Peter James Esau was born singing. Every day, from the moment he left his house in Abbotsford, BC, he would sing until the sun set. Music was a frequent presence in his house, and Peter James stood out as an especial talent. He began piano lessons at a young age. Actually, he began by taking the drums, but mysteriously his mother insisted he drop the drums and take up piano. Scientists are currently studying the reasons behind this phenomenon. Soon, he was playing piano in church, improvising whatever little pieces came into his mind, as well as singing in concert choir. Raised first on Christian music, Peter James soon grew to love vocal music, including R&B artists and vocal groups like Boyz II Men and Take 6, attracted to the tight harmonies and the way things just fit together. It was natural, then, for his taste to include other deliberate-sounding artists like, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, and ACDC. These influences shaped his own fledgling creative streak.
Though he took to writing music early, it was not until grade eight that Peter James made his talent general knowledge, when he sang and played a song of his own at the school talent contest. It was then he learned that not only was his musical talent great for winning contests, but also to impress girls.
Soon after his high school graduation, which featured another stirring, girl-impressing performance, Peter James was unceremoniously kicked out on his own. Without missing a beat (music joke), he began to pursue music while working the typical succession of “real” jobs to keep meals semi-regular. He saw some encouraging success in forming the band Black Pearl with a guitarist friend. The duo got some music published together, until the guitarist decided he preferred the security of working at his father’s tiling company. Rolling with the punches, Peter James formed the creatively-named Peter James Band and toured BC with a combination of original songs, and cover material. Despite never going there, one of the original songs, “Rock Ya Never Stop Ya”, made to the top of the charts in Vegas. Go figure.
When substance issues began to fracture the Peter James Band, the fearless leader abdicated and joined another BC band, helping them write an album or two, and playing more shows, with the band eventually being offered a job in Dubai. This was Peter James’s first experience with the Middle East. The gig was brief, though, and on return, work was inconsistent. The band took time off, and Peter James decided to try his hand at deep sea tuna fishing. Away from the chaos of the musician’s life, Peter James found being out on the sea healing to the soul, as well as inspiring, spending many hours reading, writing lyrics, and looking out over the endless deep blue.
After a season on the water, the band re-formed, and Peter James and the gang were immediately sent for a job in Bangkok, Thailand. While the rest of the band didn’t fare too well and soon went home, Peter James was offered work to stay, and for the next decade made his living in a smorgasbord of bands and freelance music work. From playing piano in hotel lobbies, to jazz in a five-piece R&B band, to background music for corporate videos, Peter James really dug in and learned from every experience he could get his hands on. He began to incorporate more jazz into his playing, and learned tools and programming in the studio as well. He also spent a few years making techno remixes of classical songs like “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It”, so you classic rock aficionados out there who plug your ears and curse every time you hear a dance mix of Freebird, you now know who to blame.
During a brief stint in Korea as a keyboardist for an American band, Peter James began writing rough drafts of some of the songs that would become part of “Can’t Hold Back Anymore”. This was followed by an even briefer and decidedly unsuccessful stint in Singapore. On returning to Thailand, Peter James joined a new band, Déjà Vu, and the group was offered a job in Dubai. Returning to Dubai a decade after his first visit was strange for Peter James. It was bizarre to see how much the city had grown and developed in such a short time. It had also developed into a more lucrative place of employment: it was here that Peter James was offered a place in the popular cover band Cinderella Rockafella. Lured by the steady work, he took the job and went back to the touring life with Cinderella. Now with steady employment, Peter James began to buy new studio equipment, for once able to buy quality stuff instead of “Musician’s Choice” off-brand.
The new equipment sparked a revelation. For the first time, Peter James was able to create music that truly sounded like what he had in his head. With the last barrier to his own creativity gone, he began to record and arrange the songs he had been amassing over the years, drawing on the many connections he’d made in his long career. Many former bandmates stepped forward to offer their talents for whatever eventually became “Can’t Hold Back Anymore”, the result being an album that showcased not only Peter James’s natural talent, but also his sophisticated efforts in shaping and crafting his songs, taking raw good music and evolving it into flawless, nuanced examples of a wide variety of genres.
Today, Peter James still tours with Cinderella Rockafella. A free spirit, he’s never learned to settle down and get a “real job”, and it’s not in the cards any time soon. His charisma onstage, his ability to connect with a crowd as well as other musicians, continues to propel him through all levels of his music career. Always bursting at the seams with new music, he is already hard at work on his second album which is proving to be more rock oriented and stylized than “Can’t Hold Back Anymore”. He continues to write and produce with a view to performing the songs to the biggest crowds possible.
Because it’s still good for impressing girls.