Eight years ago, Peter Stone was in high school at Harrisburg Academy.
When they didn’t have class, he and his friends would head to their music teacher Randy Gutwein’s room. All day, they had sat in classes, working, listening, but now was their chance to make some noise.
“He let us come to his room when we didn’t have class and just play really loud electric guitar and bang on the drum sets and stuff,” Stone said.
Just over a month ago, Stone and Gutwein chatted over the phone for the first time in years.
“He was like ‘sorry, I’m a little deaf now, thanks,’” Stone said. “He was making fun of me for causing his deafness. Which is probably actually true.”
Today, listening to his soft folk songs, you could hardly guess that this same man once caused his music teacher’s hearing loss from rocking out too hard.
Most days, Stone sits in an office on Front Street in Harrisburg overlooking the Susquehanna River. He’s a software engineer for the design company, andculture. He’s had lots of jobs here and there, but this is his first time doing this.
The New Cumberland native has been in Harrisburg for over a year now. It bears little resemblance to Boston and Los Angeles, the two cities where he spent his late teens to early 20s, but he likes it.
Over the short time he’s been here, Stone has already woven himself into the music scene in Harrisburg, one he says he was “pleasantly surprised by.”
He has already played at H*MAC, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Cornerstone Coffeehouse, Little Amps and other venues around the city.
He’s released two songs, “Fells Reservoir” and “Sparks,” on Soundcloud, which will be part of a collection of songs about water. Some, he said, will be named after local bodies of water. Soon enough, you may be able to listen to music inspired by the Yellow Breeches Creek and the Susquehanna River.
Stone draws inspiration for his lyrics from nature as well as the social and political issues he’s passionate about.
“I’m a pretty radical person,” he said. “Very anti-war, anti-racism, pro-tolerance and acceptance. There are songs I’m working on about that, and I’ve been using my music to do stuff about that.”
He explained how, through concerts, he has raised money for Extinction Rebellion, an international movement to bring awareness to climate change issues.
No matter the message, Stone has one underlying goal for his music.
“I want to express myself and help other people express themselves,” he said. “I just want to be a positive influence.”
His songs allow him a platform to speak his mind and feel confident in his work. But that wasn’t always the case. Stone’s come a long way in realizing his long-held vision.
It all started when Stone was studying at Tufts University in Massachusetts and saw an advertisement for a band called the Rare Occasions. They were looking for a guitarist, and well, Stone was just that. Singer Brian McLaughlin, drummer Luke Imbusch, bassist Jeremy Cohen and Stone made up the band, initially playing at colleges, bars and parties.
Along the way, they amassed followers and played on local radio stations and at music festivals. Their early song, “Dysphoric,” won them the “Song of the Year” award in the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and they began touring the country.
Most of the band’s songs were about relationships—friendships and romance. They made songs about what mattered to them, with a sound that they liked.
Life began changing as two of the band members graduated, the drummer moving to Los Angeles, leaving Stone with a decision of what to do next.
For four months, he and his girlfriend at the time traveled around the country, exploring, sleeping in tents and even staying at a llama farm, all with the goal of ending up in Los Angeles. Eventually, the singer and bassist met them there too.
The band reached a high with their album, “Into the Shallows,” in 2018, but Stone began hitting tough times when his relationship, finances and well-being took a turn for the worse.
“In order to keep doing what I was doing at that time, to make the band work, I was sacrificing my health,” Stone said. “I couldn’t sacrifice the way that I was to make it work when it wasn’t my baby.”
He decided to leave the band and move home.
Now back in Pennsylvania, Stone is making music that’s his. He’s not getting lots of money, or really any, but he’s growing his fan base.
He gets off work, packs up his car and heads to whichever coffee shop or restaurant he’s playing that night. A one-man band, getting set up only requires a trip or two to the car.
“It’s lonely though,” he said. “It’s hard to work on recording stuff because I get lonely, and I live alone for the first time ever. So, it’s been taking me a long time to finish my record.”
However, Stone hopes to begin releasing more songs in spring.
“One of the reasons why I like being a musician is because you get a loud microphone to talk to people, and they hear what you say,” he said. “I know how much music influences people. I want to have an impact on the youth in a way that helps them the way music helped me.”
For more information and upcoming concert dates, visit Peter Stone’s website at www.peterstonemusic.com.