a Pickin’ and a Grinnin’ with Mr. Peter King

Missy Glenn

The nicest thing about music; you connect a group to get together on that level.” What’s “that level” you ask? Peter King has the answer – community. “It solidifies and drives home that’s why you’re doing what you’re doing.” Helping to create that sense of community is what makes Peter feel great about what he does; “People can connect through music, each other’s company – that’s how (a musician’s) success is measured.”

The King is in the Building
You hopefully saw Peter King playing this summer and fall. There was ample opportunity - whether performing a solo show at a private party, brewery, or bar, playing at the Filling Station with The Salamanders, or jamming in The Dead Yellers at weddings, restaurants, Bozeman Hot Springs, and practically any music-loving establishment in the Valley - he was easy to find. Peter’s motto going into the summer was “Keep saying yes until you have to say no” – a mantra that seems to be paying off for his music and bands.  

All About that Bass
Peter moved to Bozeman with his family in 1990 and wanted to learn how to play the piano at five because his big sister did. But, he says, “I kinda hated it, quit after a year.” He attributes that to it being hard to sit still for so long; the structure was just too much. His love of music and instruments had been ignited though, and would continue to develop into the passion that Peter lives every day. He became fascinated with “rock instruments” around 13; he had some friends attending Headwaters Academy and their music teacher at the time, jazz musician Rob Kohler, would give him bass guitar lessons. This led him to play in jazz band all through high school, where he also played the saxophone. High school graduation brought upon Peter a conundrum of sorts. See – he had ordered a very nice, very expensive Norton Guitars customized bass for himself, and was making payments like any other 18 year-old kid could. Peter’s family knew he had no intentions of college, but his uncle also knew that any kid paying off a bass needed money. So they made a deal – Peter had to apply to college to receive his “graduation gift,” just enough money to make that custom bass really his. To major in Music Performance in Missoula, there went Peter!

I Pledge Allegiance To The Band
School wasn’t necessarily for him though, and the scene in L.A. was “different” and not to Peter’s liking. So, he moved back to Bozeman in 2002 and focused on songwriting and developing promising bands. He guesses to have been in 10 bands over the past 16 years, but the ones that have stuck are The Salamanders and The Dead Yellers. 

The Salamanders are a Rock band developed around 2005. The members have never changed members, and they play all original songs. The Dead Yellers, on the other hand, is a bit newer, has gone through some changes, but has been “solid for about 3 years” according to Peter. They play about 90% original songs with a Country sound, but also throw some good covers in once in awhile to keep the audience happy, dancing, and coming back for more. “All the songs I cover are songs I really, really like,” Peter explains. However, songwriting is so deeply a part of what Peter loves, as well. He used to just write songs when he was inspired, or as reactions to something or someone, or even himself. Now Peter tries to write everyday. “New music is new nostalgia,” he tells me. “It’s hard to define what does that for you any more; it happens less now.” But he loves having the chance to create that for others.  Balancing songwriting, performing solo and with both bands, and doing marketing for all 3 keeps things interesting, which keeps Peter happy. Any other “job” he found along the way to help pay bills “conflicted with music,” he explained. So about 3 years ago, Peter put his foot down about being a career musician. “When you keep coming back to something that’s hard and low pay, that’s when it’s your passion.” 

Growing, Growing, Gone!
Growing up in Bozeman, through the growth of both the town itself and the music scene, Peter has also seen the community become increasingly passionate about music. He explained to me that in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, every genre was represented, but you had to make the scene you wanted to be in. “Now there’s a handful of everything (in every genre) and it’s really, really cool. That’s how I deal with the growth and gentrification (of Bozeman), justify it with the music scene.” More people simply equal more venues to play in, more community to bring together. “Sure, I guess I’ll play at a brewery three nights this week,” he jokes. 

Peter is also growing his own village, so to speak. He has been married to his beautiful wife, Holly, for 6 years now, together 5 before that. They have two sons, ages 4 and 2. You could say that Peter’s day-job is being a Dad, which is also his most important job. “I just want to do something I truly, honestly believe in. The truer you are to yourself, your kids see that.” His main aim to is to be a “good dad, good person, good musician.”

On a personal level, Peter’s goal is trying to approach every interaction with positivity. In music, he tries to do that by practicing and marketing on a daily basis. He also strives to “keep the happiness of playing alive,” by keeping things fresh with his bands, performing on his own, songwriting, and trying to make it to see new music. While talking about goals, he also posed that “self-care is just as important as music care. Working at it a little bit every day helps with not feeling overwhelmed by not being where you want things to be. Instead of being discouraged, you are taking time to crack the code. To feel like ‘I can do this’.” 

Thirty years from now, Peter would love to have his own ranch with a barn, where there’s a little room for jamming and recording, and maybe even a venue of his own. “Then every few months, I go play with friends at their ranch somewhere else.” Sooner than that, though, he’d love to see more of happy balance between playing local and touring. Someday it’s Peter’s dream to pack the kids and wife into a bus and tour the country with him and the band. A new record next year from The Dead Yellers might also be in the cards.

Connecting For Success
As unique of a person as he is as a musician, Peter doesn’t feel like success is based on popularity and money, but on “quality shows that make me happy and feel connected to the people.” If that’s the way success is measured, then Peter King is a very accomplished man. By fostering this passion within himself of music and realizing that community - bringing people together and connecting them with music for a pure experience - is what would make him feel the best, he has created his own success. “The most interesting thing about life,” Peter mused, “as annoying as people are, they make being human a lot easier.”

To reach Peter King to book him, The Dead Yellers, or The Salamanders, please email peterleonardking@gmail.com, or visit www.thedeadyellers.com   

Photos courtesy of  John Troy Photography.

This was made by