TERAMI HIRSCH

I heard a woman talking the other night about how creativity brings us closer to our creator. I'm not really sure who I believe that creator is, but every time I write a song, I feel a pull to something larger than myself.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

I'm usually inspired by music itself. Sometimes I'll listen to a song and in it, I'll hear another song that needs to be written. Music is a cycle. What's chosen to be performed is just as important as what's not heard. The negative space can define the mass. Sometimes I listen for those silences and hear the cradle for a song.

I can also be inspired by an event in my life, something that I need to explore through lyrics. And sometimes, it's like I hear music in the air. I'll pull a melody that's demanding my attention. Kind of like I'm just a conduit for a greater expression.

DO YOU EVER LOOK TO SOMETHING SPIRITUAL FOR INSPIRATION?

My spirituality is fairly open. I've had spiritual experiences listening to rivers and laying in the dirt. I don't look to a particular entity for an invocation or anything. But I feel there's magick in the world around me and when I'm still, I can feel it. I don't always draw inspiration like this, though. Sometimes it comes in a mundane way. Like, I'll be peeling carrots and a chord progression will slap me.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD WRITE MUSIC?

I think I was about 6 years old. I already knew I could play the piano, but in my boredom during practice, I started to make up my own little songs. I can't call those moments "inspired" though!

WHEN DID YOU RECOGNIZE "INSPIRED" SONGS?

It happened gradually. I was probably in my teens, or pre-teens. I started really writing when I was about 11, but, again, those songs were more for fun than anything else. I don't remember when I started feeling the need to write. And now, that's what it is. It's a driving, insatiable, NEED.

I was lucky. My piano teacher saw that drive in me and began to incorporate time in my lessons for critique of my original pieces. It encouraged me and validated what I was doing.

DO YOU EVER FEEL YOUR INSPIRATION RUN DRY?

Yes. It's hard to battle that. When it happens, I feel like I'll never be moved again. It terrifies me. Once, I was blocked for two years. Nothing good came in that time. The best way I've found to work through it is to continue writing, even if I don't feel it. Several songs have been written because I was focused on something uninspired and then the movement of another song began to stir. Sometimes I have to let it go in order to harness it.

WHAT OTHER ARTISTS INSPIRE YOU?

I'm inspired by the friends I have who are equally driven to create. We share stories, conflicts, and humor. I cherish that.

But in terms of more popular artists whose music moves me, there's a rotating door. Right now, I'm listening to Radiohead, Idaho, Lisa Germano, and Jeff Buckley and getting those sparks. And at pretty much any time, I can say Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, and The Pixies. They never go out of vogue with me.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS?

Like everything else, my opinion changes radically and frequently. Where I was searching for validation six months ago, now I'm only looking to create for myself. The industry is separate from the artist. Sometimes the artist needs to be a business person. But right now I'm choosing to be the artist. Period. Since my next album is incubating as I say this sentence, it's important that I ignore the outside influence of opinion.

The music industry is designed to make money, not make art. Being independent keeps me from that. It's one of the blessings I have in controlling my craft.

Creativity and inspiration run like a river. Sometimes, I sit by the stream and have an abundance of water. That water is never created by me. It's part of the flow that will continue to run with or without my interference. And sometimes, I get distracted and wander around the landscape. I'll be too far away to reach over and pull out the water, but I'll hear it running in the background. If I'm lost, I'll continue to hone my ears on the sound until I find my way back. As artists, our connection comes from an existing power and that's an awesome privilege. I'm grateful for any amount of dignity I can bring to it.

Terami is from Los Angeles, where she still resides. A self-described introvert who loves the piano but dislikes singing, she began to stretch beyond her early classical training once she wrote her first song at age 11.

Always driven by music, she's inspired by her favorite artists, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Radiohead, Tori Amos, The Pixies, and Aimee Mann.

