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TICKET GIVEAWAY – If you would like a chance to win a free pair of tickets to see Peter Holsapple Thursday, June 9, email Ken Abrams at mrabrams11@gmail.com before 1PM on Thursday. We’ll let you know if you’re the winner by 3PM!

Music visionary Peter Holsapple is heading to the area for a special show in North Kingstown this Thursday, June 9. The solo show at the Creative Options Center will highlight his music with the groundbreaking band the dB’s, Americana innovators Continental Drifters, as well as his own work. 2022 marks Holsapple’s 50th year as a performer, and he continues to write and record regularly.

Holsapple is best known for his work in the jangle-pop band the dB’s, an influential North Carolina group that included indie-rock artists Chris Stamey, Will Rigby and Gene Holder. The band influenced many who followed including REM and The Smithereens. He later co-founded the Continental Drifters, a supergroup of sorts with his ex-wife, Newport native Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills, and Vicki Peterson of the Bangles.

Holsapple is looking forward to the show. He’s played in Newport before including a gig at the Salvation Café a few years ago. Thursday’s show at the Creative Options Outdoor Education and Event Center will follow a casual house concert format, with Holsapple describing his process of writing and recording songs.

“I’m really looking forward to this tour because I like the intimacy of house concerts. Over the years, I’ve played before gigantic audiences with groups like REM and Hootie and the Blowfish, and those were really exceptional experiences. As a singer-songwriter for many years, I really the idea of being able to play for people who know who I am and know my stuff and don’t make it like I’m some sort of obstacle to the bar or the headline act,” he joked.

He started composing music at a young age. “I’ve written songs since I was about eight years old, so there’s a fairly large catalog to draw from. I look forward to bringing that to Rhode Island,” he added.

He’ll be playing music from throughout his career but plans to focus on material he wrote for the dB’s, “Those songs are key to understanding what I’ve done with the rest of my life as well. Frankly speaking, people really do remember most what they hear first from any artist. It doesn’t matter if you’re Peter Holsapple or Lou Reed or David Bowie, you can go on and make new records and people will say, oh that’s good, but play ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ or ‘Changes.’”

A good example is “Black and White,” an upbeat song that was “in rotation” at college radio stations for several years in the early 1980’s.

“That was our first American single as the dB’s, it was put out on a label called Shake Records. I remember waking up on Saturday mornings in New York and listening to (well-known DJ) Meg Griffin and she would play it on her show. There’s something about hearing that pumping out on the radio, when you drive into town and you hear yourself on a college radio station as you’re getting close, it’s just so cool that it makes you feel like, yeah, I’m doing the right thing, this is exactly what I want to do. You know I’m not The Beatles but The Beatles got played on the radio too, you can’t help but feel excited and proud of your work when you realize that other people are tuned in,” said Holsapple.

The band never had the commercial success of bands like REM but was heavily influential in the jangle-pop sound that was popular in the 1980’s.

“We went from great hopefuls, to near success, to also rans, to founding fathers of power pop all without selling a lot of records,” remarked Holsapple. “That’s fine, the people that heard dB’s records still have some attachment to them, they liked how they sounded and how they made us feel. We had more success than a lot of bands did, even the sort of conditional success that we had. There were dozens of bands who put out brilliant records, and didn’t get any sort of airplay. Maybe it’s part of being 66, but in retrospect, I’m really grateful for the attention we actually did get. A lot of college radio DJ’s bought these records, we’re talking about expensive import albums, and they brought their own copies into the stations and played them.”

What are his thoughts on the music scene today?

“I think the Internet has created a lot of opportunities and pitfalls for musicians. There’s something special about the accessibility of music online now, with the notable exception of the dB’s catalog.”

He’s not a big fan of streaming services like Spotify however he acknowledges they expose fans to diverse music, “it’s getting the music out there, right … the most important thing is getting people to hear the music. I took my 14-year-old to see Sylvan Esso, that’s the best working band out of North Carolina and certainly one of the more adventuresome musical experiences that you’ll get to have in your life.”

The music scene is certainly a lot different than it was when Holsapple and the dB’s were coming up. “I came up with the term ‘Combo-radery’ years ago, in New York, we were good friends with bands like the Bongos, The Bush Tetras, and the Del Lords. We were very excited to see groups like REM, The Go-Go’s, and The Bangles have such huge success. We loved their music and we were so proud to be there with them.”

Meanwhile, Holsapple is busy making music and more.

“I’m really just trying to keep writing … I’ve got a small recording studio behind my house, which I call the Hit Shed. I do online overdubs for clients, musicians, and bands across the world. I did that all through the pandemic and found it to be a really great experience. I’m fighting the good fight to try to get the dB’s stuff out of the hands of the evil empire, so people can hear it again, same thing with the Continental Drifters. Hopefully, those records will get reissued next year, and maybe we can do some more shows.”

Something to look forward to!

For more on the show, click here.

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Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.