, where she's been signed as a model with Ikon. She has pure beauty, from skin to the deepest core of her spirit. I have a new song for her, "Glamour Girl", that will be on the next project.

Overall, what I feel for my children is more a sense of ADMIRATION than pride.

DBJ: My standard question, reworded to fit music. You have to come up with a new song to complete your next album. You have 24 hours to get the inspiration. You can have a car and driver to take you anywhere you want to go, or a library of the world’s music and a room with a great stereo system, or a library of the world’s books. What do you choose, and why?

Peter Boehling: I would choose the car, sans driver. I get some of my best ideas just driving along by myself. "Jockey's Ridge" was literally written while driving, and I almost wrecked my car. "Sage" was inspired by the visual sensory overload that is a field of sage in the spring, wet with rain, beside route 32. I could go on...

More important than exogenous stimulation and inspiration is that which comes purely from within; give me 24 hours in a sensory deprivation chamber and I could probably come up with another ALBUM, let alone one last song! Seriously, we are bombarded with sensory stimulation daily, and need more quiet time. So I really don't want any more inspiration or input from the world’s greatest authors and songwriters; I’ve done my time as an apostle. Just give me some down time and I’ll do what I want to do. I’ll express myself with lyrics and melodies. And if anyone else appreciates it, that's a bonus!

You can read the profile of the band, their newsletter, listen to some tracks and buy their CDS by Clicking Here to visit them at www.garageband.com Or you can click the CD cover images below to go straight to the page to check out each CD.




( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 2nd, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for introducing us to this lovely man.
May. 2nd, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
You know...
That is a very apt description of Peter...he is a lovely man. He's just genuinely full of "HAPPY" (grin). And he has a wonderful singing voice, as well.

May. 3rd, 2006 12:39 am (UTC)
That was a great interview, Dave. What a truly fascinating man he is. And that picture of your daughter...she is just as cute as can be.
May. 3rd, 2006 01:03 am (UTC)
Re: Wow!
Yeah, and even if he was BORING he'd be free to babble away in my journal after all he's done for me (: Katie knows she's cute, but she's humble...

Oct. 19th, 2009 12:31 pm (UTC)
I miss Peter Boehling - - -
Knew Peter In Richmond and was his sister's neighbor. Peter is an absolutely extraordinary person.

I can hear him singing Psycho Killer even now, hitting those high notes and sounding just like Byrne.

I enjoyed reading this interview which brought back a number of fond memories from years ago.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )