Cloquet native heads to Duluth for solo project debut

Tony Petersen had a “burst of inspiration” during his time off the road due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to two extended play releases since April.

Former Cloquet resident Tony Petersen recently release the EP "Some Dreams" as part of his solo project, Ditchbird. Petersen has released two EPs under the Ditchbird name since April. (Photo courtesy of Tony Petersent)

When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020, musicians and performers all over the world were forced off the road.

For former Cloquet resident Tony Petersen, it was the first time in years he had an extended break from touring with his bands, the Social Animals and Saint Anyway.

The break allowed Petersen the time to work on a number of different musical projects from his home in Minneapolis and led to several releases over the past few months.

In a collaboration with his uncle Kurt Petersen, a Cloquet resident, Petersen first released “Love + Effort” earlier in 2021.
Kurt and Tony Petersen recorded “The World Needs This” over several months, but without ever sitting in the same room together.

In April, Petersen released an extended play album called “Real Enough for You Now” as the first release on his solo project, Ditchbird.


“Those were songs that I’ve been working on for quite a long time,” Petersen said. “Once that came out there was this quick burst of inspiration to write new stuff that I haven’t been sitting on for a long time.”

Tony Petersen grew up in Cloquet and went on to perform with the bands the Social Animals and Saint Anyway. The COVID-19 pandemic gave him the time off to produce two solo EP albums and a collaboration album with his uncle and current Cloquet resident Kurt Petersen. Contributed / Tony Petersen

The result was a second five-song EP called “Some Dreams” that was released in August. Petersen said he wanted to use the new release as a way to show off his guitar work, his primary role as a member of the Social Animals.

“I realized when I put out my first album, it really doesn’t showcase much guitar,” he said. “It was really this kind of sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-bed-with-an-acoustic-guitar sounding album. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, I love that style. But I’m like, ‘I should try to write a batch of songs that can really showcase my guitar playing.’”

Ben Cosgrove worked with Petersen in the Social Animals and Saint Anyway and played keyboards on both Ditchbird albums. The two met when they were both living in Boston just after college and began playing together. Cosgrove is excited to see Petersen making solo music.

“I’ve never really heard what it sounds like when Tony makes music for himself,” Cosgrove said. “This is really like an expression of the inside of his head in a way that I don’t think he’s ever been able to do before. So as somebody who knows and loves Tony, it’s just really nice to hear the inside of his brain.”

Petersen describes the song “Heads Up” from "Some Dreams" as “pyrotechnic mayhem.”

“That was so much fun for me to do,” he said. “I set out deliberately to see how bonkers I could get on this one.”


Cosgrove was surprised how quickly Petersen followed up the first EP with "Some Dreams," but said he's happy Petersen is finding an outlet for more of his own music.

Former Cloquet resident Tony Petersen released the album "Some Dreams" in August, his second release for solo project, Ditchbird. Contributed / Tony Petersen

“He’s never really been in a position where he can make whatever noises he wanted,” Cosgrove said. “In a weird way, I think the pandemic happening and the Social Animals having to get off the road for a bit really gave him that opportunity and was a blessing in disguise.”

Petersen will play his first solo concert for the Ditchbird project from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, at Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake in Duluth. He will be joined onstage by Cosgrove. The show is free to attend.

“These shows are going to be the first Ditchbird shows I’ve done, so it’s really exciting,” Petersen said. “Ben and I are going to do solo sets and then we’ll play together. He can play anything just by improvising and winging it. It will be pretty fun to see the different elements of what we do on our own and then combined.”

Both EPs are available on Spotify, iTunes and YouTube, as well as Petersen’s website .

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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