I fell in love with Off the Ground at first listen. The extraordinarily talented artist behind the album happens to be Damien DeRose better known by his moniker “Peasant”. Not only does Peasant hail from the great state of Pennsylvania, his song “Raise Today” was featured on the season premiere of one of my favorite television shows, “Bones.” Off the Ground (Paper Garden), his sophomore offering to the world of acoustic folk, lulls listeners into a dream-like state of bliss. Simple, without being simplistic—I adore this beautifully mellow album. Naturally, I had to do a “Take 5” with Peasant, and he was kind enough to comply.
*Your birth name is Damien DeRose, but you go by the moniker “Peasant”—why is that?
It’s actually quite timely to be named Peasant these days, and it was something of a premonition. I really liked the lyric in John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero,” where he says “we’re all f**king peasant’s as far as I can see”, referencing the cycle of debt and other issues the common person deals with in our society. That said, it’s not just a socio-political assertion, I happen to believe that simple is beautiful, and I don’t really mind being a Peasant.
*You’ve been compared to the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, famous for telling stories in their songs. What types of stories do your songs tell?
Well there are so many different kinds, the songs that are likened to other storytellers are usually about people, whether it’s a girlfriend, a friend who’s lost it all for some reason, a fake person who’s lost it all, you know, people make the best stories.
*”Raise Today” was feature on the season premiere of one my favorite shows, “Bones.” What‘s the background story on “Raise Today”?
The song was written when I was really examining myself and the person I was involved with at the time, I kind of got objective, which is difficult, but sometimes easy in music. The line “What is there missing from me, that I see in you?” describes the overall tone of the song I guess, and it’s about loving and losing people, and how it just happens as we grow, to be simple.
*Tell me about a special song from your latest album, “On the Ground.” (Come on, I know that every artist has one or two songs that are particularly special!)
Well, they are all special to me, not to be cheesy, but they really are, although you are right, at least for me, some songs are NOT as special to me. But my favorite at the moment would be “Birds.” Look for that sound in the future to be more what I’ll be doing. The song itself is a reference to a poem a friend of mine wrote me. She referred to me as a bird who should keep singing, and she was lonely and sad, so I wrote her that song about birds (and more!)
*You and I both hail from the state of Pennsylvania, which automatically makes it the best state of all. Why do you think that everyone should come visit your home state?
Ed Rendell says we have our own Grand Canyon. However, I think Pennsylvania is a truly diverse place, from Amish people to city folk, and it’s always done me well. Also, the greatest team in baseball–the Phillies–are from PA. What’s not to like?