Peter Himmelman and David Hollander to debut new music project, Minnesota, in Grand Marais

Peter Himmelman and David Hollander to debut new music project, Minnesota, in Grand Marais
Photo By Marjorie Salvaterra

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When St. Louis Park singer/songwriter Peter Himmelman and distinguished screenwriter/filmmaker David Hollander decided to name their new collaborative musical project Minnesota, they must have known that the localized moniker would garner them some prominent attention here in the proud Land Of 10,000 Lakes. The group is set to digitally release their debut album, Are You There, in early October, with an official release of the record later in the fall.

Minnesota are also set to debut their brand new material at a high-profile performance in, appropriately enough, Grand Marais, Minnesota on September 13, as part of the Mountain Stage music series at the North House Folk School. The intimate event, which is already long sold-out, will also feature sets by Trampled By Turtles, Low, Barbara Jean, Rhett Miller, and of course the debut live performance by Himmelman's Minnesota, who will be playing with fellow members Claire Holley and Kristin Mooney as well as some other special guests throughout the night.

For those who didn't get tickets to the Mountain Stage event, the show will be broadcast on October 19 on NPR affiliates throughout the country.

The musical collaboration between a songwriter and a filmmaker is a bit of a strange one, but one that occurred quite naturally for the duo. Hollander, who is best know for creating the TV series "The Guardian," as well as directing indie films like Personal Effects, claims that the partnership was an easy one: "We had our own trajectories in our respective worlds, so we weren't competitive. Peter was getting ready to make a record, and he needed a little direction and change. I wanted to hear Peter with no smokescreen - to create a world around him that's physical and visceral, but also enveloping and spacious. I wanted to toy with the constructs."

Himmelman was continually challenged by Hollander to break out of his musical comfort zone throughout the writing and recording process, and the new songs bristle with a newfound energy and adventurousness. Himmelman says, "I tend to be interested in more basic blues these days: Howlin' Wolf, Blind Blake, Leadbelly. I want to find out how these guys rocked juke joints with just one acoustic guitar. Working within the narrowest of melodic and lyric structures - I find great freedom in that."

Peter Himmelman and David Hollander to debut new music project, Minnesota, in Grand Marais

While Hollander handled the modern production on Minnesota's Are You There, Himmelman assembled a cracking local-heavy band to help achieve his grand musical vision, comprised of a rotating cast of talented musicians like Jake Hanson (Halloween, Alaska) on guitar, Jimmy Anton (Johnny Lang) on bass, Noah Levy (Brian Setzer/BoDeans) on drums, Jeff Victor (the Honeydogs) on keyboards, Joe Savage on lap steel guitar, as well as the mellifluous vocals of Mooney and Holley. It all comes together to form a stirring collection of highly evocative songs, as well as an engaging theatrical narrative which gives the record a dramatic edge.

Give a listen to three songs from Minnesota's Are You There below, and be sure to check out the record when it becomes available early next month. You can also keep up to date with the current musical happenings of Minnesota via their Facebook page and on Twitter.

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