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Award-Winning Director Peter Goetz on Life, Travel, and Embracing the Journey

peter goetz

Be genuine. Put your heart into your work. Commit to meaningful actions.

Do these three things, and the universe will align for you just as it has for Peter Goetz, a talented musician, photographer, award-winning director, and world-traveler. After a spontaneous crossing with a producer from National Geographic on a flight home during junior year of college, Peter was launched into a career of production focusing on adventure travel programming–a career that has landed him in over 65 different countries and, in turn, has inspired his music, photography, and life philosophy.

Some may call Peter’s journey luck, but, after talking to Peter while on location in New Zealand, I saw that it was much more than this–it’s an underlying passion and desire to embrace oneself in the moment that has led Peter to explore so many cultures and talents.

Would you say that, mostly, your travel inspires your music?

I draw so much from life on the road.  It’s where I feel most inspired.  [While working], I find a lot of time to observe and spend time solo, wandering the back roads.   Serendipitous connections usually make for the best experiences on my trips—the random, colorful people I meet often throw me into some funky situations… and it’s these scenarios that inspire new stories, songs and imagery. Art is a way of keeping track of different chapters of my life, of magical moments and an ever expanding perspective. It’s like journaling, but in the form of song.

Just yesterday, I finished up a song that’s spanned the globe—there’s a piece I wrote in Brazil, a piece from Australia, and I finished it off here in Queenstown, New Zealand so it’s like a mish-mash of all things…moments coming together into something whole.

It gives you a way to link all these stories.

Yeah, pretty much. Some songs write themselves–I’ll sit down and feel something inside that needs to come out, and I’ll write the lyrics and progression in one sitting. But, other times, it’ll be a little piecemeal.

This lifestyle’s been kind of addictive; it’s hard to break from it.  It’s always changing, and as a freelance producer, and even as a musician, I think that’s the treat of it: it’s the unknown and your life path is determined by the different opportunities and projects that crop up. It’s how I live my life.  I’m fortunate to have my day job as an adventure travel producer… It’s what inspires me and also enables me to pursue my other passion projects, like music and meaningful documentary films like Sofia.

peter goetzIt seems like a pretty incredible process to be part of. I never thought of the backend part of making those shows—that you’d get to be in these amazing locations with a rather talented crew.

Yeah, it’s pretty cool, but it’s also what I learn in these places—I’ve been able to come away with new skills that I would have never otherwise found on my own.  When I was on location in the Amazon for Survivor, I knew Spanish and made a point of learning Portuguese.  Over a few months I picked it up and knowing that language has opened so many doors.   Years later, it’s what enabled me to meet a talented circle of musicians down in Brazil and track a few of the first songs that inspired me to record my forthcoming album, Indian Summer. I randomly met a celebrated Brazilian composer, Heitor Pereira, at a Christmas party in LA.  I was chatting with him in Portuguese, and he could tell I loved his culture, so we hit it off.  I told him that I was looking to collaborate with musicians in Rio, so he sent me down to talk to Arthur Maia, a legendary bass player/ producer in Rio de Janeiro.  Two weeks later we had two new songs in the bag.  Maia and his inner circle took one of my tracks that I had written for the song Crystal Ball and put a whole Brazilian/Carioca spin on it.  I also wrote a song inspired by my few weeks down in Brazil called Slow Down…it is a bilingual tale of traveling love.

It was kind of like a dream come true. I had always loved Brazilian music and got a chance to play with some of the Brazilian legends that I had been listening to for years.

Pretty awesome.

Life offers you up these amazing opportunities and it’s just a matter of jumping on them and seeing what can happen… rather than waiting for something to come your way.

Do you see yourself getting tired of this kind of lifestyle anytime soon or are you ready to just keep going, keep exploring?

I think I’ll always keep going, keep exploring. Ideally, I’m going to try to combine my production work with my music interests through creating content where I’m composing music for my projects.

I have a new project in the works when I get back: I’ll be profiling one athlete and one musician to create a common theme between the two.  I’ll let each do what they do best, and the short film will intertwine their philosophies, interests, and talents. I aim to make a few have an environmental slant.

How so?

It’ll show how both the athlete and the musicians often lean on their environment and surroundings as inspiration. I think sometimes music gets so wrapped up in urban culture that you rarely see the other side of an artist and how they draw their inspiration from outdoors.  Likewise, athletes often are bound by their training grounds, but so many athletes do what they do best using the landscape and outdoors to refine their craft.

What was your first song inspired by, and what was the story behind it?

One of my first songs was called Outside Observer.  It’s a story of optimism in the midst of darkness…it makes you wonder why we complicate life and how so much pain can swirl around in a land of so many simple pleasures.  We are often really overwhelmed by the frenetic nature of cities, people and the madness of chasing green, making a living, climbing a ladder, and so we forget to smile at humanity itself in all its shapes, colors and creeds. The song is about the introspective experience of listening to the world around you, taking it in and how sheer observation can somehow teach you more about who you are by forcing you to peel back layers to what really defines you and keeps you happy.  For me it’s key to break from my comfort zone and put myself out there without reserve to see what comes of it.

And hopefully, for you, through your music and photography, you have these other ways of experiencing the places?

For sure–the photography especially.  It’s just like being able to have people open up to you–I connect with them, sometimes musically first, and then I’ll take them aside with my camera and shoot a portrait of them. Music can break down walls so the subject already trusts me and feels comfortable.   There’s a creative reciprocity of sorts and it shows in the photo.  The subjects feel connected

I saw that for your photography you only use double exposure film. Is there a reason you’ve stuck with this method?

I just think it’s more fun. With multiple exposures on film, you have to layer different moments in close proximity, capture them, and play with the angles and exposure in an attempt to create a unique piece of art. I love it.  Rather than documenting the history of my trip like a tourist, it’s about diving in and using my camera to meld moments into a unique melting pot of the colorful experience.

It’s fun–life is this crazy beautiful little journey. I’m just trying to paint the canvas as I go.

Peter Goetz

You can find more of Peter’s photography here and download his most recent album here.

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