In preparation for Terri’s upcoming show with Lloyd Maines at Temple’s Cultural Activities Center on Saturday, October 11th, Centexfun.com’s Texas Local Scene got to speak to Miss Hendrix about life, music, and all of the other projects that makes Terri Hendrix the fascinating artist that she is.
Texas Local Scene: Have you ever been to this area before?
Terri Hendrix: I’ve played in Temple before, but it’s been a long time. I’m looking forward to playing there. It sounds like a fun place to play.
TLS: You are touring with Lloyd Maines. How did you two meet and grow as a tandem?
Terri: We started working together after he heard a demo cassette of mine in 1997. I asked if he would produce a record that I did at that time called “Willory Farm.” I wasn’t quite familiar with him at the time but I knew he was honest to work with and he could get my songs in a format that would represent them appropriately in an acoustic format. I was selling a lot of copies of my first record and had a lot of decisions to make about management and booking agents. I was showing him how things were going and out of the blue I asked, “What do you think if you come on board as a business partner and we could bypass all this other stuff?” We use a booking agent now and then, but we’re mostly just independent. Therefore you are able to profit more. It’s a trade-off I suppose because you aren’t working with people that could open doors that might not be opened otherwise because you are not “in” the industry. But, I also truly feel that if you play music that people want to hear, you will stay employed. That’s been our philosophy. Just really make it about the music and make sure people that are supporting that music know how much you appreciate them. We’ve worked together since ’97 and never looked back. It’s been a very long partnership. And I’ve been very fortunate. Lloyd was just recently inducted into the Austin City Limit Hall of Fame. He’s very well respected and very well known in the industry. People would give their teeth to have him work with them.
TLS: Willory Records is YOUR record label. You started it for yourself. Was that out of necessity?
Terri: Yes. I remember I used to fib and tell people I had national distribution. Shortly after we did Willory Farms, it started to take off when some DJs around the country started to play my songs. It used to be that you couldn’t get press unless you were on a label. So, I used to tell people I had national distribution, which I felt I did because national distribution was happening right through my mailbox by people ordering my record! I call that national distribution. It’s always been my label and I don’t think I ever would get on one.
TLS: Would you recommend that path for new artist in the current climate?
Terri: Yeah. It depends on what kind of music you do. I’ve always danced between a lot of genres. It would be hard for a label to have me on the roster because we do folk, Americana, jazz, and we even do a little bit of rap. Wherever the song leads, we go there musically. If I were a young bluegrass band I might see if a label would be interested. The one thing to consider is if you are not on a label, you own your masters. And, if you own your masters, you can make more money off of streaming, which is where the future is headed. It’s not headed in CD sales. It is headed in revenues off of streaming. So, as a business person, again, you have to really think about if that label can do for you more than you can do for yourself. Once you give away those masters and somebody else owns your destiny, they better well be in good hands or you won’t make any money – period. Somebody else will be making money off of your masters.
TLS: How would you describe your music?
Terri: Folk. I really like folk because I really care about lyrics. Now, more than ever, I feel so happy with all these new projects we are working on. I feel after all these years, the most important thing to be a folk artist to me is to get better. To sing better. To write better songs. To play better. No matter how old I get, make it to where every record is better than the last one. And, for me, just really work as an artist to just constantly try to raise the bar as a folk musician. To me, it’s folk because the words matter and the story matters and that’s keeping up with the folk tradition.
TLS: Did you always want to be a folk singer?
Terri: I always wanted to write. That was my only aspiration. It took working for a few bad people before I realized I wanted to be self employed. I didn’t want to work for someone and not like my life.
TLS: I know you had a major influence in your past if a lady named Marion Williamson. Was she the biggest influence on your career?
Terri: Yeah. She was also a major influence in wanting to teach. Get the right teacher and it changes your life. Probably one of the worst bumper stickers I’ve ever read, even worse than political bumper stickers, is the slogan “There are those who do and those who teach.” And it was pertaining to music. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think it’s my personal responsibility to learn as much as I can and then to teach. Get a troubled child and teach them to play music. Teach them to put their thoughts down in an art form and try to save a life! I know, for me, Marion saved mine. I probably would have been an alcoholic. At that time I was partying a lot and I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 1989. I didn’t take it seriously and I wasn’t doing the things I needed to do to go for a healthy, responsible life. She really put me on track. And that’s what a great teacher can do.
