Blues duo Peter Karp, Sue Foley

Blues duo Peter Karp, Sue Foley
February 9, 2011
by Larry Rodgers

s Valentine's Day nears, a pair of strong-willed blues-rock musicians are performing songs celebrating how a heart-baring string of letters and e-mails turned two virtual strangers into partners in show business and life.

Peter Karp, Sue Foley

When: 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14.

Where: Rhythm Room, 1019 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix.

Admission: $10 advance, $12 day of show.

Details: 602-265-4842,

Peter Karp and Sue Foley, both nationally touring singer-songwriters, say several of the songs on their first joint album, "He Said, She Said," are lifted directly from correspondences that started as a means of mutual support amid the lonely world of traveling musicians but developed into something much deeper.

The long-legged redhead and the guy with a mischievous twinkle in his eye are coy when asked just how deep things have gone.

"You'll have to listen to the CD and come to the show," says Karp, who will play with Foley and their band in Phoenix on Monday, Feb. 14.

With such song titles as "Ready for Your Love," "Dear Girl," "Lost in You" and "Hold on Baby," it seems a safe bet that, using Karp's reasoning, these two have expanded things beyond the stage and recording studio.

The pair met briefly at a blues festival in 2006 and then attempted an ill-fated recording session for one of Karp's songs.

"I came in poorly prepared and with an attitude to boot," the Canadian-born Foley recalls. "We had a big laugh about it and went our separate ways.

"We were in parallel universes, doing very similar things, grinding ourselves down on the road. It became a real comfort to write letters and have this person out there you could relate to."

Karp, who grew up in Alabama and New Jersey, says the correspondences gradually evolved into discussions about songwriting, including exchanges of poetry and lyrics.

"Then it became more cathartic as we got to know each other, better and things happened in our personal lives," he says. "There was a death in my family, and her trial was going through Europe (alone) on the road."

Foley describes some of the language that went straight from the paper of a letter into the songs of "He Said, She Said."

"The song 'Dear Girl' is lifted verbatim from a letter that Peter wrote to me: 'The air outside is stagnant, and this darkness is uncommonly warm.' " (The song goes on to find Karp second-guessing his decision to move 1,000 miles from Foley.)

It's a similar case with "Lost in You," which poetically describes a person wandering past several scenes on a street and realizing that it's just as easy to get lost in the aura of another person.

"We just found the letter that 'Lost in You' came out of the other day," Foley says. "It's interesting to see that process."

The writing partnership unites two people who both describe themselves using the word "alpha," spurring them to compromise a bit.

"I had a strong, guitar-playing-woman image," Foley says. "Peter had a road-warrior, vagabond-songwriter, ruffian image. We both had to let go of some of that."

They also started challenging each other on things that might be holding one another back from more success in the music business.

Foley pointed out that Karp was drinking too much, and he agreed. Karp told Foley she needed to be less of a control freak.

"You each acquiesce and give up some turf and begin to trust each other," Karp says.

"You learn more about yourself and see things a little differently."

The pair have been touring for several months behind their album of blues, roots-rock and acoustic ballads, and they'll use more letters for a second CD, due in the fall.

As they finish each other's thoughts and sentences on a phone interview, Foley and Karp sound as if they have created through their correspondences a match made in heaven.

But the well-traveled Karp adds a dose of levity, saying, "We know it can go up in flames, like all relationships."

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