8 p.m. Saturday
You might not instantly recognize Peter Stuart's name, but if you're a fan of well-crafted, mid-tempo rock, you've probably heard his voice. The former frontman for the mid-1990s band Dog's Eye View has shared stages with Counting Crows, Matchbox Twenty and other champions of the form and sang on the Top Ten and MTV hit "Everything Falls Apart" in 1995.
Now that he's a solo artist, promoting his 2002 release "Propeller" (Vanguard Records), Stuart could easily be playing the club circuit but has opted instead for a four-week national tour of bookstores, including a free show at Borders at Baileys Crossroads this weekend. Speaking from Chicago, Stuart said the tour makes perfect sense in today's tight musical climate. "The fun thing about it is that inevitably you wind up playing to someone who had no intention of seeing you play, and maybe you win over some new people," he said.
In many ways, it's a comfortable return to Stuart's early days as a solo performer. Back then, the Long Island-born singer-songwriter signed on as a roadie for an Irish band named Fat Lady Sings in return for getting the opening act slot every night. Stuart made a similar touring arrangement with Counting Crows as they were starting out, and as the world discovered that band, Stuart earned his own label attention. He signed with Columbia Records, which helped him assemble Dog's Eye View. After the group's second album, in 1997, the label lost its enthusiasm for the band and urged Stuart to go solo again.
"Propeller" features an array of guest artists -- Mark Isham, Moon Zappa, Adam Duritz and David Immergluck of Counting Crows, and DJ Bonebrake from X, along with Stuart's first recorded songwriting collaborations. "That's one of the great contradictions of this record," he said. "I made two band records and didn't share in the writing of a single song. Then I make a solo record, and four of the songs are co-written."
Though the CD was originally recorded for Columbia, Stuart ultimately felt that the major label system wasn't the path he wanted to follow. "I'm so dearly attached to this record that I really dreaded the one-month cannon shot at the wall of the music industry. There's a sense that if it sticks, all's good, and if it doesn't, then move on to the next record. And I really wanted this one to have chance to grow and find an audience," he said.
Stuart shopped the finished album to other labels and landed with the small, family-owned Vanguard. Now the guy who's lived in New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Iceland and Scotland seems perfectly content to crisscross the country with his music, earning new fans one bookstore at a time.
"I like writing songs and singing them to people in the troubadour tradition," Stuart said with quiet concentration. "It's a good litmus test. It brings it down to the pure basics of the entertainment form. You've gotta prove your worth."
-- Marianne Meyer
Borders at Baileys Crossroads is at 5871 Crossroads Center Way, on Route 7 at Columbia Pike. This free event -- a one-set performance, signing and reception -- will be held on the mezzanine level. 703-998-0404.
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