Today’s Feature, August 29-30: Terri Hendrix

January 18, 2008 at 5:43 pm (Today's Feature)

It isn’t easy to describe Terri Hendrix. The folk singer-songwriter has scaled to where she is today in a fashion that is anything but orthodox. It was a complex series of life events that shaped Ms. Hendrix into the artist she is today ñ from dodging guerilla warfare in Central and South America, to falling upon an open-mic night that changed her life, to the friendships she was blessed to have with mentor fingerpicker Marion Williamson and business partner Lloyd Maines.

It is with Maines that Hendrix has produced subsequent albums Places in Between (2000), The Ring (2002) and The Art of Removing Wallpaper (2004). Her ninth album, The Spiritual Kind, is almost as hard to describe as Terri herself. Sure, she calls it a folk record, but is quick to point out that she doesn’t worry about being ìtoo loud for folk, too pop for country, too country for jazz, or too this or too that for any other genre.î

Her persistent success has relied on the distinctive quality to always write what she felt like writing and sing how she felt like singing. It is traits such as these that can be found at Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, TX, where she found herself at a fateful open-mic nightÖ where blue-collar songwriters put their hearts and spirits into their words and melodies.

The Spiritual Kind is dedicated to those that have helped her remain so honest in her music. To hear it performed live is to allow Hendrix to take you on a journey ñ one that may make you laugh, or make you cry, but will nonetheless be worth the price of admission. If you can’t make it to the show, look out for her imminent book about music, business, and maintaining good health on the road. Read her XXQ’s for more on Terri Hendrix.

XXQs: Terri Hendrix

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in music?

Terri Hendix (TH): My father was a career military man, and for several years when I was

a child, my family was stationed in Fort Clayton, Panama. After completing his service there,

my father squeezed the family into a maroon van and drove us all the way back to Texas. My mother,

who grew up in Cuba, translated from Spanish to English to Panamanian to Tex-Mex to

Spanglish the whole trip, thus enabling us to communicate our way safely through the

heart of guerilla warfare in South and Central America. After we settled back down in

San Antonio, I noticed that I didn’t quite fit in with the other kids my age. So I spent

quite a bit of time making up songs on the guitar I’d borrowed (or stolen) from my sister

the Christmas prior. Upon graduation from high school, I received a classical music and

voice scholarship to Hardin Simmons State University, a conservative Baptist College in

Abilene, Texas. After two years of failing music theory, I switched majors and

transferred to what’s now known as Texas State University, in San Marcos. I waited tables

to pay for school, and fumbled along aimlessly until I found an open-mic night at

Cheatham Street Warehouse. Soon thereafter, I met a woman named Marion Williamson, who

employed me to look after a few goats of her property, Wilory Farm. Within months I was

bartering out my goat milkin’ skills for guitar lessons, as I’d come to find out Marion

was a great fingerpicker from the schools of Mississippi John Hurt, Lightnin’ Hopkins,

and Big Bill Broonzy.

With Marion’s encouragement, by 1991 I was making demo tapes off her DAT machine and

booking gigs around the Texas hill country. My tour bus was a green, beat-up 1991 Toyota

pick-up with a camper shell and a big dent in the shape of a deer (or two). I carried

my own PA system and landed a gig as my own personal “roadie.” Later on, after I started

playing tourist hot spots like the San Antonio Riverwalk and bars along the Port

Aransas shoreline, I got a Web site and started a mailing list. Slowly but surely, my

fanbase started to grow – as did my appreciation for the music of Ella Fitzgerald,

Anita O’Day, David Bromberg, Joe Ely, Terry Allen, Kris Kristofferson and the Indigo

Girls, not to mention local heroes like Kent Finlay, Ike Eichenberg, Al Barlow and

Stan Smith.

PEV: What was it like the first time you stepped into a studio to record your own music?

TH: It was difficult because I was not ready to record my songs…I did not have the arrangements

together or even the right keys to sing the songs correctly. I learned this the hard way.

Rule #1-Have your songs together before you begin the recording process.

PEV: Is there a certain atmosphere you surround yourself in when you write music?

