Cassie Peterson
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Cassie Peterson

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | SELF

Nashville, Tennessee, United States | SELF
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter




"Cassie Peterson: From Jazz to Folk and From Coast to Coast"

Cassie Peterson:
From Jazz to Folk
and From Coast to Coast,
Award-Winning Musical Magic

Music+Radio contributor
The New York Times

NASHVILLE – At the 40th Annual Kerrville Folk Festival in June, folk legends including Judy Collins and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary were the headliners, but the winner of the Festival’s prestigious New Folk Songwriting Competition was a 24-year-old named Cassie Peterson.

A few years earlier when Peterson’s passion was jazz, she won a DownBeat Magazine Student Music Award – two years in a row.

Winning either of these competitions is brutally hard. Winning both is exceedingly rare, and Cassie’s one of the only singers and songwriters versatile and gifted enough to do it.

It’s already a remarkable personal and musical journey that’s taken her from high school in Nashville to the elite Jazz Studies Program at USC in Los Angeles, back home to Nashville to write and record, and soon on a concert tour that will climax with her New York debut at the legendary Living Room.

Phew. The young lady’s been busy, and she’s yet to live a quarter century.

Music started very early for Cassie, as the daughter of a songwriter. Her father Jon moved the family from Boston to Nashville to pursue a Nashville career in music when Cassie was very young. By the time she was 7, little Cassie was tagging along with her Dad to the famed songwriters club the Bluebird Café, to songwriter rounds and house concerts well past her bedtime.

Brains also run in the family. Her mom holds a doctorate in Psychology, and Cassie went to Nashville’s most prestigious academic public high school, Hume-Fogg.

Though she grew up in the home of country music, young Cassie began playing piano early on and one day discovered a recording of the legendary jazz stylist Sarah Vaughan. Little Cassie was hooked.

“I had the swing in me. Dad did a double take, because one day he heard me scatting,” she says in a conversation near Music Row. “He said, `we gotta get you in the studio.’ ”

Through his musical connections, Jon arranged the session, and Cassie cut five songs in three hours of studio time, including the Gershwin standards “Our Love Is Here To Stay” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”

DownBeat magazine, the jazz bible, soon took notice of this emerging jazz talent, and so did the University of Southern California.

“Oh man, USC was definitely one of the most important features for me so far,” Peterson says. “Although I had left high school with some national awards, I didn’t know what else was out there. At USC, I was among some of the top talent from cities all over the country. It was definitely an experience that pushed me to grow in ways I never expected.”

One of those was a woodwind wizard and multi-instrumentalist from the Bay Area named Doug Mosher. Their very first semester, Cassie and Doug became fast friends and musical collaborators.

They are now also life partners, and Cassie’s upcoming tour will feature a trio with Doug on woodwinds and the LA guitar maestro John Storie accompanying Peterson on her new folk- and Americana-flavored stylings.

“I grew up listening to folk music, but like Cassie from high school on I was playing jazz exclusively,” Mosher says. “When Cassie started getting back to her Nashville roots, I noticed that horns were rarely included in folk and Americana music. And I felt like I had something to offer. Nobody’s ever heard clarinet playing harmony with a voice. The tonal quality of it is different than a vocal harmony, and adds something unique and magical.”

In a way, what Cassie and Doug are doing by adding new sounds and new instrumentation to classic folk stylings is much like what the Byrds did with Dylan songs in the mid-1960s, incorporating the magical sound of Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitars to Bob’s groundbreaking compositions.

“Playing music together is the most enjoyable thing we do in our day,” Cassie says. “ - Country Insider


"Cassie paints cotton clouds upon the soft evergreens of her Nashville roots, evoking the rawness of Bob Dylan with the buoyancy of Sara Bareilles." -The SeeSaw, Los Angeles - The SeeSaw


