There are several things that Peter Buffett is and several things he isn't. He's not as melancholy as the intelligent, pensive songs on his new CD, Staring at the Sun, might lead you to believe. And even though Peter Buffett has been making music professionally for more than two decades with 16 albums in his discography, he's not related to the musician Jimmy Buffett. (Jimmy Buffett isn't all that melancholy either.)
Peter Buffett told me in a telephone interview this week that he is a very happy, laid-back guy. And while he's not related to Jimmy, he is the youngest son of that "other" Buffett, Warren.
During Peter's long career as a composer and instrumental musician, he's scored numerous theater pieces and commercials for big-name clients including Coca-Cola. He's contributed music to several movies and TV programs, gathering two Emmy Awards along the way. He composed for the transformational "fire dance" scene in Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves (1990). And he created the well-received Spirit and Spirit - The Seventh Fire live shows celebrating Native American music and dance.
Despite all that, you probably didn't recognize his name. Peter Buffett, at the age of 49, hopes to change that with Staring at the Sun, which he calls the most personal, and accessible, music he's made so far.
Personal, because it's only his second vocal album, after last year's Gold Star. And personal because he says it reflects some difficult experiences over the past few years, from which he has now emerged a bit wiser. He tells me that he worked very hard on Spirit, so hard that important relationships were strained, including his relationship with his wife of 11 years, Jennifer. "It scared me," he says. "What might have been? What can happen when you push the limit? What can you lose?"
You can hear that theme of loss, of missed opportunities and missed connections, of not being able to hear or see, in the new album. (After all, if you stare into the sun for too long, you'll wind up blinded rather than enlightened.)
In I Will Waithe sings, "I can tell you what I see/But I can't change your point of view." In Broken Open: "I don't listen for the things you seem to hear" and "Maybe I'll never know the love that was always here." And in Another Leaf: "Watch another leaf fall from the sky/Another year goes by/One more chance has died."