Peters’ own voice and guitar playing have been at the core of her music since she started performing in the Boulder, Colorado folk circuit as a teenager. Inspired by Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and a new generation of songwriters rising out of Nashville that included Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith and Rodney Crowell, Peters relocated to Music City in the late 1980s. Initially she found Nashville inspiring. “Being in a place where you can hear so many good songwriters perform their work on just an acoustic guitar really made me understand the anatomy of songs in a way I didn’t until I moved here,” Peters relates. “Just listening closely to other people who were good at their craft shaped me as a writer.”
The downside was a music business culture that typically perceived “singer” and “songwriter” as different jobs. “The either/or attitude was baffling, since all my favorite artists also wrote their own material,” Peters says. “My decision to pursue a publishing deal was based on wanting to be understood for who I am. I was afraid that if I got signed to a record deal as an artist, I’d never get to sing my own songs. I never had any aspirations of being a hit songwriter for other artists.” Nonetheless, Martina McBride’s 1995 recording of Peters’ “Independence Day,” the gritty story of an abused woman’s revenge, made her a songwriting sensation. The performance received a “Best Country Song” Grammy nomination and won the Country Music Association’s “Song of the Year” title. After that a string of great vocalists – Pam Tillis, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, Neil Diamond, George Strait, Etta James – began to record Peters’ songs. Peters also signed her own record deal, yielding her 1996 debut album The Secret of Life. The title track was cut by Faith Hill in 1999 and hit number five on the country charts.