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Peter Raffoul: An Old Soul with a New Voice

From tinkering with songs as a kid in a backyard shed to performing in multi-city American tours, this Leamington native is carving out his own space in the music world.
Author: Matthew St. Amand
Photographer: Brent Groh
12 months ago
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If “Raffoul” doesn’t translate into the word “voice” in Lebanese, it should. Peter Raffoul, his brother Billy and father, Jody, were each gifted with singing voices that would raise the eyebrows of the late, great Otis Redding—and any number of people who haven’t yet gone on to the great Rock Revue in the sky.

When the Nashville-based singer/songwriter, realized that a career in music was his destiny, he was at once confident and conflicted about it.

“It would be easy to think: ‘He’s just doing it because his dad and brother do it,’” Peter says, seated outside his Nashville home. It is noon, but he clutches a gas station coffee like it’s six a.m. Musicians exist within their own time zones. That said, Peter is clear-eyed, articulate, and thoughtful.

“I always knew I loved music,” he continues. “I don’t know what made it click. I was on the outside looking in, inspired by a number of things: hip hop records, stuff that was so current… people expressing themselves, it just made me think: ‘That’s something I could do.’”

Peter is in the rare and unenviable position of having not one, but two eight-hundred-pound gorillas in the room when speaking about his career in music: his father, Jody Raffoul, and his brother, Billy Raffoul, both successful working singer/songwriters in their own right.

By the time he sat down with The Drive Magazine in May, Peter had nothing left to prove. In July of last year, he released a six-track EP titled Songs from House in Blue. Not only has he completed multiple successful tours in support of that record, but he also continues releasing music: “Thought You Should Know” and “Missing You” among his most recent work.

Like all great inventors, Peter’s first experiments took place in a shed.

“I was hiding out in a shed behind my childhood house, trying to write these songs,” he remembers. “I had a piano, a little keyboard, and knew that if I had three or four chords down, I could make that stuff my own.”

When asked about writing his first song, Peter takes a beat before answering:

“I was eighteen or nineteen years old when I wrote my first song,” he says. “I was not confident enough to release it, so it stayed in demo format.”

He continues: “I was picky about what I would call my first song. I’m hesitant to call something a full song, to actually finish it… Back when I started writing, I didn’t have the skill to get it.”

Although Peter sings with a voice crafted by the gods, he was not quick to share it with the world. When asked if he remembers the first time he sang in front of people, he laughs and shakes his head indicating that he remembers it very well. Everything with him is an interesting, intricate story. Leave all assumptions at the door.

“I wanted to make as much progress with my music as I could before someone caught me at it,” he says. “We have Billy, and we have Jody, and I didn’t want to get caught in the act when I wasn’t ready.

“One night, my dad was playing a gig in Leamington. His side of the family—which is huge—made up most of the crowd. It was one of those nights, drinking, watching him call other people on stage, calling Billy up, I thought: ‘Maybe tonight’s the night.’”

As Jody started playing another song, Peter went onstage, stepping up to the mic next to him.

“He looked over and I thought: ‘Now I’ve done it! No taking it back!’ The next day I woke up and thought: ‘You have to get to work even more than you were before.’”

The result of that work is a growing catalogue of songs that resonate with listeners. Comments under some of his videos on YouTube—a platform notorious for judgments that reach depths of caustic vitriol that are virtually Shakespearean—listeners cheer Peter on.

Many comments reference Peter’s lyrics and there is no reason to wonder why. Peter is a great writer. His lyrics are oddly and interestingly specific. In his song “Thought You Should Know” a line repeats: “I crashed my car / In the parking lot / Of the high school…” From there the narrational voice lists a number of specifics an unnamed someone else should know.

The same occurs in his song “Bad For Me.” The lyrics at once trace vivid strokes, but are universal enough for anyone to relate to them: “I’ve been doing things that are bad for me / I’ve been going places I shouldn’t be / I’ve been getting high, staying numb for weeks…”

The music in “Bad For Me” is minimalist perfection. In a live performance, he plays the keyboard with one hand while holding his microphone with the other.

So, how did this Leamington-born kid end up in song writing mecca, Nashville, Tennessee?

“A record label took an interest in my music,” Peter explains. “I was really young and raw, and they liked what they heard, but it was such a small amount. Someone at the label said: ‘What about coming to Nashville and getting more experience writing songs… working on the foundations of being an artist?’”

That was five years ago, and the change of scenery seems to have been beneficial to Peter. He has just returned from a tour with musician Joe P.—Peter’s third tour this year.

“We started in the second week of April and went three weeks,” he says. “It was such a great tour. It began in Washington DC and finished in Brooklyn…” He pauses to think and says: “… yesterday.”

He sips his Time Zone coffee.

Asked the inevitable unfair question “What’s next?” Peter says:

“It’s a moving target. You get to the place you were hoping to get to, and then there is a new spot where you want to be. If someone showed me, at eighteen, what I’m doing right now, I’d be over the moon. I am grateful, but also always looking for the next challenge. For me, right now, the goal is to headline tours—that the people in the room have come for the songs I’ve created. I don’t even care about the size of the room.”

He says: “There is a ton of music out there and the goal is to get more people to hear me. I’m super grateful for the people who have heard my music and left positive comments. I’ll see an Instagram message or a TikTok comment, and I never take it for granted. Someone will say how important that song was to them. I’ve felt that way about other people’s music, myself, as a fan, but to see someone saying that about my stuff—it blows my mind.”

Listen to some of Peter’s latest songs, or stay on top of his touring schedule, by visiting him online at www.peterraffoul.com.

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