In a brief essay on her website, Gretchen Peters says, “I think great songs are born. They are born with all the urgency of childbirth, born out of pain, anger, joy, wit, and delivered by instinct, skill and love.” It is this passion for the song that fuels all facets of a career that has brought her to the Grammys twice as a songwriter, won her a CMA Song Of The Year award for the groundbreaking “Independence Day”, taken her on repeated sold-out tours across the UK and Ireland, and seen the release of five critically acclaimed albums. Of her most recent release, Thom Jurek of Allmusic.com says, “This is Gretchen Peters' finest moment as a recording artist, and perhaps her finest as a song-lyric poet as well… Burnt Toast & Offerings is the most sophisticated and truthful recording about love since Nick Cave's The Boatman's Call. It's not the next step for this contemporary singer and songwriter, but a giant leap, an aesthetic milestone that sets the bar higher not only for her but for anyone wishing to write songs honestly about the inside of a life in the process of being lived, a life that holds love as its zenith...”
Burnt Toast & Offerings was born out of the emotional remnants of what Peters calls a “mid-life epiphany” which culminated in the end of her 23 year marriage; it’s a deeply personal coming-to-terms record that both reveals and transcends the specifics. As David McGee, reviewing for Barnes & Noble puts it, “a wondrous, wrenching personal reflection on love… Deep and deeply beautiful, Burnt Toast & Offerings is a fully realized work of art.”
Critical acclaim for Peters’ songs is nearly universal. In a review of her 2000 eponymous album, the Associated Press states, “This is not jukebox music - the stuff that exists to fill in the pauses in conversation. This IS the conversation”. People Magazine says, “If Peters never delivers another tune as achingly beautiful as "On a Bus to St. Cloud"... she has already earned herself a spot among country's upper echelon of contemporary composers."
The daughter of an author/activist father and a mother whom Peters describes as a "free spirit", she was raised in New York and Boulder, Colorado, but moved to Nashville in the late 80's "when they were still signing people like Steve Earle and Nanci Griffith". Peters claims, “I never understood how the music business took people and broke them up into little pieces - the songwriter, the producer, the recording artist, the entertainer. I suppose I grew up with the idea that you made music from start to finish, and I never felt satisfied being one of the pieces”. Rejecting the Nashville assembly-line model and eschewing what she laughingly calls “gratuitous co-writing”, she nevertheless accumulated enough accolades as a songwriter, for artists as wide-ranging as Martina McBride, Etta James, Trisha Yearwood, Bonnie Raitt, The Neville Brothers, Patty Loveless, George Strait, Neil Diamond, Bryan Adams and Faith Hill, to earn her a recording contract in 1996. That resulted in The Secret Of Life, about which Time magazine wrote, “Peters, whose choir-girl voice has a seductive hint of late nights and cigarettes, knows the tunesmith's secret: crafting a good love song... The passionately elegiac “When You Are Old” is a declaration of eternal devotion: "When your brave tales have all been told/ I'll ask for them when you are old." In Peters' music every tale is brave, unique, beautiful.” Similarly, Entertainment Weekly added, "she has more in common with the romantic sensibilities of Rickie Lee Jones... Peters' songs about emotional thirsts that never get quenched have a quiet power all their own..."
As a performer, she began touring in the UK and Ireland soon after The Secret Of Life was released there and named by Mojo magazine as one of the year’s best records. As she puts it, “There was an instant connection with UK audiences. They didn’t care that I didn’t fit neatly into any particular category. They just loved the music”. The Scotsman (UK) says of Peters’ live performances, “The first thing that strikes you about Peters is her voice. The vast array of singers she has written for obviously have their own appeal but it is hard to imagine how her own crystalline vocals could ever be bettered. Reminiscent of both Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, yet maintaining a jazzy edge that sets it apart”.
In 2004, her album Halcyon caught the ear of folk legend Tom Russell, and he invited her to sing on his next two projects, the groundbreaking Hotwalker (2005) and the incisive Love And Fear (2006), in which Peters teams with Russell on the searing duet “Ash Wednesday”, introducing her to a whole new audience of folk fans in the USA and Canada. After signing with Russell’s US booking agent, in 2006 Peters went in to the studio to record Burnt Toast And Offerings with Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin, The Greencards) coproducing. It was released in August of 2007, and Peters is currently touring the album on both sides of the Atlantic.