Peter Breinholt is a local singer/songwriter and a favorite campus performer.
Q: The theme for 2002 Education Week is “Finding a Refuge from the Storm.” As a prominent public figure, what do you do or where to you go to get away from the world and find peace? What do you consider your personal “shelter from the storm?”
A: Scripture study. I don’t know what it is about it, but it has a way of creating a place of renewal for me in every way. Hiking does it too. If I can find a day where I can combine the two, I’m a happy guy. I love it.
Q: Many people think the answers to life’s questions lie in fame, wealth and power. As members of the church, we tend to have a different view. How do you keep a balance between the important things you do in your life’s work, and the things that are most important in your personal life?
A: I guess the answer is the same as the first. I like the analogy of a person being able to put on a pair of perfect glasses once in a while, even if it’s only for a moment, and seeing things as they really are. That’s what reading the scriptures does for me. Going to the temple does it too, and prayer…and hiking. If I can look through those glasses often enough, there’s just no tendency to look at fame in itself as a realistic way of making anyone happy.
Q: How did you prepare early in life to get where you are? What or who influenced they way you look at the world? How did your education influence what you do now?
A: First, I had parents who just loved to see their children get lost in their hobbies–and they facilitated that. As a result, among my siblings we now have a musician, a filmmaker, a federal prosecutor, a university professor, and a therapist. All of those careers came out of childhood hobbies, whether it be reading or listening to records. Second, I served a mission in Chile and during that time I was introduced-as any missionary is-to the subtle workings of the Spirit. It influenced me more than anything else ever has. My secular education helped me in an overall intellectual way, but it didn’t affect my music very much. I didn’t study music in college. Most of what I learned in music came from listening and doing.
Q: How do you deal with people who solicit you for favors [this interview excluded, of course]? How do you choose who to help and who to pass by, in light of the church’s focus and policies on charitable contributions?
A: Mostly the requests come in the form of benefit concerts or appearances. Yes, I have had to figure out a way to do as may benefits as I can without letting them compete with my self-produced concerts. It’s a trick for me. I don’t want to saturate the area with too many Peter Breinholt shows, but I also want to help. So we predetermine a number of benefits we are able to take each year, and try to stick with it. We’re also drawn to shows that not only benefit a cause, but also benefit our audience-the people who pay for our shows. How? By taking on benefits that offer the audience something new that we can’t on our own: a special venue, or a featured guest, or something like that. Some benefit organizations are in a position to do that.
Q: Was there a single turning point in your life that you consider “made” you? If so, what was it?
A: With regard to my career or my personal life? In my personal life there have been a lot of little ones. Several of them came as a missionary where I just found myself wanting to deepen my commitment-a certain class in the MTC, an experience on the streets of Santiago, a journal entry here or there. None of them would seem very dramatic on the outside, but to me they were life changing. Later it was studying in Jerusalem, a certain book here and there, a fireside.
Q: Is it difficult to live your religion? Why or why not?
A: Do you mean with my career? Not really. I recall deciding up front before I even got into music that if I had to chose between music and religion, I’d walk away from music. Perhaps as a result, I’ve subconsciously kept myself in a safe place in music ever since. The kind of music I write doesn’t really ever call for anything but my own personality. I perform mostly near home, and don’t tour too often. Perhaps most of all, my audience just happens to be made up of people like me, and would protest if I did anything too strange.
Q: Has your affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put up any roadblocks on your path to success, or have you found it has opened doors?
A: That question picks up where the last answer left off. I guess I’m a little like the people who are coming to my shows. I came home from Chile and realized my music-listening CD pool had shrunk. I mean, I wasn’t interested any more in much of the music I listened to before leaving on a mission, and suddenly I was yearning for music that edified. I found myself listening to the same ten albums over and over again, because they were the only ones that did did it for me. Jon Scmhidt’s music did it for me. Some John Denver. So that’s the kind of music I became interested in writing. Well, it turns out there are a lot of people in the Church who are like me in that regard. I was elated when some one e-mailed me early on after releasing my first CD to tell me thanks for putting out a new album he could add to his own shrinking collection. I’m not saying I’ve succeeded at putting out that kind of music, just that I have the same story as many people in the Church-I’m looking for music that elevates. And I was grateful to find out that some of my own songs did that for some people-the same way Jon Schmidt and John Denver did for me.
Q: Do you consider yourself an example to church members, especially the youth of the church? Why or why not?
A: I suppose if people are listening to my music, trying to figure out what I’m saying, and they know who I am they might be watching me too. So, without ever looking for that, I think I ought to be sensitive to it.
Q: To what do you credit your success?
A: An interest in music as a child that turned into a desire to do it. Also, Utah has great word-of-mouth. The people listening to my CDs in their cars and introducing my music to their friends are the ones driving this for me commercially. Also, doors just opened by themselves at certain times for me. I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be doing what I’m doing ten years ago.
Q: If you could have done something differently with your life, what would it have been?
A: I’m not able to say I’d change anything. The reason is that doors generally have just been opened by themselves. I couldn’t have planned on it happening the way it has, and it’s given me a sense that it’s what I ought to be doing for now.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
A: Keep doing what I’m doing. Performing in theaters around the state, releasing albums every few years, making a living doing something that comes naturally for me, and maintaining a normal life.
Interview compiled by Rachel Sego, Special Sections Editor.