Channeling the challenges and frustrations faced by today’s independent artists with a stark boldness few ever dare to write and sing about, Louisville based singer-songwriter Nick Peay centers his compelling new EP around a theme that transcends the simple goal of success in the music industry. “It’s about being accepted and finding your place at home,” he says, “whether it’s an actual location, or within a family or group of people who accept you and love you for who you are.” The EP’s clever title Feathers & Fables is from a key line in the song “Fly Away,” an acoustic guitar driven reflection about stepping back from a tough situation and realizing you have to rise above it “if you’re able.”
Feathers & Fables is the highly anticipated follow-up to Peay’s 2011 EP Life & Love & Us, which featured the singer—who emerged as a solo artist after a few years as frontman for the rock band OK Zombie--exploring his fascination for the ukulele, which he calls “a happy little instrument.” With the exception of the “Two Miserable Blackbirds”--the electric guitar driven opener that Peay calls his “Ryan Adams-like rock anthem sounding song”--the tracks on the EP flow along on the strains of Peay’s crisp acoustic guitar lines. Some are very stripped down, while others feature colorful production touches (like the congas and dobro on “Mockingbird”).
Though Peay continues to face the proverbial struggle for acceptance that drives the careers of talented artists in a competitive world, he has enjoyed a series of positive breakthroughs which colors the bird imagery and hints of optimism through the fog throughout Feathers & Fables. Several tracks from his previous EP were in regular rotation on 91.9 KFPK, Louisville’s public radio station that is one of the country’s top Triple AAA outlets. While the club scene in his hometown is more cover band oriented, Peay has made the most of those that offer slots for original singer-songwriters—performing solo gigs regularly at The Haymarket Whiskey Bar and The Bard’s Town. Peay has also played in Nashville (where he studied record production and music business at Middle Tennessee State) and at renowned Chicago venues The Elbo Room and Hard Rock Café. He also plays frequently in Indianapolis, just a few hours up the road.
Feathers & Fables takes Peay—whose first instrument before the guitar was the clarinet-- back to his early musical roots, when he was obsessed with listening to the great singer-songwriters and classic rockers that populated his parents’ album collection; he cites his influences as everyone from The Beatles and Led Zeppelin to The Eagles, Boston, Aerosmith, America and Simon & Garfunkel. Another key track on the EP is “Mockingbird,” an only slightly veiled indictment of the generic nature of the bands he hears in Louisville, who seem to be generic, “mocking” versions of great rock groups. Peay sees “Home” as the emotional centerpiece; it’s a dark, lonely piece that takes place at night, where he realizes that he doesn’t fit in where he thought he did. Though its theme can be applied universally, for the singer, it’s a search for that perfect niche as a solo artist after several years of trying unsuccessfully to keep his band OK Zombie together.
“When I wrote Life & Love & Us,” Peay says, “I wanted to focus on writing good songs, so some of them are not necessarily from personal experiences. However, with Feathers & Fables I let emotion control most of the writing. It was a completely different way of writing than I've ever done. Louisville is a very small, cliquish community and I have struggled over the years to find a group of musicians that I fit in with and a supportive fan base. I feel like this is a very raw and honest EP. It's emotional and I hope a lot of people will be able to relate to the feelings of longing for finding a place to belong.”