Photo by Rachael Jaeger - Tanner Peterson in Sibley Park
Photo by Rachael Jaeger - Tanner Peterson in Sibley Park

Tanner Peterson, 21, with long blond hair, exudes passion and talent. His green eyes shine with intensity as he talks about his musical interests, and about those who influenced him, both personal and professional.

As of November 2019, he also holds the world’s record for the longest non-stop street performance: 26 hours!

Despite the record, Peterson is chill. He believes in continual learning about the world and his place in it, which these days is largely focused on his role as a folk/rock songwriter and musician. The list of musicians he has admired and who have influenced him is broad and deep, including Bob Dylan, Mod Sun, Guns and Roses, ACDC, Metallica, Jason Mraz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many others.

Musical Roots

From an early age, Peterson created tunes on the guitar. His dad and his grandma gave him piano lessons when he was five years old was living in New York. By the time Peterson turned nine, he developed a strong interest in the electric guitar, something he credits to his dad.

Peterson also drew inspiration from the Disney show, Drake and Josh. “I thought Drake was the coolest person to look up to,” he said. From that point on, electric guitars became an obsession. He remembers playing for hours at a time. In fact, he preferred spending time playing electric guitar over video games.

At sixteen, he joined his high school choir which later provided him with the motivation to ask his then girlfriend to prom. “I knew it would be classy if I sang,” he said.

Working at WWOOF

Peterson discovered a new freedom by moving to Los Angeles, in contrast to living in rural areas most of his life.

“I felt like I was gaining some momentum growing as an artist because I was meeting people in Los Angeles,” he said, adding that being stimulated in a new culture strengthened his inspiration. Not only was he in a steady stream of writing new songs, he also met Molly Tuttle, “I went to her house concert.”

While in Los Angeles, Peterson became aware of WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), a work trade program that bases their ideology on the book, Into the Wild. In the book, the main character gives up his comfortable lifestyle and hikes across the United States and into the Alaskan wilderness. WWOOF’s goal is to share a piece of the wild with others. The WWOOF farms, while based in the United States, have also started organic farms internationally.

“The people who were running it were resonating with what I believe,” Peterson said, referring to self-sustainability, escaping society, and living off the grid. “When you’re living on a farm and living at that slow pace, life is so beautiful in the present moment,” he said.

After working seven hours a day, he wrote songs or performed on the streets in his spare time. WWOOF doesn’t compensate monetarily, but they did provide meals and a place to stay. During the summer of Peterson’s stay, he hopped from farm to farm, planting, tending, and watering vegetables and fruit trees.

There was no Internet available during his stay at the WWOOF farms, so the longer he was there, the more he tuned into nature. In turn, he began listening to his inner voice which led to the composing of many songs. Since he and his host family would cook dinner together every night, he also felt more connected to people. “It was this fun little camp thing,” he said.

Musing in Hawaii

After his time of service at the WWOOF farm in Los Angeles, Peterson traveled to Hawaii. He immersed himself in the culture and gained an appreciation for Reggae.

“Hawaii has this really interesting culture and I already cannot wait to go back,” Peterson said. “If it weren’t for the corona virus, I would be there this summer.” While in Hawaii he learned about Trevor Hall and Dustin Thomas, which marked the point he began learning to incorporate different styles into his own music.

Photo by Rachael Jaeger - Tanner Peterson in Sibley Park
Photo by Rachael Jaeger – Tanner Peterson in Sibley Park

While in Hawaii, in 2017, he met Jason Mraz. “He was there for three days with us,” Peterson said. “He taught classes there, he taught about songwriting, and gave advice from his journey and how you can go about your own. It was cool, really insightful. I got to hug him multiple times.”

Peterson also discovered that Mraz shared a passion for organic farms and has one of his own. Mraz didn’t know much about the WWOOF farms so questioned Peterson about them.

“I wanted him to come to the farm in California because there are rumors that he actually lives pretty close to that area in Valley Center. He owns a lot of land like avocado farms and stuff.” Peterson paused, seeming to reflect, and then added, “Yeah, he’s a good guy.”

Peterson expressed his gratitude for his exposure to other cultures from his time in Los Angeles and Hawaii, “It’s really something to me, traveling on my own. All these amazing experiences happened in my own head,” Peterson said. “They don’t exist to anyone else in the world, so it’s like, I feel like I will have to write a book someday.”

Thinking Future Business

Normally, Peterson works as a solo artist but also occasionally performs live with other bands. When he releases songs on Spotify, he often collaborates with Sam Licari and Dave Hanson — Hanson is also one of his on-stage co-performers — on drums and bass. Peterson counts himself fortunate to have such partners. The biggest challenge, he suggested, is coordinating times to work together.

Peterson said he is still learning the business aspect of the music profession. Lately he has been following Ed Sheeran as Sheeran relates accomplishing his own goals. He said that he’s becoming aware that the business of music is just as important as having the right band members or collaborating with the right band.

Among the many artists Peterson looks up to one that stands out is Mod Sun (Movement on Dreams Stand Under None), a rapper admired for self-sustainability. Although Mod Sun is significantly different than his own style, Peterson respects him for the personality he brings to his music. “His personality is the best you can get. He’s super positive and super amazing. His energy … and being around him makes you feel good about life.”

Recent Reflections

Recently Peterson released a song called “Streets of Venice,” about his time in Venice in late 2018 after having recently lived in Santa Monica. The song is about learning to let go of a relationship he had while in Santa Monica that he says, “wasn’t meant to be.”

In five years, Peterson sees himself living in southern California in a house that he is renting out with friends. The details depend on many factors, but most of all, he sees himself thriving. “Thriving financially and living away from my parents 100% and giving back to my parents when I can,” he said. “Hopefully settled down with the person I’m in a relationship with.”

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