With three self-produced albums under her belt (All Girl Band, Stickfigures, and To the Bone), a 2002 nomination for Best Female Singer/Songwriter song (The River) from Just Plain Folks, and an honorable mention from Indie Band Search, she's found her distinct, confessional voice among a generation of sensitive songwriters.
www.terami.com   CD Baby     www.myspace.com/teramihirsch
 

PEPPER MCGOWAN

*How has music inspired you?

My immediate family was more athletic than musical.  My mom was a state track champion and my dad was a Golden Gloves champion, and I was born into this family as a very overly sensitive, overly observant, nearsighted and asthmatic kid. I was the only child of my parents union (I had a brother who passed away in 1997, we shared a father.  He's the only "name" I have tattooed on me).   I was raised around adults for the most part, and I turned to making up songs and stories and playmates to keep myself entertained. My father's mother, Granny Duck had an upright piano and a butter churn. I used to play with both. I was two or three and I made up this game that if I moved the churn around, music would come into my head and then I would "dump it out"on the piano.   And I also learned a couple of the songs that the Sweet Adelines (Singing group, like female barbershop) some of my great aunts were doing as well as the songs from The Sound of Music which was the first record I really liked. My parents and others took notice, and my mom went and got a piano.

*Has music helped you thru a difficult or traumatic time in your life?

Absolutely.  I think that songwriting started for me as a sort of self therapist. I was fairly advanced in some ways as a kid but in others I was completely assbackward.  I had ADHD but they didn't know what that was, and so some of my behavior was considered "unacceptable" by teachers in Catholic school.  Thou shalt not giggle, talk about imaginary friends, etc.  And they recommended my parents take me to a shrink.  And so they did but my parents were worried I would incriminate myself further so they always prefixed appointments with "Don't talk about monkeys that talk. Don't talk about scary things. Color with light crayons." So in a sense I developed this wordless dialogue with my instrument. The shrink said I had a genius IQ for my age (it's probably depreciated a lot since 1981) but that I was an odd bird, prone to my own odd rhythms.   I stopped seeing a shrink but turned to music and making up songs and song stories to dump all the things that I wasn't supposed to be talking about or thinking about or noticing.  If I didn't have an instrument to retreat to when my brother passed away, I would have probably gone over the edge insane.  I had ended a very long relationship, my lover didn't come to the funeral, it was a dark time but from that time came a lot of songs.

I met my husband that same year and the well of sad little songs began to dry up. I've been too happy to go to that place, where the songs seem to come from, for the most part. Now when they come they are about different fears and sorrows than lost lovers.  They are also a lot less verse chorus verse and so they are not really album material. I mean, not for the casual listener.   But it's hard for me to write happy songs, even my "happy songs" are tinged with a wistfulness or irony.   I'm too busy when I'm happy just enjoying that moment to revel in it with a keyboard and pen., you know?  Nowadays the bulk of my newer songs are about lust!

*Any CD's or songs that are meaningful to you?

I don't know.  I mean, dozens. But they aren't your typical "this made me write."   Suzanne Vega was the first person that made it okay for me to have the cumbersome appendage of a vagina. I've never been into "women's music," I just like what I like, and maybe 85% of the time it's not females.   I looked to things that touched me. I mean there's the geek rock part of me that gives me "cred" who fell in love with Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Elvis Costello, and The Cure. Because that stuff touched me. So in interviews, that's what I am "supposed" to discuss, because you know, even though when you are thirteen and everyone else likes New Kids on the Block and you're listening to this raspy voiced guy with glasses hoping that he'll want your virginity, that's stupid. That's Nyah Nyah you're crazy.  But when you're 24 and you say that, all of a sudden hundreds of guys with glasses are coming out of the shadows offering to rid you of it half a dozen years too late.  I mean, yes, I was listening to Elvis Costello's KING OF AMERICA and Indoor Fireworks would always just hook me right in the heart thinking of my own future, knowing that I would too fall victim to that kind of love someday.  And I have. Self fufilling prophecy you know?  But I tend to leave out the parts where I found my mom's THE WAY WE WERE right around the time that I started menstruating, which I think, the onset of puberty is a really important time for what choices we will make as far as influential music if we have any soul in us whatsoever.  I still can't believe some people just, music just passes them by. They don't go see concerts.  They know they like Dave Matthews and John Mayer cuz they know the songs. But only the songs on the radio.  They are the assholes who get restless at concerts and can't sit through b sides or rarities. They don't want to know if Nelly Furtado is pregnant right now. They don't want to know if Dave Matthews wrote a song while he was at his relative's wake. They just want "I'm like a bird." They want "Crash."