TH: I have learned to just write…if I try to hard to create the perfect atmosphere then I

get in there and twiddle my fingers. I try to stay open and receptive and have a pen and

paper with me at all times. I do have a music room with Tibetan prayer flags, candles, a

Buddha…and lots of dog hair as they are in there with me while I work on songs.

PEV: Is there a certain theme or concept you find yourself leaning towards when you write

music?

TH: I’m interested in politics and find myself writing lots of political songs (though most I just

play for myself). I don’t want to do a whole night of political songs live. I tend to gravitate

towards songs that are hopeful and positive when I write. And these songs end up being what I

take to the stage. I like descriptive stories and search for the right words to write what I

see in everyday life.

PEV: Tell us about the creation and what can people expect from your latest release,

“The Spiritual Kind”?

TH: “The Spiritual Kind” is the ninth record I’ve released independently. It was recorded with

pretty much the same approach I’ve had on all my records (the kid’s one included), in

that I didn’t worry about being too loud for folk, too pop for country, too country for

jazz, or too this or too that for any other genre. It’s a little more acoustic-driven,

with a lot more harmonica (my three dogs like to hear me practice to Sonny Terry records).

I just wrote what I felt like writing and sang how I felt like singing. I like all styles of

music, and that’s what we did on this album. The end result is what I’m calling a folk record.

I’m now 14 years past the age I was told by a promoter (when I was 25) that you had to

have “made it” by in order to “make it” in the music industry. And I’m nine records down

the road from the point I was told I’d fail without national distribution. I’m not gonna

lie: It’s a hard gig, and I’ve seen this industry go through many changes in the decade

since I started my label. But I’ve also found that the two things that first inspired me to

follow this crazy path have stayed the same; namely, all the fans that support music because

of their genuine love of the song, and the songwriters out there who continue to put

what’s in their soul to music. I called my record “The Spiritual Kind” as a tip of the

hat to these folks that have been with me on my journey so far, and to all those I’ve

yet to meet on the road still ahead of me. Where that road will ultimately lead to is

anyone’s guess. But I gotta say that, thanks to the “spiritual kind”, it continues to

be one great boogie ride.

PEV: How is “The Spiritual Kind” different from your past albums?

TH: It is more acoustic in nature and less produced. Most of the songs were road tested

live. There’s spoken word on there (“If I Had a Daughter”)…and hand percussion

(“Bottom of a Hill”)…there’s different grooves and subject matter “Jim Thorpe’s

Blues”…”Pasture’s of Plenty” and there’s more harmonica.

PEV: Two years ago, you released a children’s album, “Celebrate the Difference” that was

widely successful. What made you decide to write a children’s album and how was that process

different from what you usually focus on?

TH: I had these kid’s songs that needed a home. I had enough of them that when Lloyd

said ‘You need to do a kid’s record’ I did not argue and we did a kid’s record. We had

a blast recording them as it was totally freeing to have electronic drums (a real no-no

in the folk world) and rapping and just going nuts on tape with my song “Nerves.” I used

the same writing process though…I tried to stay out of the way of the process and get down on

paper what each song needed. For sure I did not think keep it solely for “kids” when I wrote the songs.

PEV: You have produced all your albums since 1998’s “Wilory Farm” with long time writing

partner Lloyd Maines. What is it like to be able to work with someone you trust and

respect as an artist?

TH: Lloyd’s a good editor and that’s made all the difference these past years. I think it’s been

important to me to have someone I can bounce ideas off of as this has helped broaden my musical

landscape. As a musician, Lloyd’s tops…and there would be very few who would beg to differ.

Playing music with someone of this caliber has been a wonderful experience.