TLS: Does that go along the lines of OYOU (Own Your Own Universe)?
Terri: Yes! It’s right there with it. Own Your Own Universe is going to be a fully functioning arts center. It’s going to be a sustainable arts center with a therapeutic garden and be a fully handicapped accessible arts center. Where, one Saturday afternoon, we’ll have little kids in their little smocks with their little easels out working on paintings. I really don’t want money to be an issue. If they don’t have money, they stand along side people that do and they paint as well. I’d like to have classes there with kids that are troubled and have doctors that come in and talk to parents about different potential options. As a person with a neurological problem for so many years, perhaps communication is the thing I’ve been most in need of. And not alarmist. You get online and in chat rooms and there is a lot of alarmist type behavior. I need to know things as I get older with this about what I can expect and talk to others that are fifteen years older than me and learn for them. The art center will be multipurpose for mind/body/spirit. But I don’t want it to be too “zen” where it’s over people’s heads. I want it to be accessible.
TLS: And where will it be located?
Terri: It will be in San Marcos. I don’t have land or a building yet. I keep my fingers crossed every day that someone will call me and tell me they have ten acres. I am the queen of the $20 donation. Next year will be grant-writing time. The ball will really get rolling once I have land. There is a website called OwnYourOwnUniverse.org. And it’s a 501(C)(3). This time next year, my hope would be that I could play a show for inner city youth as well. It’s a program that both Lloyd and I both believe in. He’s very much a part of the project as well. My goal next year it to pair the OYOU around the United States as I’m playing shows.
TLS: You wrote a book called “Cry Till You Laugh” that was paired with your last CD. Is that something you are going to do again?
Terri: That thing was really hard. It took so much out of me. It took me about two years to want to write anything again. It was really difficult. I read it now and I see all the warts in it. I released it warts and all. Some of it was written in 1996. You change as you grow and write and I’d word things differently now. But, I’ve got the bug again to do another book. It’s a book that I’m really excited about. It chronicles my journey with epilepsy. It’ll come out next year and I’m in the process of writing that now. I’m on a deadline with it. But, it doesn’t have anything to do with the music business. It’s just about the things I had to learn the hard way.
TLS: Dealing with epilepsy as an artist – Does it teach you to be more of a lover of the moment?
Terri: Yes. It teaches you to be, dare I say, deeper in thought. Something could happen like a speaker could blow while I play or I work with a sound crew that doesn’t understand the equipment. I just don’t care about the things that don’t matter. The show will go on. I don’t really think about things that aren’t important. I worry more about things that matter. As a musician it hurt my career. When the record and book came out in 2010, I was in the process of over-medication. I took myself off medication and was trying to be holistic. I’m just not wired to not have medication, no matter how hard I tried to be organic. As a musician, I can’t travel and eat the way I need to eat and do the things I need to do in order not to take medicine. By the time I went back on the medicine, it was too late. It definitely hurt my career because I wasn’t able to promote the record. I was also too stubborn to quit. I should have taken some time off. But, I do have a mortgage over my head so you have to take that in to consideration, too. I’d probably do things differently now. As a musician, it took me forever to open up about it. I didn’t open up about it until 2006 and I was diagnosed with it in 1989. Lloyd didn’t even know about it until 2003. It’s helped me to be more honest.
TLS: Is that a weight that you carried with you? That someone might find out?
Terri: Yeah. I was worried I wouldn’t get booked if I talked about it. I was worried people would shy away. There is a lot of misunderstanding. Look at our culture. You remotely mention depression or bipolar or epilepsy and it raises eyebrows. People just don’t understand. The brain is the last frontier and people don’t understand it. That’s why people that are bipolar and people that have epilepsy are on the same medications. That’s just not right. There should be different medications that should target the parts of the brain that need to heal. There is such a stigma. It was a weight for a really long time. I have what I call a handi-stand. It has cue-cards that can keep me on track. Sometimes my medications can hurt my concentration or my speech and these cue-cards can keep me on my game. I can shuffle them as I play. I’ve got a good system. In a way, playing with a crutch is difficult because people may not understand. If I play in a whole lot of wind, it can be difficult because I have to anchor those suckers down but I’ve learned how to do it. I feel like I’ve gotten good and it and I’ve got a few more gigs in me.