I mean I was also this insipid loon with Jewish gramma glasses and bad braces holding a pillow to my chest having my first periods weeping along to the way we were. I can't stand Barbra or her politics or anything diva-ish about her now, but at 12 I thought "but it's the laughter, we will remember, whenever we remember, the way we were." I thought she was queen shit. I thought she knew everything.   I thought she WROTE THAT SONG.   Jesus, a month or two later I found Carly Simon's Boys in The Trees album and was just like, wow okay wrong fixation, lets move along.  This tan toothy woman in a nightgown in some setting like the dance studio of Fame on the cover.  I have no right to bitch about women selling records based on looks, because the bespectacled 12 year old bleeding me wanted to BE that tan jowly goddess in the nightgown.  Making babies with James Taylor.  Making songs that make you tingle.

Later in life, the Australian band The Apartments, soundtracked one of the most pivotal times in my life, so there's a soft spot there.

I'm a licensed astrologer. I used to be on the radio.  It's funny to me now but we would always have people who were promoting an album come do a live thing and I didn't know Tori Amos played the piano too until I had to see her do a live thing and do her reading and chart for her. It was really funny in hindsight because at the time I'd been playing out a few years and I never thought....I don't know. I never thought that in a decade I'd be fighting tooth and nail to disassociate myself from being some sort of "Tori Amos tribute artist". I just thought she was nice.  Nicer to the staff than a lot of people.  She gave out a bunch of copies of the record. Under the pink. Only thing of hers I own.

*How did you get into the music business?

It shouldn't be that, a business.  But it so is.  And of course like any art, marketed or not, music is subjective and so not everyone is going to like what you're doing. I'm glad if I wrote something (musically) that helped someone else but the business side of it, it's like a mad bucking horse with dysentery. It sucks.  I was just a teenager going into a bar where my best friend who was in his thirties (No it wasn't like that. it really wasn't!) had just finished playing a set and it was his birthday actually.  So I can say yes my music career is a virgo. Anyway, the set was done and I had no piano where I was at the time and I had this song following me (touch version one) and I asked the owner if I could use the piano while the band tore down and they turned the mic on while I was using the piano and I got a gig. It was like being born. A tunnel a light some squeezing a slap on the ass I wasn't ready for it. I'm still not. Because of my name punny writers always like to say "seasoned" but I'm so not seasoned. Sometimes I'm naked and green as a broken branch.  I feel vivisected that way.

*Can you discuss the creative or songwriting process?

They find me.  Songs find me I don't find songs.  They usually find me in the car.  I've probably been in a dozen near wrecks for taking notes. That became. Songs.  I believe in God, a higher power.   A muse. Something else puts these things in my head and I'm just the messenger. Sometimes tho, you know, the people want to shoot the messenger because of my way of bluntness I tend to verbally abuse the privlege of what is sacred or unspoken.  I mean, I think Gwen Stefani is adorable.   But the same year she was doing "Don't speak," you know, about a breakup, I had a song that I'm kinda glad isn't on a disk right now that had a line about "I went down on you in my dream last night and I drowned in your lover's saliva"  GIRLS loved this song.    At live shows. But yet when someone posted the lyrics on a Tori Amos site under RELATED ARTISTS I got this slew of hate letters.  I'm still trying to figure that one out. I mean, Alanis Morisette did the same thing to a song character in a theater. Ironically that is a sex act that I'm not comfortable with. But I can certainly understand, there is nothing about that act that is demeaning to a woman if she elects to do that. When is a woman ever so much in control as when she has your sausage in her teeth?

