Crossing the Bridge:
an interview with Peter Marinari (6.12.99)


Peter Marinari unconcernedly walks down his hallway towards the bathroom.  When he notices that I'm not following, he turns and says: "Just keep talking, I'm only going to get a shower."

        This exchange sets the tone for the entire interview.

Born and raised in Southwest Philadelphia, Peter has always been a great fan of music.  Whether it be Michael Jackson's Thriller as a toddler or the produced pop/rock of Garbage today, he has always shown an great interest in the art.  Peter has also always been notoriously creative, ever since having a story he co-wrote in 3rd grade published in his school newspaper.

        "It was murder-mystery," Peter says from within the shower, "probably not that good of a story, in retrospect.  I don't think I even have a copy of it... hopefully none of those VH1 shows will be able to dig it up if I ever become famous."

        This is said with a muffled laugh and probably a smirk, which is standard in a conversation with Peter. He has a sense of humor that hardly ever quits, and it's something you notice about him very quickly.

        "Oh, but it can go too far. When I was recording my Demo the first thirty seconds of every track would be me making jokes about the last take.  And no one else would get them either; most of my internal humor really should just stay internal."

        Perhaps this is why he did not pursue a career as a comedian.  "I thought about it when I was little," he says seriously, "because I seemed to always make people laugh."

Instead, this sense of humor, creativity, and love of music all came together when Peter's mother bought him a guitar at the end of his Sophomore year at Masterman high-school.  After a handful of lessons, Peter began to teach himself how to play.  By the end of the summer he was playing competently enough to start to write songs.

        "They were pretty bad.  The only two I still play have music by Gina [Martinelli].  Back then I didn't know I could, like, picture the sound I wanted and then do it. I just played the first few chords that came into my head and sooner or later I would have a song."

        He continues: "I might not have ever even thought to write songs, really, but I had written 'Without You I Cry' over a year before that and Gina had just snapped it up and made a song out of it, so the whole time I was thinking 'I can do this, I just need to know how to play.'  And of course, I've always been the type to think of a line in the shower and start singing a song from it.  So I figured with a guitar, they would actually be songs."

        However, Peter's song-writing wasn't taken very seriously through the end of his Junior year, by himself or his friends.

        "I played something for them, ... I played 'Together.'  Everyone was very impressed.  But I was quiet about [my song-writing]; I still am.  I like to be the background noise, because I know people hear me.  When I try to get people to pay attention usually their mind just wanders off.  So, I like to be the background music."

How seriously he took his music began to change at the end of his Junior year, when he decided to use a small empty notebook he had found in his house as his poetry journal.  "It was just a matter of organization at first; to write things all in one place."  But, the emotional charge of completing another year of school motivated him to write constantly, "almost a song a night."  And while the music for these songs wasn't always good or even existent, Peter began to treat his writing less like a personal joke and hobby and more like a serious practice.  That first week of writing produced "World in My Hand" (ra28k / DL)-, which has become one of Peter's mainstays.  "I was all about taking myself seriously that summer.  I wrote a lot; I was very productive, and with very little motivation after that first week."

At the beginning of his Senior year at Masterman Peter moved to South Philadelphia, after having lived in his previous home for over twelve years   He describes it nonchalantly as a "big change" that had an affect on his writing, but by looking at the differences in his music [and also the song which is the namesake of his publishing company, "AM Kitchen"], it's easy to tell that the change was a lot bigger than he lets on.  However, despite taking himself seriously, Peter still was shy about displaying his work.  He had already begun to construct his website, but let only a few select friends visit it.  But all that changed on October 12th, 1998.

        "I was coming home from someone's house, on my mother's bike.  I... I had a lot of emotions in my head, I mean, I really liked this person, for a while, a lot of songs refer to this person from as far back as March [of 1998].  And on my bike I had been thinking... it was so quiet and the air just rushed by me and all I could hear was the air rushing past my ears and just the sound of my tires, and it was like I [was] flying."

        Now drying off from his shower, Peter pauses.  "Sometimes when you write it just flows through you and you think 'god, did I ever write that?'  It was one of those moments, and within about twenty minutes I wrote 'Touch', and that changed [a lot of] things."

        Specifically, Peter felt that "Touch" was a song that people would actually want to listen to, when previously he was writing mostly for his own entertainment.  "I started playing it for people right away.  I sent [my friends] the lyrics that night... I think I first played it for Gina at our school picnic."

Gina Martinelli comes up more often than almost any other name in the conversation with Peter.  The two of them met in seventh grade and have been "great friends" ever since. Gina's guitar playing is one of the reasons Peter taught himself how to play.  "She was just so good, she played with such confidence and so well, and I just wanted to try to do that."  The two friends have collaborated on several songs together, including "Without You I Cry" and "Falling Down", and Gina played both twelve string guitar and keyboard on Peter's first demo CD.

After "Touch," things seem to become a blur in Peter's mind.  "I was writing a lot at the end of 1998, and I started bringing my guitar into school and getting people to listen to me.  People started to make the connection that I wrote songs, which never really happened before."  In 1999 Peter began to experiment with both alternate tunings and alternate chord voicings, inspired by both Ani DiFranco and Peter Mulvey, but also by the piano playing of Tori Amos.  By this time he had self-taught himself basic music theory: "I learned from Tori Amos sheet music books.  My friend Sara taught me the first bits over the phone and then I just figured out the rest."

        Another difference was in Peter's writing; he was writing less often now, but whenever he did the themes were usually of quarreling, unhappiness, and misunderstanding.  "I was only writing when I was motivated, and the motivation was usually in the form of some falling out with someone who I cared about.  So, that was all I really had to sing about."

        Throughout our conversation Peter is deliberately vague about the people his songs are about, as he was here, though he is happy to explain the situations and feelings that went into them.  In fact, the most specific he ever becomes in describing the people behind his songs is when he talks about "Touch."

As his Senior Project Peter made a Demo CD at home on his own computer.  "What a nightmare.  I just blindly recorded things, I didn't even know what I needed to make a CD. The sound quality wound up being awful because I was recorded at too low of a sampling rate."

        But the CD proved just how much interest Peter had actually generated.  "People were asking me for copies, [people that] I didn't even think knew I played."  Some of this interest may have been generated by his several appearances in the Masterman 1999 Health Fair, each with guitar in hand.   The first song featured in the Health Fair was "The Inadequacy Song", which is also the first song on Peter's Demo.

        Despite the expressed interest in his music, as of this writing very few people have actually received copies of the Demo, due to its low sound quality.  However, the response he received "really inspired" Peter to keep working at his music.

What the future holds for Peter Marinari is not entirely clear.  "I used to think that if I couldn't picture myself doing something then it could never happen.  I'm starting to realize now that that isn't always true."  In the fall Peter will begin college at Drexel University, and "hopefully begin to learn about and get in on the local music scene."  Only time will tell what the future will bring.

        As for what he wants, Peter said this: "I dream that I can fly sometimes.  For the longest time I wanted to have super-powers so I could fly, and I don't anymore because I feel like I already know how."

        So, the sky's the limit.