Peter Salett began his musical career in New York City’s East Village, playing shows at such New York hot spots as the Bowery Ballroom, the Fez, the Mercury Lounge and Brownies. Now living in Los Angeles, Salett has toured extensively, opening for David Gray, Rufus Wainwright, They Might Be Giants, Ron Sexsmith, Jane Siberry and Patty Griffin among others.
Peter Salett’s ambitious fifth album, In the Ocean of the Stars (out July 22 on his own Dusty Shoes Music), puts the spotlight on a strikingly original artist who has amassed an impressive body of work essentially behind the scenes and below the radar. A sprawling tour de force that moves seamlessly between folk-rooted intimacy and all-out symphonic grandeur, the album takes its place alongside such landmarks of visionary contemporary music as Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left, Randy Newman’s Sail Away and Beck’s Sea Change.
The deeply evocative nature of Salett’s music has inspired numerous filmmakers to put his songs to picture (a detailed discography and filmography is attached). In the Ocean of the Stars arrives on the heels of the release of the Universal Pictures romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, for which Salett wrote, arranged and produced several songs that are integral to the storyline. Working with writer/star Jason Segel, he co-wrote ”We´ve Got to Do Something” and “Inside of You” for Russell Brand’s Aldous Snow character to sing, and he was the primary composer of the film’s musical finale, “A Taste for Love.” Salett also has a bit part in the movie, which was executive produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, 40 Year Old Virgin).
While living in New York in the ’90s, the New Jersey-born, Maryland-bred graduate of Brown University regularly packed CBGB’s Gallery, the Cottonwood Café, Tramps and other clubs, building a rabid following in the Lower Manhattan scene with his vibrant performances. “I was playing acoustic guitar with a rhythm section, but it was definitely rock ’n’ roll,” says Salett. “I used to break three or four strings a night.” One of his volunteer string changers was the aspiring actor Edward Norton, and the two formed a relationship that would have a mutually gratifying second act in the following decade.
Ironically, the original material that made Salett a favorite among writers, painters, actors and his fellow left-of-center musicians was so uncategorizable that it scared off major-label talent scouts. At the time, he found his inability to connect with the traditional record business sufficiently frustrating that he left New York, spending the better part of a year traveling around the Far East and the U.S. In retrospect, he has come to realize that not signing a record deal was the best thing that could’ve happened in terms of his artistic evolution. “I’m really happy about how I’ve developed and continue to develop outside the confines of a major label, or any label,” he says. It’s been a really good thing for me that I’ve gone in various directions without anyone ever telling me, ‘You need to write a song like this.’”