When I wrote a feature article about Eichstaedt’s first album, My Own Little World in 2013, I ended by saying: “The debut album by Petra Eichstaedt shows potential for this evolving artist. As the saying goes, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with at single step,’ and Petra’s first venture as a solo recording artist shows that she is on firm footing and following a promising creative path. I’ll look forward to her continuing adventures.” And now here we are in 2015 ready to set out on a new musical sojourn with her follow up release, Little Things Of Life. However, readers who may be interested to learn more about the background of this talented guitarist/multi-instrumentalist/visual artist can refer to the original article I wrote about her which contains much about her history and creative evolution. I had also mentioned that Petra is from Germany, so English is not her first language, but that since her music is instrumental nothing is lost in the translation and her six strings speak a universal language.
I’m always interested in the sources for an artist’s inspiration, and in my interview with Petra, she shared the following: “Every song has its own story. My inspiration is from movies, books, my personal emotions, and my travels. I love books and films where you find mystic places, a world of poetry and full of fantasy.” My favorites are “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, Walt Disney’s “Fantasia” and “Alice in Wonderland,” and of course, “The Lord of the Rings.” It’s so amazing how Tolkien has created his world with all these different creatures and landscapes. What a genius.”
I was curious about the title of this album to which she explained: The French movie The Things Of Life from Claude Sautet, 1970, with Romy Schneider and Michel Piccoli is one of my favorite movies. A man has a car accident and he thinks about his life what’s all happened. I love this movie with all its melancholy. This movie inspired me to my title song ‘The Things Of Life’”. She also gave other examples of inspiration: “In 1998 I spent more than four months in the USA. I drove across the whole country. I was very interested in American history and especially the situation of the Indians. The result was “American Dream 1998.”
Petra goes on to say: “It is all a creative process; you cannot single out the different steps of creation. Every song is different and has its own development. Sometimes a new piece of music is perfect after a few minutes, sometimes I start with a new theme, put it aside after a while just to pick it up sometime later on and work on it again when a new idea grabs hold of my mind. I have always seen a lot of pictures in my mind.” In addition to visualizing and creating all but one of the songs on this album, Petra plays all the instruments, including acoustic and electric guitars, guitalele (a cross between a guitar and a ukulele) blues harp, and keyboard, as well as computer programming.
On the opening track entitled “A Touch Of Lavender,” Petra accompanies herself on multi-tracked guitars playing both rhythm and melody. The tune has a bit of an ethnic folk vibe to it. I’m not sure exactly what the ethnicity would be, but perhaps Greek, or something from that part of the world. Interestingly it is played in ¾ time as a waltz and has a festive yet subtly wistful air. Petra shares that what she calls “Nordic melancholy” is an important element in her music and she subscribes to the motto: “Without the minor no song is great!” This song is followed by the title track, which maintains the folk feel with finger picked acoustic guitar. Petra also adds light melodic lead guitar and a keyboard string section to accent the gently rolling rhythm.
The next track is the only one that Petra didn’t write, and is the classic “Besame Mucho,” which translates as “kiss me generously” is one of the most widely sung and recorded Mexican boleros in the world. Petra’s arrangement is of course, built on the Spanish guitar and accompanied by the guitalele, a percussion track, and blues harp (harmonica). It sounds like a full band playing and is a real toe tapper. One of the things I remember liking from Petra’s last album was her use of electronic effects like chorus and reverb on her guitar to give it a richer ambience, which stood out to me here on track 4, “Call On Me.” By this point in the album drum loops are starting to become more prevalent in the songs, including contemporary beats like hip hop, dance rhythms, and conga grooves. It’s an interesting juxtaposition set against the more mellow acoustic guitars. I liked some better than others, particularly the earthy congas on “One Ginger Morning,” which was one of my favorites.
I was curious to hear track 8, the aforementioned “American Dream 1998,” since it was a reflection of some of the impressions Petra received while traveling across the US. For me it evoked the wide-open spaces of the West or the Southwest, especially with the Native American chanting and bluesy harmonica accents. On “Beyond The Blue River” I liked the breezy feel and lighter percussive elements rather than the full on drum loops. The album ends as it began with a folky acoustic guitar piece that makes for a gentle conclusion to Little Things Of Life.
Petra’s second solo album finds her exploring new territory as well as re-treading familiar ground. Music, like everything else, is a learning experience and a process of discovery in the search for a musical identity. We learn what works and what doesn’t work in creating our unique sound. Petra has a lot of raw talent and creative energy, and I imagine that each of her subsequent recordings will reveal more and more of that. I appreciate the spirit that she brings to her music, which is expressed in a song by John Miles that Petra quoted in our interview: “Music was my first love. And it’ll be my last. Music of the future. And music of the past. To live without my music, would be impossible to do. ‘Cause in this world of troubles, my music pulls me through.”