*Discuss your feelings about the powerful or life-changing effects that your music can have on a person--

In some ways the things I have created allowed me to purge a lot of demons of my own.  And lead others to do the same with similar demons.

It has also made me a lot more wary.   The industry really does want you to be this nymphette/priestess/sage thing.   You have to be hungry but skinny, you have to be delicate but fierce and most of all you must never ever hit your thirties.  I've broken almost all those rules.   I've had a record label tell me to fuck off for the fact of what I look like. That if I wasn't willing to "drop forty and try and be more like Jewel" I was history.

So I said, "Um, no. You fuck off first." Thank God I had the presence of mind to own my publishing rights!

But on the flip side of that, I'm just "known" enough that now sometimes I am afraid to say what I think.   To people. Like in an email because it will end up as a quote. Something I said about peeing once, yeah about peeing......I can't even remember what it was something about peeing black light. It was a joke. It ended up as someone's sig file and she happened to be someone who writes to tons of people daily. So I'd tour and someone might say "What's the song where you pee black light?"

I don't know, maybe I need to write that song?
www.peppermcgowan.com
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/peppermcgowan

MARINA V

 I was born in Moscow in 1978. Back then, in the Soviet times, things
were quite different from the way they are now. Part of the Soviet
propaganda was to not allow "western thinking" inside the borders of the
USSR. People lived the way the government wanted them to live without
knowing of other ways of life, without knowing what freedom truly meant.

Because of such government restrictions, most foreign products were
banned. That, unfortunately, included music. I grew up listening to
Russian classical music and absolutely terrible Soviet pop. I'd never
heard of jazz, rock 'n roll, Elvis or anything of that kind.

When I was about ten or eleven years old, a friend gave me a cassette
with several British rock songs. It was a home-made compilation tape of
the Beatles. I remember that day very clearly because it was the day
that changed my life. I remember pressing PLAY on my small cassette
player and hearing "In My Life", "Here, There, and Everywhere" and "Yesterday".
The tenth generation tape was very hissy, but it didn't matter. I
never knew that music could be so emotional and so beautiful. It didn't
matter that I couldn't understand a word (I didn't know English at that
point). The music was powerful enough to convey its message.

The Beatles invaded my mind and I spent hours playing their songs on the
piano and even more hours trying to find more Beatles tapes (which was
quite difficult as Western music had just started to appear on the
Russian markets). At that time I was attending a school of music
learning classical piano, but I was less and less interested in playing
from the classical sheet music.

My love for the music of the Beatles inspired me to write my own songs
and pursue a career in music, which was not really possible in Russia.
Eventually I moved to the U.S.A. and started performing live. I am now
twenty four years-old, and I have toured across the country and have
released two albums independently. I don't know if I
would be where I am now were it not for the day I heard the Beatles.
www.marinav.com/   http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/marinav4

ANNE DEMING

*How has music inspired you? Who are your musical inspirations?

I'd say music frees me more than it inspires me. I've always been an emotional creature and when I was younger I kept certain thoughts and emotions inside because I didn't know what to say or how to say it. But then I would hear a certain song that would pull feelings right out of me - it was like therapy. After a while I began to depend on music to feel and that's what eventually lead me to writing my own music. Because as I grew up my emotions were getting bigger than the songs and catagories I had initially placed them in so I had to create my own music to echo the world inside of myself. Sinead O'Connor is a huge musical influence because she's this tiny bundle of energy, beautiful sounding and not the least bit afraid of making words sound exactly like they should. She howls, screams and whisphers. I think it's wonderful. Tori Amos taught me that it was okay to write about naughty things. Listening to her perform is often like watching a porno. The screaming trees are ridiculously talented and I wish they would put out more music. Recently I've begun to appreciate Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, but my greatest musical discovery has been Kyle Vincent - I heard him play an acoustic show in Boston and I cried my eyes out because it was gorgeous songwriting, vivid lyrics and just because he was downright fabulous.

