By Tamma Hicks, STEAM Magazine
The DIY Queen of Music Business
Photos By: Mary Burton
Talking with Terri Hendrix is like talking to a good friend; whether it’s the first meeting or the hundredth, she’s warm and sincere. I first learned of Terri while working on our South Texas Music Walk of Fame series last year and I have to say thank you to CDs and downloads, because if we were still in the cassette tape era I’d have gone through a bunch listening to her songs, especially Hand Me Down Blues! The one thing that really struck me during our talk was her excitement about playing music and her compulsion to share it with others. She’s been in the music business for over 15 years and is so willing to share her knowledge of the music industry and writing (songs, essays, stories, you name it) that she teaches workshops. Heck, she even wrote a book on it! And now she is working on an all abilities art center, Own Your Own Universe (OYOU), in Hays County.
STEAM We interviewed Ken Finlay, who he told us that you were in the Cheatham Street Warehouse Class of ’87. I know you were just starting out at that time; when did you start writing songs?
TERRI I started writing songs when I was a kid. My sister had a guitar and I pretty much stole it; that was about fourth grade and I started writing songs about that time too. Then I got into choir and followed that through school. I’ve always been writing songs, but it wasn’t until I was 19 that I really took it seriously and started honing in on the craft and that’s when I started going to Cheatham Street Warehouse.
STEAM I think you’ve taken that craft and mastered it.
TERRI Well, I wish. It’s a hard thing and I’ll always be in search of the muse. I’ve got a long way to go to understand it all.
STEAM Really? I am just amazed by the quality you put out and your abilities; like your workshops.
TERRI The workshops are a lot of fun! We get a lot of people wanting a break from their life, so they pick up a guitar and learn to write songs. During the workshops I don’t like to tell people how to write and I don’t judge songs; I think every song is a good song, so who am I to judge? So they aren’t about me telling people how to do it; it’s me trying to get people to write.
STEAM I know many artists that have to have their tools or be in the right mood write; are you anything like that? Do you have specific techniques or tools that you need to write?
TERRI Well, a lot of people are like that. I just pick up a pen and hope for the best. I try to write a little every day. I’ll write something and email it to myself, or I’ll scribble something on a piece of paper and put it in a drawer, or sometimes it’ll be a musical idea and I’ll record it. Then, of course, sometimes it’s just a matter of sewing the pieces together. Occasionally a song will come out fully formed, but I don’t have a specific technique or need.
STEAM When is your next workshop in Port Aransas and do you limit your class sizes?
TERRI We have two this coming November, the weekends before Thanksgiving and we limit classes to 16. I have a calendar and page on my website which breaks the workshops down to the nitty-gritty. At the end of each workshop we have a private student concert. In the beginning I was putting on a concert and then realized that it really needed to be about my students and what they were learning more than about me, and that’s why we closed it off from the public and made it all about the students.
STEAM That’s really neat. You left out a section of your workshop… where you teach about the music business. You are the DIY Queen of Music Business!
TERRI I’ve been independent my whole career. And believe it or not, it’s a little more difficult now, with social media.
STEAM Really? I would’ve thought maybe not with the social media aspect, that with the Internet and those types of outlets that it would be much easier.
TERRI There are a lot of outlets available, but the income ratio versus time spent doesn’t equal out. So if you have 1000 CDs and you sell them for $15 apiece. That’s$ 15,000; However, most projects cost $15,000, publicity’s $5000, manufacturing is $1000 to $1500 conservatively, then you have artwork on top of that, so you’re looking at close to $23,000 for your album. But let’s say, you feel that you want to put out an album to nationally compete? You’re looking at an easy $30,000 if you really do the radio and the publicity correctly. Now with the Internet, you only make 75¢ per download, so you really have to have a huge following to make $30,000. But in the old days you only needed to sell 2000 CDs. So it’s a lot harder economically and if you go through a company that streams, say Spotify; they pay less per stream, so you really have to have a different approach with how you go about putting out an album now. When you analyze it, you really need to be creative as possible, given album costs, given show expenses, and the fact that streaming is here. It’s not to say that you can’t have a thriving career in the music industry; I feel lucky I’m still here, doing it. I’m just so glad I have a fan base that enables me to do that.
