Following the release of Dog's Eye View's two LPs, "Happy Nowhere" and "Daisy," the group's singer and songwriter, Peter Stuart, has decided to return to his solo roots in more ways than one.
"The band worked for the first record, but on the second record ['Daisy'], it just felt like I was carrying this albatross," Stuart said of his decision to make a solo album, currently titled "Songs About You."
The album was recorded in Los Angeles under the umbrella of Sony affiliate Columbia Records, which also released the two Dog's Eye View albums. Feeling a lack of support from the label for "Daisy," Stuart decided to part ways with Columbia and seek a different distributor for his solo album.
"The faith in this new record that I have was that it is too good to be squandered on a courtesy release," Stuart explained. "I had to have a conversation with myself. The safe place is: you make the record, stay with Columbia, you get your advance and whatever happens, happens. But you're still with a major, and you live the dream.
"The unsafe [place]," he continued, "is to say, 'I want my record back. I'll do whatever it takes. I'll give up my publishing advance, and I'll have no more money, and ultimately, that could be the end of my major label career.' I believe enough in what I do and in the record to do that. It was a pretty simple decision from there."
Stuart shook hands with Columbia and left with the "Songs About You" masters in hand. "I'm really not these people's main priority," Stuart said of his former label. "There's no rush to get the record out. The more I sit back and watch the teen pop go by, the more I realize it's gonna run its course and open up a world where I fit in better."
Despite Stuart's label-less status, he has continued to tour in support of "Songs" with his own narrow budget. Recently Stuart finished a six-week stint opening for Paula Cole, during which he drove a rental car behind Cole's tour bus, performed with a single acoustic guitar, and sold four-song CDs following each show.
"Paula [Cole] looked at me at one point and said, 'The fact that you're out of your record deal and you're still willing to take the risk and get in your car and drive around the country, following us on eight-hour drives every day just to get to play for 45 minutes a night, is incredibly inspiring,'" Stuart recalled. "It's just what you do. When thousands of people aren't lining up to see you, you go to the ones you are able to get in front of to play."
Stuart is no stranger to this situation. In 1995, before inking his deal with Columbia, the singer toured with the Counting Crows as the band's roadie-guitar tech and opened the show with 25 minutes of "a guy and his guitar," as he described it, and selling his self-made CDs after the shows.
"There's nothing as gratifying as having everything in your own hand," Stuart said. "Walking on stage alone, playing a show to a bunch of people who aren't sure who you are, and then walking off stage and selling 60 CDs.
"It so boiled down to the essence of what I do," he continued. "It makes it clear that I don't need to be the guy selling millions of records, and I don't need to be the big rock star, because there are things about that that aren't very gratifying. If I can go out and play to people and win them over one by one, then I'm totally happy. It's fun to be self-contained."
Though the album's release date has not yet been established, Stuart plans to sell samplers of the album -- which was produced by former Williams Brothers member [and son of crooner Andy Williams] Andrew Williams -- when he hits the road again with Cole for a tentatively scheduled West Coast tour.
Stuart is also slated to open the Counting Crows-Live double bill in August on the Levi's stage ("I'm just the guy on the second stage in the middle of the field somewhere," he explained), where he also plans to be selling samplers of his eleven-track solo album.
Dog's Eye View fans can expect to hear less weighty electric guitar riffs and more acoustic elements on the disc, not to mention an eclectic mix of 45-some-odd additional musicians such as X drummer DJ Bonebrake, mandolin player and steel guitarist David Immergluck, and Counting Crows organist Charlie Gillingham.
The first tune on the album, "Innocence," was written at Miles Copeland's songwriters' retreat at the industry heavy's castle in the South of France. While there, Stuart co-wrote a song with Jon Bon Jovi for the upcoming Bon Jovi LP.