*Has music helped you thru a difficult or traumatic time in your life?

Music is everything to me. I would not want to get up in the morning if it did not exist. Anything and everything is better with music.

*Are there any CD's or songs that are meaningful to you?

"Troy" by Sinead O'Connor is the most passionate songs that comes to mind. Full of imagery and no matter what mood I'm in I feel like that song is speaking to me. I use it for inspiration, for solace and for release.

U2's Joshua Tree...I heard it in high school about 5 years after it had been released. I felt like an idiot for missing the bandwagon, but it was my first dose of a different kind of rock. My songwriting took a turn after hearing the CD and I have listened to it countless times without tiring.

*How did you get into the music business?

In high school I teamed up with a gifted musician who turned down the berkley school of music to do his own thing. We wrote together and performed in Wisconsin during high school then I went to Chicago where I did the solo thing for a while before moving to Minneapolis to meet up with Mr. Talent himself (who is now my Manager and studio musician..as well as belatedly realizing he was the love of my life) Things have really come together professionaly since I moved to Minneapolis, but I've been playing for money and for free since I picked up my first guitar. There's never been anything else.

*Discuss the creative or songwriting process--

Words in the form of phrases usually come first and then I figure out what kind of music I should add. I have to admit that most songs evolve quickly and relatively easily. I can't explain why I write about the things I do but they seem to be whatever is in the forefront of my mind. Rather undisciplined I know. Sometimes a guitar rif does just pops into my head first though and when it does I agonize over the correct lyrics, but those songs are always my favorite. I also have to play a song live about 50 times before I'll record it just to see what evolves and changes.

*Discuss your feelings about the powerful or life-changing effects that your music can have on a person--

I received an email once from a woman who was in serious therapy for self mutilation. She was doing a search on the internet for "mutilation" and for some reason the title of my first cd, "Beautifully Scarred" came up. She checked out my website and then sent me an email asking if she could talk to me about her problems. Mistakenly, she assumed I had suffered from it as well - I hadn't, but that didn't make me any less willing to discuss. Admitedly, I was overwhelmed and terrified about saying the right thing or, more importantly, saying the wrong thing. But we keep in touch and she seems to be doing much better. I feel humbled whenever music, especially something I wrote helps someone else. I also feel very selfish (but not sorry about it) because it makes me feel connected in a huge way to ...well... everybody. I love getting emails from people all over the world who relate to my music. A divorced mother in L.A. a struggling musician in Chicago, a teenage dancer in Texas..it goes on and on, btu I always respond and love that people, myself included can feel connected around the globe.
www.annedeming.com      

NOE VENABLE

* How has music inspired you?

Music, music, music...  How to describe what it means to me?   It's
been such a long love affair.  We've crossed over the point of pure
infatuated sleepless bliss, at first I think I wondered at the fact
that I was writing fewer songs, I used to write scores of songs, write
a few a day when I was just starting out.  But now the process has
become more focused, deeper.  It demands more of me, in a sense... 
more than just spinning words around a passion, or a mood.  It's more
akin to dream talking, I guess, that's how I think of it.  I picture
music like this pond out in the woods, a small still mirror in a "bee
loud glade", it's a place that I go to plug into those currents that we
must learn to float over in our everyday lives, to be functioning
members of society... I guess music keeps me honest, keeps me strong,
keeps me hungry, keeps me humble, keeps me running.

* Your musical inspirations?

My first musical love as a child was "In the Hall of the Mountain King"
from Grieg's Peir Gynt.  It's a song in which the hero is trapped in a
mountain and is chased around by hundreds of little demons and the
music gets faster and faster and faster and I remember running around
and around faster and faster until I would fall down and pretend to be
dead.