TLS: What’s next for Terri Hendrix?
Terri: We’re working on several projects at once. I want them to come out next year. I’m forty seven. I feel like by the time I turn fifty, my priority really needs to shift. I don’t plan on quitting ever. I will always play. When I turn 50, I plan on doing some big shows but my butt needs to be at that art center. I’ve been doing this for so many years I know how to run it! And I need to get it off the ground.
TLS: Let’s talk about songwriting. What’s your system in writing a song?
Terri: It’s changed so much. I had writers block for several years. I would write, but I would throw it in a box. I have a huge box of lyrics that’s been traveling around with me since the fourth grade. It’s the weirdest thing. It’s the size of a trunk and it’s almost too heavy to lift. It’s an environmentalist worst nightmare! It’s full of paper and emails that I send to myself that I print and shove it in there. That’s the writing process for me. Even though I don’t finish a song, I still keep writing. It might go in a box and remain undone. I’m involved in a writers project this year where I have to write one song a week. It’s called “Real Women, Real Songs.” We write one song a week and put it up on YouTube, warts and all. And I have some really bad songs on there. It takes me forever because I edit, edit, edit. I look at people like Guy Clark and I think I strive to be like that. Why should I not strive to be super anal about it and not let it go until it’s as perfect as it could possibly be? There are very few songs I’ve recorded that would pass the mustard. I’ve been that weird about it. The writers project has been great because I’ve learned to let go. I may never record them, but at least I’m finishing the songs. I feel like I’m sharpening my skills a little. The process is different than I’ve ever done before.
TLS: Do you have a favorite song or a song you are happy to play for people?
Terri: “If I Had A Daughter.” I feel like when I play that one live it hits on all cylinders for people. “Hand Me Down Blues” doesn’t have a not of lyrics but I really like the production….
TLS: I have to tell you the song that speaks to my family is “Nerves.”
Terri: Oh man. I’m so glad. That makes me feel so good. That kids record is my favorite record we’ve ever done. When I did get sick and I had to cancel gigs, that record ended up on XM Kids in syndicated radio. It helped that I owned the masters to those songs. It has sustained me because of that. I have been wanting to do another one. They take a long time to write. I think writing wise, I’m most happy with the way that one came out.
TLS: Is there a venue you look forward to that you feel like you are home?
Terri: Yes. Any time I get to work with Steve Said at Dosey Doe – there is one in Conroe and one in the Woodlands. Any time I get to work great people like Steve that are all about the music, those are my favorite places to play. The CAC in Temple seems to be all about the music. The places that have two or three bands a night are not my favorite places to play. I don’t get a chance to do what I really love to do. I love to do a show where there is an intermission and you get to meet the people and embrace the moment. I understand they need turn a profit. But as an artist, I need to do the things that I’m really good at. Meeting people and shaking hands and meeting their kids and letting an evening be an evening of camaraderie.
TLS: Who inspires you and who do you listen to now?
Terri: Let’s just talk about women in Texas music. I think it’s a really exiting time for women in Texas music. I think it started with the Trishas. I think they ignited a fire in a new generation of young singer/songwriters. Janna Pochop is one that is living in San Marcos right now who is an eclectic, young, pop singer. And you’ve got Courtney Patton, who is married to Jason Eady, who is wonderful. You’ve got Kelley McKwee who was in the Trishas. Her songs are phenomenal. She’s like a new Shelby Lynn of Texas music with a great singing voice and like a hippy vibe that’s really great. BettySoo is an Asian singer out of Austin has a completely unique voice and I love her lyrics. The Green Light Pistols are out of the Dallas area and they are scary good. They are a family group. Flattop Gypsy is wonderful There is one more called the Crazy Janes, who are brand new, but they are really good. There are so many great women out there!