STEAM And you have a huge fan base all over the country.
TERRI I’m lucky to have all the people that support me and my music. I’m very lucky!
STEAM I haven’t met Lloyd Maines, but I will tell you that when people say his name they’re in awe of him. How did you start working with him?
TERRI I was introduced to Lloyd Maines in 1997 by producer/engineer Bobby Arnold. I approached Lloyd to work with me on Wilory Farm in 1997 and we’ve just worked together ever since. He’s an amazing musician, really brilliant. And of course he’s a really great person too!
STEAM As you said you’ve worked with him since and that includes on the Grammy winning “Home” album by The Dixie Chicks and more specifically didn’t you co-write a song that won a Grammy for Country Instrumental on that album?
TERRI Yes to both parts! Lloyd received the Producer of the Year Grammy for that album. I had an instrumental, Lil’ Jack Slade, that I hadn’t finished and we presented it to The Dixie Chicks who put it on the album. They won the Grammy with it and I was recognized as the co-writer. It was really a wonderful time in our lives.
STEAM The last album you released was actually a rerelease of the Art of Removing Wallpaper 2012. What was your reasoning for that?
TERRI It was first released in 2004. In 2012 Lloyd and I looked at it and we felt that there were just a few songs that needed to be remixed or that we could enhance; especially with people doing all the downloading we felt that we could enhance the album as a whole.
STEAM You have a book that you released in 2010. Did you always think you were going to write a book or did it just come together?
TERRI Yeah, I started the book in ’96. I’d written essays about the music business and they just kind of sat around, so in 2010 I released the book, “Cry Till You Laugh, The Part that Ain’t Art”. It’s about the music industry and in the center of the book is a section that I refer to as “The Part That Ain’t Art”; the music business. I also released an album, Cry Till You Laugh.
STEAM What projects are you working on now? Another book?
TERRI I do, it’s a health book theat I’ve been working on for a long time, since 2002 I believe. I also have two albums I’m working on right now; an acoustic blues record and a singer-songwriter record.
STEAM When you do your workshops, have you have you found songs where you’ve gone to the student and asked to use it?
TERRI Yes. I did a workshop with a young lady in the class that was physically disabled, both her arms and hands were problematic, and she still played guitar! She wrote a song with, “You have to laugh at the neck of a giraffe”. It was her lyric and I put it in a kid’s song that it talks about celebrating the differences in people and that’s on the kids’ album, Celebrate the Difference 2005.
STEAM That’s so cool and it leads me to the next question which is about O.Y.O.U. Tell me about this wonderful project that you have?
TERRI Well, I’m working on building an art center here in Hays County called Own Your Own Universe (OYOU.ORG). The center will be set up so that people with special needs to can enjoy music alongside everyone else by either listening and learning about it and by learning an instrument. That’s really important to me; that anyone can learn an instrument, no matter how much money they have or what their physical abilities are. You can go to the website to learn about it, and make donations. Donations are definitely needed for land, the building, and instruments.You know, this came to me and I don’t have a choice about it, I’m compelled. It’s something I need to do. I want a kid who’s on the cusp of getting into trouble to learn to play guitar, because if you’re busy playing guitar, you can’t hold a gun because your hands are occupied. I want to take someone with special needs who is very interested in music and teach her some country blues or acoustic blues and help her to enjoy it in another way.
STEAM That is an amazing cause to be involved with and I hope we’ll be able to help you! The last thing I want to ask you about is playing here in Corpus Christi. You’ll be at a new venue, The Churchyard, on March 14th.
TERRI Yeah, I can’t wait to play! I have a long history of coming to Corpus Christi; back in the 90’s I used to play at Blackbeard’s on the Beach often. I play Executive Surf Club, Brewster Street Ice House and Casey Lane’s House of Rock, and then I do one show a year in Port Aransas as well as the workshop in November. I can’t wait to play this new venue, The Churchyard. It sounds exciting and I just love playing so much! It’s very important to me.
Show info: The Churchyard, Corpus Christi 3/14/14 @ 7pm , ,