My second musical love was a little song from Bartok's microcosmos
which in my beginning piano exercise book was called "The Lost Doll." 
It was about 8 bars long, and I remember thinking that this was what a
lost doll sounded like, and it was so sad and beautiful, I used to play
it over and over.

My third musical love was the rock opera Tommy, by the Who, and ever
since I heard it as a child, I have dreamed of writing a rock opera.

I guess I secretly want to write symphonies, but I like the idea of
them being little portable ones that don't need many musicians or fancy
concert halls to be played.  I like the idea that a songs bones are
simple, that I can play it out in a field on my guitar... but I want it
to be expansive like the music I've always loved.  Tall order!

* Any CDís or songs which are meaningful to you?

Most recently, the artist I've been most inspired by is Kate Bush...  
I think my favorite record by her at the moment is probably The
Dreaming.  I love how in a given song she might have five or six
different vocal parts, sung in completely different voices, one of them
is singing joy, another might be singing young, nymphish love and
seduction, then another comes in and screeches like a banshee-- bone
shattering grief.  Somehow, the whole thing makes sense, each song is
like this little roiling cauldron of voices...  Somehow her music says
more to me about what it feels like to be human-- to be a woman--  than
the most moving song in a simple sentiment.

I am also completely in love with a record called Terra Nostra, by
Savina Yannatou, who is one of the most extraordinary singers I've ever
heard.  She's greek.  The album is a live recording of her and her band
singing folk songs from a number of different countries, but she just
completely owns these songs, rips them apart and puts them back
together again.  Like Kate Bush, she sings in many voices, ranging from
the sweetest, most gentle croon, to the fierceness of Diamanda Galas,
she does throat singing, and at times the whole thing explodes into
what sounds like a tangled wood, with wild women screeching like
monkeys in the trees.  It is a WILD, unclassifiable record and I'm just
completely obsessed with it.

One more person... Eric Metzgar.  He's pretty much completely unknown,
but he's a visionary and a poet and his music is just absolutely unique
and completely beautiful.  His first record, Life Extension Studies,
which is mostly guitar - song based is really great.  Then his most
recent record, Finally Lost,  is a totally new direction, songs based
on piano but with expansive, minimalist arrangements, kind of in a
similar space to Sigur Ros, but with lyrics to match the beauty and
strangeness of the music.

* Has music helped you through a difficult or traumatic time in your
life?

Yes, starting to write songs pretty much saved my life, because it
poked a little hole in me and I was finally able to let out everything
that had been boiling up inside me for so long.  Thank god for pins,
otherwise I guess I'd just explode.

An avid sonic experimenter and home recording devotee, San Francisco based singer songwriter Noe Venable has released four records independently.  Her most recent album, The World is Bound by Secret Knots, is the unique product of that glorious combination of time, space and artistic freedom that can perhaps only be achieved in the privacy of one's own living room.  Produced with the help of Noe's long time collaborator and bass player, Todd Sickafoose, the album is a "sun-strained album of mystical folk/pop" that lives in its own universe and follows its own rules.   In the world, however, Noe's audience has been steadily growing, thanks to word of mouth, and the generous support of a number of more established artists-- Noe has opened for Ani DiFranco on two national tours.  In addition, Noe has opened tours for Dar Williams, They Might be Giants, Boz Scaggs, and Glen Phillips.  In the Bay Area, however, Noe has gained a reputation as being something of a local secret.  Three times, she has been nominated for a California Music Award best female vocalist.  In 2003, San Francisco Magazine named Noe one of San Francisco's 100 most talented people.  In 2002, her album, Down Easy was featured in Cherish, a movie by Bay Area filmmaker Finn Taylor-- the film premiered at Sundance and is now out on video.

In addition to being a singer songwriter, Noe is a writer, poet and
obsessive documentarian who supplements her living writing books for kids.
www.noevenable.com
Noe Venable/CD BABY
 

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