This girl is a rare breed of song bird.
Just a teen, she has been swept off her feet by the tone and phrase and swing of the great old queens of jazz. None of the kids her age pay heed to that “old dead stuff” – but she does, and it’s as if she can’t help it. She tastes what she hears. She soaks it up, all the way to her bones. Her strong gift of voice lets her play with the notes like those jazz greats did. And there’s a zest in her, past the norm of her age, that lets her seep down through the pores of their skin and feel what they felt when they sang.
When she lets her voice soar, I swear, I hear the beat of wings.
What chance will there be for her to be heard, in this age of rap and punk and hip hop? Who will care for what she sings? Well . . . she does. It comes out of her like a stream fed from some deep well, and when it leaps from her lips, you see a new look on the face of each one who hears.
“Oh. Wow. What’s that?”
Heads turn. Eyes come up from their depth of thought, and lift to see where this . . . this voice comes from. It’s in the mouth of this girl, but no, it’s up . . . there, just out of reach, in the place where the Muse dwells. It rains down on us, warm and sweet, from a place we would climb to if we could.
The song bird has found the stairs.
I am but a man. I walk through this world in steps that plod. If I dream, it fades when I wake. Each day that goes past is a page turned in a book that pales as I read it.
But then I hear her. Those old songs: “Nice Work If You Can Get It;” “Since I Fell for You;” “I’ve Got the World on a String;” “La Vie en Rose.” Her voice comes out so young yet she nails each note with a skill that knows no age. She brings that style back fresh. And it makes me feel so glad. I can’t say why; it just does.
It’s not that I’ve missed those songs and yearned to hear them since they went out of style. Those were my dad’s songs, not mine. I grew up on rock and roll. But when I hear this song bird, the verve in her voice comes from a realm where time and style meet grace and truth. As she sings, I feel my old bones made new.
The song bird . . . she seeks no coin. She courts no praise. She just – for the pure joy of it – swings. And as I hear her, so do I.

Mike Williams, New York City, 2009

PS: Since I wrote this, Cassie Peterson has branched into other realms of music. She delivers magic in every genre.
- a tale from the book Small Words


'Cassie Peterson' self-titled EP released 2009

'Where The Crows Fly Free' sophomore album will be released THIS SUMMER in 2012!!! The album is being produced by guitarist Todd Lombardo and includes Viktor Krauss on bass, Josh Hunt on drums, and Doug Mosher on woodwinds. Stay posted for album updates.









"At the 40th Annual Kerrville Folk Festival in June, folk legends including Judy Collins and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, & Mary were the headliners, but the winner of the Festival's prestigious New Folk Songwriting Competition was a 23-year-old named Cassie Peterson. A few years earlier when Peterson's passion was jazz, she won a Downbeat Magazine Student Music Award - two years in a row. Winning either of these competitions is brutally hard. Winning both is exceedingly rare, and Cassie's one of the only singers and songwriters versatile and gifted enough to do it.” -Phil Sweetland, music and radio contributor of The New York Times

Cassie Peterson is currently promoting her new album, “Where The Crows Fly Free,” which was produced by guitarist extraordinaire Todd Lombardo (of the Jerry Douglas Band and the Angel Snow Band). The album features famed bassist Viktor Krauss who has worked with the likes of Bill Frisell, Shawn Colvin, Jerry Douglas, and Lyle Lovett. Josh Hunt (of Alison Krauss and Union Station) plays drums and 2010 Telluride Troubadour winner Roby Hecht sings harmonies. Additionally, up-and-coming woodwind artist Douglas Mosher rounds out the project with some tasty interludes. The album features all new songs written by Cassie including her song, “Too Soon To Tell,” which was recently selected as a top ten finalist in The Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s famed Troubadour Songwriting Competition held in Telluride, Colorado.

Cassie took a somewhat circuitous route to her current musical expression after attending The University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music as a jazz vocal performance major. Her intense emersion into jazz began at age thirteen with the discovery of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald and landed Cassie in a recording studio numerous times in her hometown of Nashville. As a result of those early jazz recordings Cassie won Downbeat Magazine’s Student Music Awards two years in a row - a feat last accomplished by Norah Jones.

The muse of an artist is a curious thing and somewhere in the middle of Cassie’s USC jazz training she began writing a mix of Folk, Pop and Americana songs - And so began Cassie’s current trajectory towards the Folk/Americana world. Cassie’s 2009 debut recording features some of Nashville’s finest players including bassist Byron House (of Robert Plant’s Band of Joy and the Sam Bush Band), guitarist John Mock (of The Dixie Chicks and Maura O’Connell) and drummer Chris Brown (also of the Sam Bush Band). In fact, you may have heard Cassie without even knowing it as two songs from her first project came to the attention of Hear Music and were played in Starbuck stores nationwide in 2010. These songs included “In My Town,” which was co-written with Steve Leslie and “Magnolia Street,” a bluegrass infused cover of a classic Buddy Mondlock tune.

Born in Boston, raised primarily in Nashville, and trained in Los Angeles, Cassie brings a unique perspective to her writing and singing. Her father, Jon, originally moved the family to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter when Cassie was very young. Tagging along with her father as a child, Cassie spent countless hours at Nashville’s famed Bluebird Café and at the various house concerts that are a staple in Music City. Those early musical influences have found their way into Cassie’s writing and singing. Cassie was recognized by the Kerrville Folk Festival as a 2011 New Folk Winner and will be performing late this spring at a top ten finalist in the Wildflower Arts and Music Festival’s Songwriting Competition.