Born in Fredericksburg and raised in Comfort, Josh Peek releases his second album this weekend. The former bull rider writes and plays "punchy country music."
Bull Rider's Dreams
by Phil Houseal
He could have been a professional bull rider.
But Josh Peek decided to take on a more dangerous and challenging way to make a living: playing music.
The 27-year-old Hill Country native will release his second CD "Live at Nelson City" this weekend. His 10-mile journey from Comfort to Nelson City first ran through a rodeo arena.
Following graduation from Comfort High School, Peek attended Tarleton State University. After one semester of rodeoing, Peek returned home to help out his family. The young man then spent a year studying commercial music at South Plains College in Levelland, the only school where you can get a degree in country music.
While Peek acknowledged music school "was the best training I could have gotten anywhere in the world," he already had a head start on the music business.
Peek cut his musical teeth at age 3 singing along to "Elvira" on an 8-track tape player. He moved on to open mic performances at age 8, and by age 10 was a regular at area honkytonks.
"I always was good at showing off," Peek admitted.
He moved from doing cover songs - which tend to keep you in honkytonks - to trying his hand at writing original tunes. Musicians resist having their styles pigeon-holed, but I always force them to try it.
It took some thought before Peek came up with "punchy country" (as in cow punching) as a description for his style of music. He attributes his "country music with attitude" to a surprising variety of musical influences, from Bach to Megadeth to playing alto sax in his high school marching band.
"I play what I feel," he said. "I try to incorporate all that in my music, and make it my own style."
Even Peek's rodeo background - which he gave up for good after a breaking nine ribs and puncturing a lung in 2004 - played a role.
"As a bull rider, you hear a lot of rock and roll," he said. "You can't come out of the chute to George Jones singing 'He Stopped Loving Her Today.' I try to keep an open mind. I don't want to limit myself."
So while his songs address traditional country themes of working and fighting, loving and losing (and of course, bull riding), Peek's eclectic musical influences add an intriguing complexity and unexpected depth.
"I like playing in keys like B-flat and using minor scales," he explained. "They are powerful sounds that I think are often overlooked in country music. I guess I try to incorporate what I know with what I want to do and see how it comes out."
Peek is gratified to have found musicians who understand his style and can play the music he writes. Last November, his band recorded a live concert at Nelson City. It had been five years since his first recording, and his fans were clamoring for more. That CD is now for sale, starting with a release party this Saturday at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar in Bandera. While proud of the live CD, Peek won't wait five years to record his next effort.
"Our next CD will blow people's doors off," he said. "We are going into the studio to do the best we can and have fun doing it. That's what it's all about."
It may not feel the same as eight seconds atop a ton of Brahma, but here's guessing Peek's musical ride will be just as exciting.