Riding The Rollercoaster: Peter Friestedt Talks About His LA Project

by Viktor Jonsson

Peter Friestedt was born in 1973 and raised in Strömstad, Sweden. He began to play the piano at age 10, and by the time he was 11 years old, had begun to play guitar. Peter studied at various music conservatories in Sweden, before deciding in 1998 to continue his studies in the United States at the Los Angeles Music Academy, under the instruction of department head Frank Gambale and his guitar staff. Peter was one of four students, coached by the legendary drummer Ralph Humphrey and LAMA guitar instructor Bill Fowler, who received recognition for first place in the 2000 Cal State Los Angeles University Jazz Competition. In Sweden, Peter has performed with gospel artist Per-Eric Hallin, jazz-funk giant Nils Landgren, The Buddy Rich Tribute Big Band, as well as his own Peter Friestedt Group.

Today, Peter Friestedt is a very talented and lucky man. For the last couple of years he has been working on an album called The LA Project on which you can hear the talents of Bill Champlin (Sons of Champlin, and currently lead singer of Chicago), Abe Laboriel (session great), Joseph Williams (ex-Toto), members of the Yellowjackets and many, many others. It was a dream come true for Peter to make The LA Project since he had the chance to work with some of his favorite West Coast ("westcoast") musicians, people he's admired for his entire musical career.


Viktor Jonsson: When you look back on the three years you spent recording and writing The LA Project, what are your feelings?

Peter Friestedt: I just feel a lot of joy and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to work with these musicians that are very talented and some of my favorite ones around. I also realize that my life has pretty much been centered around this CD and it has affected me in a good way, I hope. I'd say some of the greatest moments of my life are connected with this CD. Like the first take on "Livin' In Your Eyes" for instance, hearing Bill [Champlin] sing my music for the first time was incredible, especially with that killer back-up band. Another amazing feeling was last summer, coming back from L.A. with a finished CD. There were some rough times when I thought this CD would never be finished, so that moment was very special and I was and am still extremely proud of the final result of the CD.

Would you do things differently if you were to do another CD like The L.A.P.? If so, what?

I'd say you learn very much from going through a project like this. I could have made things a lot of easier for myself in many ways. I did it the way I knew they did it on the old favorite albums of mine -- I brought in a whole rhythm section playin' live together in the studio, which is not a common way to make records these days. One other example is I think I used every format possible for a recording on this CD; we did two-inch tapes, ADAT, hard discs, Digital Performer, and all the time I was worried about whether it would sync. It did, and going through this journey was very exciting. I wouldn't want to make this CD in any different way.

In my opinion, the LA Project album has already become sort of a modern westcoast classic. Did you expect it to become this popular?

No, I definitely did not. Hearing those words is fantastic. I don't know how to respond here, I have been very blessed with heartfelt words like this about the CD lately. I would like to say that it means very much, I am moved everytime someone says they like my songs or playin' -- it's the best payment you could ever get in this business, and it definitely makes it worth it all.

Was westcoast pop the music you grew up on? Are there any particular artists / albums in that genre that have influenced you more that others?

I was a huge fan of westcoast pop and fusion from the age of 15 until I turned 20-something; then I went to different music conservatories and got deeper into jazz and blues. I would say that the music you dig when you are around 15 years old is the music you will always like in your life and that is something I tell my students. I do think it's important to have an open mind for different kinds of music. I've been listening to a lot of soul, r& b and funk these last five years, but I've also started to appreciate classical music more.

Anyway, there are a lot of great albums in the westcoast genre and some of my favorite ones are done by artists that are featured on the LA Project CD, for instance I loved the first Michael Ruff album Once In A Lifetime. Bill Champlin's first two solo records Single and Runaway are definitely some of my favorite CDs. Here's a list of other CDs that have been really important for me:

Stevie Wonder / Songs In The Key Of Life

Bill Labounty / Bill Labounty

Marc Jordan / Mannequin

Dionne Warwick/ Friends In Love

Yellowjackets / Mirage A Trois

Koinonia / Koinania


Right: Peter Friestedt (Photo courtesy of www.peterfriestedt.com).



What were your feelings the first time you were about to meet the musicians, whom you had admired for such a long time?

I was very excited. I was shakin', very nervous. I would describe it like my good friend and great former teacher Jeff Richman said it: it's like going on a rollercoaster doing your own CD with your favorite musicians; as soon as it's done you just want to get up again. The second sessions were much more comfortable and I was much more relaxed.

Will there be a follow-up album?

I hope so. I have already written some new songs and I have even started to work on them in a studio here in Sweden . I do want to see the result of this first CD first though.

Have you thought about doing any L.A. Project concerts?

We are checking out the possibility of a small tour this summer or fall. Nothing is set yet but I will post it on the Web site [www.peterfriestedt.com] as soon as I know more about it.


Don't miss the Daily Vault's review of The LA Project. Many thanks to Peter Friestedt for taking time from his busy schedule to speak with Viktor Jonsson and The Daily Vault.

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