Nicole Peterson carries on her father’s musical legacy

Her first professional offering, a mellifluous stirring pop number called Red and Blue is now available on YouTube.

NICOLE PETERSON: I am so grateful my dad instilled all that musical spirit in me. (photo credit: Courtesy)
NICOLE PETERSON: I am so grateful my dad instilled all that musical spirit in me.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nicole Peterson has music in her genes. If the surname sounds familiar, that’s because her dad was Ronnie Peterson, known as the Israeli King of the Blues. Peterson Sr. died suddenly in September 2019, at the age of only 62. His now 16-year-old daughter appears to be ready to take on the music-making mantle, big time.
Her first professional offering, a mellifluous stirring pop number called Red and Blue is now available on YouTube, and she is working towards a second single, with Hebrew lyrics, for release in the near future.
Fresh out of isolation, after a pal tested positive for coronavirus, Peterson clearly has a level head on her young shoulders. “I am starting to prepare for bagruyot (high school matriculation examinations),” she says. “But music is so important to me. It is the reason I get up every morning. It is what drives me in my life. It is my life.”
Judging by her performance on Red and Blue she has a mature take on the way forward, and also got herself some seasoned and stellar helping hands on board from the start. The man behind the polished sonic end product of the debut offering is a certain Steve Wolf, a Grammy Award-winning drummer-producer-arranger whose bio includes fruitful and highly successful synergies with the likes of Beyoncé, Annie Lennox, Pink and Aretha Franklin.
It comes as no surprise to hear that the teenager’s lineage helped bring Wolf in. “Steve Wolf and [multi-instrumentalist and arranger] Daniel Jakubovic, who coproduced the song and played on it, were close friends of my dad’s,” says the young vocalist. “They heard the song and were excited by it, and wanted to collaborate on the project.”
Not a bad starter at all. “Steve Wolf has worked with so many famous singers,” says Peterson. “He is a famous producer and drummer, and so gifted, and such an amazing personality. It was a great honor for me to be able to work on this with him. It was amazing for me.”
Tenderness of years notwithstanding, Peterson is no stranger to the professional musical sphere. She says she began attending her dad’s gigs even before she was out here in the light of day. “My mom told that while she was pregnant with me, and she’d go to my dad’s shows, whenever he played a solo I’d start kicking crazily and dancing inside her.” She feels her pathway in life was laid out for her, literally, when she was still gestating.
Naturally, the musical continuum was maintained into her childhood and beyond. And, despite Ronnie’s stylistic preferences, there was no parental coercion in that regard. Nicole kept her musical listening options open. “From a very young age I’d listen to bands like AC/DC and I loved [Bee Gees 1970s hit] “Staying Alive.” I still listen to that song. I love it.”
Then again, there is a giant monochrome print of B. B. King up on the living room wall at the Petersons’ downtown Tel Aviv apartment. Peterson Sr. actually shared a stage with the American blues legend when King performed at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem back in the 1990s.
“I AM so grateful my dad instilled all that musical spirit in me. We didn’t specifically talk about people like B. B. King. We talked about vocalists, but he did play a lot of blues and rock music for me.”
The seeds were duly sown and are now beginning to sprout buds. “Now, at the age of 16, all that is having a greater influence on me,” Nicole notes. “I used to be into rap and soul music. I’m still into soul, but now I listen to more to rock music.”
As the youngster grew there were dad-daughter jam sessions. “There was always all this equipment lying around – guitars, mikes and stuff. I used to beat on a darbuka [Middle Eastern hand drum] and sing with dad.” Before long Peterson began to strut her burgeoning stuff outside too. “I used to sing at kindergarten and later in the Tze’irei Tel Aviv [municipal youth ensemble], and also at workshops at Rimon [School of Music in Ramat Hasharon]. The greatest thing that happened to me was when I performed at Heichal Hatarbut [then-Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv], with people like stellar rockers Berry Sakharof and Ehud Banai, and loads of other people. I sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. That was at the memorial show for dad.”
That gave her a taste of even bigger and better things to come. I get a surprising answer when I ask her if there is any particular venue she would like to play. “I dream of performing at Masada. My dad played there with [iconic rock star] Shalom [Hanoch]. It is an intimate place with a great vibe. It’s a special place.”
The 16-year-old may be aiming high but she is willing to pay her dues. “I am taking it step-by-step,” she says. “I’ll play anywhere. In bars, in small places. And I’d like to put out a full album sometime.”
Meanwhile, there’s a lot of living to do. “Life is my muse. I let life decide for me. Of course, I make my own decisions too, but let’s wait and see how it all turns out.”
Part of that muse, Peterson feels, looks down on her from on high. “I say that my dad was a star when he was alive. Now he is a star in the sky.”