When I received Peter Ciluzzi’s press release for his upcoming show at the Woods Hole Community Hall on August 19 I was intrigued and admittedly a little bit skeptical. The concert was billed as a solo guitarist playing instrumental music. When it comes to music I’ve always gravitated to lyrics first and melody second. Then I checked out YouTube videos of Peter playing and I was impressed. Through fingerpicking, strumming, slapping and tapping the guitar he creates a sound bigger and more complex than I would have imagined. It’s wild. The absence of singing gives the music space to breathe and take center stage, showcasing subtleties that may be lost in lyric-based music. He has released two albums on CandyRat Records, his most recent being “Still Without Words.”
Peter also builds guitars, teaches lessons and does his own marketing from writing press releases to hanging posters. So, on top of his musical talent, I seriously respected his hustle and wanted to talk to him. For a guy who writes instrumental music he had a lot of interesting things to say.
Luke Vose: What town did you grow up in, and how did it influence your music?
Peter Ciluzzi: I’m not sure I’ve grown up yet, but I spent my formative years in Provincetown, and it had a huge influence on my music. When I was a kid there were lots of hippies that were always playing music downtown and on the beach. Even at that age I could tell that some of them were really good, so there was always an element of artistry in it for me, too. Actually seeing music being made in front of me made me want to learn how to play an instrument, to learn how it was done. But it was also that as a kid I saw music as kind of a game or a puzzle that you can play anywhere and that has no end and no limits and is an endless source of fascination—and I feel the same way about it today.
LV: As well as playing them you also design and build guitars. Does being a luthier influence your approach to songwriting?
PC: My shameless but true pitch is that playing a truly fine handcrafted instrument will make you a better musician. A superior instrument has much more tonal subtlety, depth and richness and more responsive dynamics than most factory-made instruments. Also, when a guitar is built and set up with a great amount of attention to detail, it takes less physical effort to play; the strings can be very close to the fretboard but if everything is set up right, there’s no string buzz—so you don’t have to press down very hard and that greatly increases facility. Like, if you ever watch a concert violinist’s or pianist’s hands, they’re so relaxed that they just kind of fall and bounce and there’s no tension at all.
Having said all of that, I try to build the guitar that I want to play, and the guitar I want to play is effortless to play but has a big, rich, clear sound and is very responsive. So, yes, building guitars also influences my music because I generally play very lightly and with a lot of attention to detail, and I”m not sure I could compose and play the music I write without the right instrument.
LV: What is your songwriting process?
PC: I really have no idea. Every great song begins with a very simple idea. Sometimes all it takes is a few notes, if they’re the right ones. Sometimes I dream that I’m playing a song that I’ve never heard before and some of those ideas turned into really good songs. In guitar-making the whole process of building a guitar basically involves starting with a bunch of pieces of wood and removing wood until you’re left with the right amount; then you put those pieces together, and there’s your guitar (hopefully). And I think that’s kind of how I write. Starting with a few very simple musical ideas, and from every possible combination of notes and intervals and rhythms, I slowly eliminate possible musical choices and directions until I’m left with the right notes; then put the pieces together and there’s a song. Hopefully.
LV: What do you like about touring?
PC: I think if I’m touring, then I like the fact that I’m touring. I’ve had the chance to tour and perform with some amazing guitarists that are on the same record label as I am and we had some great shows and a lot of fun on the road. And it will always amaze me to meet someone at a show that I’ve never met before that has connected with my music. To make something and put it out into the world and to have a single person connect with it will always be a miracle and a gift.
LV: What advice would you give to musicians coming up today?
PC: I’m not sure I’m in any position to give advice but if I were to, it would be: don’t play music because you want a career in music. Play music because it’s what you do and what you love. What I said about a single person liking what I do being a blessing is true. Be thankful to have music in your life, and don’t expect anything in return.
LV: What can people look forward to at one of your shows?
PC: Bad jokes. Music is transformative and gives our lives meaning. It gives us a break from the day to day, inspires us to push ahead and sometimes helps to give us a new perspective on things. I like to think maybe I can help with that a little.
Peter Ciluzzi will be performing next Friday, August 19, at 8 PM at Woods Hole Community Hall, 68 Water Street. Tickets are $10 at the door. Visit peterciluzzi.com.