My label, Wilory Records, took root in 1996 by way of a rejection letter from a label

(which shall remain nameless, though it’s now out of business). I had friends to pay

back who had already loaned me money for recording costs, so I released my first record,

“Two Dollar Shoes”, on my own. Within six months or so, I’d paid everyone back and even

made enough to start a new record. Everything was going great until my mentor and best

friend Marion died suddenly in 1997. I was devastated. There’s something to be said

about miracles, though, as it was exactly one month after Marion’s passing that I first

met Lloyd Maines at “South By Southwest” in Austin. He had heard a cassette of my new songs,

and we visited about what would later become my second record – and the first one he would

produce for me. I named it after Marion’s old place: Wilory Farm. Lloyd and his wife moved from

Lubbock, Texas to Austin in 1998. They both noticed my inability to balance a checkbook, and

knew that I needed help running my label. We’ve been business partners ever since. We launched our

own online E-Commerce store (that’s funded every recording since) and updated my mailing list from

names on scraps of typing paper to a physical list. Independent radio stations began playing my songs,

and we soon started touring all over the United States and Europe behind subsequent albums Places in Between

(2000), The Ring (2002) and The Art of Removing Wallpaper (2004). Marion’s favorite goat from years past,

Peggy Lee (named after the singer), became my label’s mascot. In 2005, Peggy even got her own

song – “Get Your Goat On” – on my first “kid’s record,” Celebrate the Difference.

PEV: What do all your friends and family think about your success?

TH: I’m not mainstream and my friends and family buy mainstream music and art. They look at

me and what I do and have done as an independent artist and scratch their heads. They are

supportive of what I do though…even if they cannot two-step to it here in Texas.

PEV: How has traveling on the road as a musician been for you? Best and worst parts?

TH: Traveling is the hardest part. I hate to fly and the worst part about it is the wear

and tear and toll flying takes on my body. The early mornings…the packing…the trying

to stay hydrated. The best part for me is the driving…as long as it in not in NY or the

New Jersey Turnpike (I hate that road). But a drive through Wyoming is beautiful as in New

Mexico…Colorado…

PEV: If I were to walk into your house/and studio right now, what is one thing I would

be surprised to find?

TH: Rows and rows of dog hair all over the floor as I have just been too busy this summer to clean

my casita. Also…hundreds and hundreds of CD’s as I am a total music fan.

PEV: When you are not working, what can we find you doing?

TH: I like to have my friends over to my house. We cook and listen to music. I throw ball for my dogs

or I go out to my sister’s who lives on property and we visit till the sun goes down and until

the sun comes up…

PEV: What can someone expect from a live Terri Hendrix show?

TH: If I do my job right…you might laugh and you might cry. I like our show to take those that come

to it on a journey. I want you to be glad you paid the ticket price. It’s important to me to

meet and greet you too…I enjoy visiting with those that come to my shows.

PEV: What is the best part about playing live?

TH: The gratification I get from the feedback of those in the audience.

PEV: What other artist right now should people be watching out for?

TH: Adam Carroll…a poet…as is Sam Baker.

PEV: In all your travels, which city – outside of the US, do you think offers the best

music scene?

TH: I have not been overseas enough to know the music scene…I am partial to San Marcos,

Texas…my hometown. We have a great scene here with blue-collar songwriters that you’ll

only hear live at Cheatham Street Warehouse on a Wednesday night for Songwriter night.

PEV: What’s the hardest part you about breaking into the music scene?

TH: Remaining an independent and sticking by what you do regardless of the consequences. It’s harder than

ever to be heard and you just have to play music and remember that’s what it’s all about.

And if you play a good show…well, folks are gonna wanna hear it…and if you make the

register ring…folks are gonna wanna book you…and if you get booked…folks are gonna

wanna write about you. But the most important thing is the song…and then the show. And

of course, the audience. You gotta be yourself…

PEV: What is one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Terri Hendrix?

TH: I am a fan of techno music…electronic music…dance music…80’s big-time! I like to

dance but do so at my friend’s expense…kind of look like PeeñWee Herman when I dance

but I still do so when I’m home with friends.

PEV: So, what is next for Terri Hendrix?

TH: I wanna write my book I’ve been wanting to write! It’s a hodge-podge book about music,

business, and maintaining good health on the road…I also wanna get better on

harmonica…and right now…clone myself so I’ll have the time to clean my house. Oh, and

manifest a good president. We need a good president to run this country. Perhaps with

positive thinking this could be a reality. You know, you just never know about the power

of positive thinking!

Check out Terri Hendrix at http://www.TerriHendrix.com

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