Juggling styles, projects, suits music’s Peter Himmelman just fine

Peter Himmleman

Daniel Durchholz, Special to the Light

Peter Himmelman has mastered the art of multi-tasking. At any given time, he has a number of projects going, yet chatting by phone from his home studio in Santa Monica, Calif., he seems remarkably relaxed.

“You should come and see me,” he says. “I’m just sitting around a lot of times, thinking, ‘All right, what now?’”

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Most mortals wouldn’t handle his workload nearly so well. Himmelman has just released a new album, “The Mystery and the Hum,” on his own Himmasongs label; he writes music for various media, including movies, TV (“Judging Amy” and the short-lived “Scoundrels” were two of his projects), and TV commercials; he recently launched a website (himmelmanart.com) to spotlight his visual art; he hosts an online TV show, “Furious World,” which features musical and non-musical guests alike; and he writes and performs music for children, including the Grammy-nominated album “My Green Kite,” and last year’s “My Trampoline.”

Even while he’s chatting on the phone, there are other things afoot. Most notably, an assistant has showed up to pick up Himmelman’s pet tortoise, King Ferdinand, a regular cast member of “Furious World.”

“He’s a special tortoise,” Himmelman says. “The last time we went somewhere and brought him along with us, it just did not work out.”

“The Mystery and the Hum” was written and recorded in a fraction of the time it takes most artists to make an album. Himmelman says he booked time in a studio in his hometown of Minneapolis to get him out of his own digs and force his hand creatively.

It worked. He wrote two, three and sometimes four songs a day for several days. He characterizes the music as “rootsy, blues-based stuff, a lot of upbeat things.” He found writing the lyrics a different kind of experience, though.

“They’re introspective,” he says, “but introspective in a way that it’s almost like I’ve taken on the voice of strangers. They’re not necessarily things culled from my own life. In some ways, I’m able to see parallels between these fictitious characters and my own life. I see some intersections there.”

Working with studio musicians he’d never played with before, Himmelman managed to finish the album in just two weeks. “I just opened myself up and I thought we got a number of good things out of that process,” he says.

As for his other pursuits, writing for TV uses the same basic skill set that Himmelman brings to his own recordings. “It’s not like I’m doing dentistry all of a sudden,” he says.

Still, discipline and preparation are the keys.

“The pace of the television thing is so incredibly fast,” he says. “You have to have the facility and the tools and mostly you have to be very decisive. It takes a certain amount of self-confidence to say ‘I’m going to go this way and not that way’ when you’re faced with a billion possibilities.

“But the basic difference is that you’re in service to something else rather than your own muse. Oftentimes, it’s a kind of pleasure, it’s a freeing thing. I don’t know how the subconscious processes work, but it does force you to marshal your resources to elicit your best work.”

The “Furious World” show gives Himmelman a tremendous amount of satisfaction. In a way, it’s a fulfillment of a longstanding, if not entirely facetious dream to make a hologram of himself and never have to leave home to perform. The show has grown technically from using a single, shaky webcam into a more refined production that both looks and sounds great. But Himmelman does the show at his own expense – “It’s kind of an investment in myself,” he says – and he knows there’s a day of reckoning somewhere down the line.

But maybe “Furious World” will pay dividends in other ways. He’s taking a regular segment of the show, “The Phantoms of the 405” – which, according to Himmelman, consists of “little Spalding Gray-type monologues,” and whipping them into book form. “I have like 50 of them,” he says. “That’s what I’ve got going today.”

Well, that and a million other things.

Peter Himmelman

When: 4 p.m. Oct. 10

Where:  Congregation Kol Am, 1023, Chesterfield Parkway East

How much: Adults $12, children 2-12 years $8, under 2 free

More info:  636-519-0082