SEPTEMBER 2011 COVER STORY – On the Horizon With Indie Stalwart Kristin Hersh

Kristin Hersh

If ever there was an influential woman in music it would be Kristiin Hersh. She doesn’t need her own baby clothing line (I am looking at you Gwen Stefani), or her own fragrances (yeah, you Mariah Carey). This indie rock icon is a musician’s musician who has written some of the best songs (of varying genres) for over 25 years…and the best thing is she’s not even close to being done.

The Rhode Island-native has been synonymous for fronting the seminal 1990’s alt-rock band Throwing Muses. In her down time, Hersh ventured out on to a primarily acoustic solo career in 1994 with the beautiful debut Hips and Makers and has released 10 solo albums with a new one on the way.

Putting a little muscle back into her songs, Hersh looked to her punk roots when she formed yet another side band – 50 Foot Wave – in 2005 with their powerful debut Golden Ocean and followed that up with Power of Light two years later. And yes, there is a new album from 50 Foot Wave right around the corner.

Hersh, now 45, has also been a champion for indie rock. She and her husband/manager Billy O’Connell along with L7’s Donita Spark and her manager Bob Fagan formed CASH music (Coalition of Artists and Stakeholders). Founded in 2007, CASH “provides a way for audiences and creators to exchange creative perspectives and ideas” as stated on their website.

In addition to her music legacy, Hersh is a published author with a trio of books and a mother of four boys.

Taking all this into consideration it was a pleasure to have the one and only Kristin Hersh sit down with Innocent Words and tell us about all the upcoming events she has planned.

Innocent Words: What’s going on with Throwing Muses?

Kristin Hersh: Throwing Muses has an anthology coming out very soon. A sort of overview/best of, plus B-sides. We’re also in the studio making a new record with 38 songs on it, for some reason.

Because we’re now listener-supported through CASHmusic.org, a non-profit I helped found to provide free software to musicians, we can finally afford to make another record.

It also looks like we’ll be touring again in the fall.

IW: Going back a little bit, I didn’t know you signed a deal with 4AD when you were just 20 years old and you were touring the world. What was that like?

Hersh: I was doing my work. Everything else was someone else’s concern, you know? We did well enough to continue playing, which was our goal all along.

IW: Along with the Muses release, you have a new 50 Foot Wave record coming out?

Hersh: Yes, it’s called, With Love from the Men’s Room and it should be out this fall. We made it in LA with Mudrock, who produced and engineered the last couple of our records.

IW: Where’ did you come up with the band name 50 Foot Wave, it’s very intriguing.

Hersh: A 50 foot sound wave is the lowest sound audible to human ears. It’s a low F, so our publishing company is called Lowest F Music.

IW: Going for the trifecta, will there also be a new Kristin Hersh solo record in the future?

Hersh: There’s one in the works right now.

Kristin Hersh

My last solo record, Crooked was released as a book in the UK. It’d be nice if I could release this next one in an interesting way, too. CD’s are little pieces of plastic–not inherently valuable–and now everyone knows that.

IW: How do you determine what song goes with what project you are working on?

Hersh: I write solo songs on Collings guitars, 50Foot songs on my SG’s or Les Paul and Muses songs on my Telecaster or my Strat.

IW: Are you a guitar collector, it’s an addiction you know.

Hersh: I have about ten guitars? Not big for having three ongoing projects, I guess. I’m a good editor; I prefer to delete rather than acquire. But my guitars all have to be balanced enough to carry lead and rhythm parts live, so they tend not to have the character of the guitars I play in the studio.

IW: Do you write music/lyrics every day?

Hersh: No, I wait until I hear a song, and then I can’t do anything else until the song is done. The process is difficult to describe. I wrote about it in Rat Girl, but it’s mostly a matter of listening.

IW: Speaking of writing, you have two books out – a children’s book and “Rat Girl.” What inspired you to become an author?

Hersh: I wrote the children’s book for my son, Bodhi, who was afraid to go on tour. We ended up self-publishing when other parents expressed an interest in the book for *their* children who were afraid of the unfamiliar.

“Rat Girl” (“Paradoxical Undressing” outside the US) is a sort of non-fiction novel based on a diary I kept when I was 18. I only wrote it because other people had expressed an interest in writing it, but I did come to appreciate the process. I loved time-tripping back to the 80’s.

IW: Will there be more books in your future?

Hersh: I’m writing two books right now, but apparently that’s a stupid thing to do, so whether or not they’re published remains to be seen.

IW: Considering all you are doing musically, you were friends with the late great Vic Chesnutt. How hard was it when he died, did you ever consider just giving up music or anything like that?

Hersh: I considered giving up *his* music. At the memorial service, I swore I’d never listen to his records again, but now I find that it’s the only way left to spend time with him.

IW: You’ve moved around a lot in your life. Do you get restless after a period of time in one place for too long?

Hersh: Yes, I do. I’m a restless individual and touring has just accentuated that quality. A few days with the same view and I’m ready to move on.

IW: You are on tour, how do you handle being a musician and a Mom to some of the cool and funniest kids? Do you home school them?

Hersh: I home schooled three of my four sons. There really is no other way to handle being on the road. It’s kept the children sort of sheltered while still exposing them to the world, which I like. I’m kind of a hovering mother, but I love planet earth and I think kids should experience as much of it as they can.