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Peter Wolf Crier's Peter Pisano shares his songwriting secrets

When Peter Pisano moved to Minnesota from Milwaukee with his old band, the Wars of 1812, he sacrificed an offer of grad school and a teaching job for an unknown future in a town where he was not aware of any real music scene. What he found was a community where people who made music were taken seriously, and where peers, including the late Michael Larson, aka Eyedea, welcomed him with open arms.

After his band broke up, Pisano wasted little time before writing music as Peter Wolf Crier and teaming up with Brian Moen to flesh out the songs that would become part of one of the better albums of 2010. That recording, Inter/Be, was named for, and informed by, an idea articulated by the Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh regarding the interrelatedness of the world. We recently spoke with Pisano about his songwriting process and the narrative that emerged as he wrote the album.

Westword: Your album seems to have a literary structure, in that there are stories that are interconnected in some way. Does that play a role in how you wrote the record?

Peter Pisano: Certainly not on any conscious level. When I sit down to write, it's never a piece of paper and pencil and then a song gets formed around it. It's not even like sitting down. I get caught off guard. Sometimes I'll be at home and feeling know, we constantly have shit under the surface that is bubbling and boiling over. Sometimes, it's "Oh, I need to have a cigarette" or "I need to go for a run" or "I need to call a friend."

For me, I have one more of those things, and that's "Oh, it's time to write a song." It's a unique process, because I think those other things we could do are what allow us to not have to sit with what we're experiencing. Writing songs for me is a beautiful exercise in having to sit and feel and experience what is bubbling underneath.

So I'll sit down, and in those moments, I'll just play and start singing a melody, and the words come out quite naturally. And I'm not getting aware of what the words are as I'm singing them. They just sound right, as far as the vowels and consonants with the melodies. The songs get 80 percent written just like that.

Knowing that that's the way that I was going to approach writing this record, I knew there was going to be something tying it all together, because it was going to be written in a similar period in my life where there were emergent themes I was being exposed to for the first time. I'll listen to it now and I can see what's going on with these songs. When I was writing it, it wasn't my intention for me to discover that years later. It was just my intention just to speak whatever truth I had at that moment.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.