You've probably heard Peter Broderick, even if his name isn't familiar. The multi-instrumentalist has played on records by the likes of M. Ward, Laura Gibson, Loch Lomond, and Norfolk and Western, to name just a few. Along with his sister Heather, he is a sometime member of Horse Feathers, and currently tours with Danish band Efterklang, but he still found time to release two vastly different solo albums last year: the largely instrumental Float, on Type Records, and the folky Home, on Hush.
Home is very much a reaction to what preceded it, as Broderick explains. "When I was making Float, I thought that was the kind of music I wanted to make: very instrumental, classical, almost ambient music," he tells me on the phone from a breakfast spot not far from his hometown of Carlton, Oregon. "And then I started to play concerts. And I didn't want to just play that stuff because it seemed kind of boring. I mean, there are some people who always consider instrumental music to be boring and I wanted to perhaps play something for everyone."
Broderick began playing music by learning the violin, and his skill has quickly bled over to mastery of a huge number of other instruments, including piano, banjo, and saw. But he never felt entirely comfortable with the conventional guitar-and-voice songwriter arrangement.
"I've always liked to play the guitar and sing," he says, "but I couldn't record that stuff because it's hard to listen to your own voice. It's a hard thing to get used to. But for the concerts I started to play half and half: the piano-and-violin songs, and then these guitar songs. Then I started to feel stupid for only selling my instrumental records after my concerts. So when I had a break from touring I decided to just record some of these guitar songs. I made a rule to make the album with no piano and no violin because I had used those so much on the last record. So [Home] was really kind of an experiment for me even though it's probably the most accessible sounding."
The title of Home is a reaction to Broderick's life on the road with Efterklang, a band he was a huge fan of before they invited him to join. "I had sort of stalked them on MySpace for a little while. And I sort of had to beg them to let me send my music and stuff. And somehow, they started to write back to me and we got to be friends a little bit. And then they just wrote me out of the blue! They knew I played violin and they were looking for a violinist to tour with them. I guess it makes sense when you're a band to find a musician who's into the music already. But it still was totally insane."
Broderick opens for Efterklang on this current tour, while his solo work has taken on a life of its own, including huge support from his label in England, Bella Union Records. "Just last week I was in England doing a two-week headlining tour and I was just blown away," he says. "There were just tons of people at every show. And I had no expectations for this tour. And it sort of smacked me in the face because there were these people who know me as this singer/songwriter guy. Which is totally, totally bizarre."