For a self-described "cool weirdo," Peter Hadar doesn't sound that weird. "Everyone says that, man," he laughs. "I got the interview face on right now."
During this particular phone interview, Hadar sounds like an indie-soul artist who just wants folks to know he's doing things a little differently. What's so weird about that?
Apparently to the music industry, and even the African-American community, a lot.
Peter Hadar performs 8 p.m. Sunday, June 29, at i10 Fine Art Gallery, 2401 Fannin. $10.
Even though the 25-year-old north New Jersey native — real name Peter Winstead, Jr.; his uncle dubbed him "Hadar," Hebrew for "to decorate," because of his fashion savvy — has worked alongside such troubadours as Carl Thomas, Joe and DIY soul giant/fellow Jersey boy Eric Roberson, Hadar's type of black music may be too progressive, too indescribable, too, well, weird, by contemporary music standards.
"I think it's all of that, you know," says Hadar. "I think it's the black community. I think it's the industry. I think it's just a rebellious mentality, but not in a negative way."
He feels that he and artists like J*DaVeY get the cold shoulder in a community that's supposed to embrace the eccentric and eclectic, that attention is instead showered on more traditional-sounding artists like Eric Roberson or Frank McComb. "It's just different," he says. "I mean, [we] shouldn't be a stepchild, you know what I mean?"
But Hadar presses on, as his latest album, Well Dressed for the Art Show, illustrates. The follow-up to 2006 debut Memories of the Heart (both released on his own label, Cool Weirdos Music), Dressed shows Hadar tinkering with different genres and influences; its songs range from straight R&B to dreamy electro-soul to the hard-driving rock of opening track "Too Fresh."
"It's just an album basically saying that I'm prepared to present this new art," he elaborates. "My last album was like a R&B/soul album. This album is a lot of rock, a lot of electro, a lot more progressive. Every song on the album is a piece of my artwork, and 'well dressed' means I'm prepared to present it to you. I'm prepared to be a curator, and I'm proud of it."
Hadar looks up to artists like Miles Davis, Prince and Stevie Wonder, men who never thought twice when it came to experimenting with their music. "I just pretty much do what I'm feeling for the moment," he says. "I might feel like doing a straight R&B record, just because I think you can still be creative and do it in a creative way."
Other Dressed standouts include "Sleeping Pills" and its companion "Purple Pill," on which Hadar sings about downing narcotics to spend time with his literal dream girl. (The songs are not about drug abuse, he emphasizes.) He moves into creepin' mode for "Cheat on You," one of several recent neo-soul songs dealing with infidelity; Detroiter Dwele's newest album, Sketches of a Man, also includes a cheating song, aptly titled "I'm Cheatin'."
"The concepts are almost the same, but mine is basically saying, making love to words," explains Hadar, who found out about Dwele's tune not too long ago. "His is saying that he's cheating on his girl with his girl. We're tired of the regular 'I love you, baby.' Everyone's trying to dig a little deeper and be a little bit more creative."
Like every other indie artist out there, Hadar's stuff is online, on his MySpace page or at MobileUnderground.com. But, since he did well with Memories at independent record stores, he still wants to get his albums into mom-and-pops like Houston's Serious Sounds.
"It's just trying to figure everything out, man, with digital and physical, for the mom-and-pops that are still up and running," Hadar says. "Because now, the average indie artist would sell online and probably burn copies, you know, just for the road. But there's still some opportunities to make some money in the mom-and pops."
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"It's difficult now because a lot of indie artists are just giving their music away and just selling merch," he continues. "Because everyone's so afraid to buy CDs now, they're just giving it away for free and just trying to get performances off that. [There's] still some CD buyers out there, but a lot of people are just buying everything off iTunes. So you almost question is it worth getting these physical CDs made."
Hadar believes more solidarity among his soul-singing brethren could help them reach new heights of success. "Sometimes, promoters might put two artists together that they think would make sense for a show. But, besides that, I think we all have different movements," Hadar says. "Eric [Roberson] has his own movement. Anthony [David] has his own movement. I think promoters really need to research more artists and break more artists, so you can have more indie stars.
"It's just tough right now, with the economy and everything," he admits. "Sometimes they're scared to take chances on new artists, even though they're very talented, which I get. But, if we don't take those risks, we won't grow the market, and it'll start to build a cancer."
Not only is Peter Hadar a cool weirdo, he's a very profound one as well.