From: [url]
Date: April 16, 2008

KGRL Exclusive Terami Hirsch Interview: The Amp Studio - 04.16.08

KGRL: Can you give us a brief introduction as to who Terami Hirsch is?

Terami Hirsch: Terami Hirsch is an independent singer/songwriter who plays the keyboards, does a lot of programming, locks herself up in a room for years on end, and makes albums.

KGRL: What got you started with music?

Terami Hirsch: What got me started with music was that I've been playing the piano since I was five years old, and when I was around eleven years old ... I would sit at the piano and I would write songs: "Dear diary: Blah blah blah." They were really, really terrible but that's just sort of what I did.

Then as I got older, it was a personal outlet for me, until [reaching] such a point where I decided I didn't want to have any ... job other than music. So, now I do it. It's my career.

KGRL: Is music your full-time career?

Terami Hirsch: Music is my full-time career, but I'm poor.

KGRL: We were just wondering because of the complex stuff you play, did you have any formal music education?

Terami Hirsch: I was formally educated as a pianist. I studied piano for thirteen years at a private studio with the intention of going to a conservatory. However, I decided I didn't want to take something I loved as much as music and make it [into] work. So, when I was eighteen years old, I stopped my formal study and I just kind of doodled from there on out.

In terms of my voice and my songwriting, those were not formally trained until recently [when] I started taking voice lessons.

KGRL: If you were to talk about your music to those who have not heard of you, how would you describe it?

Terami Hirsch: I would describe my music to somebody who hasn't heard it before as keyboard-based singer/songwriter [type], who likes to philosophise and write about thoughts. I'm shying away from writing about a lot of personal experiences at this point, so I tend to write about a lot of philosophical approaches to life, and trying to put into words things that I feel. It sort of comes out as a complex little maze of music, with keyboards and a voice and a girl.

KGRL: What drew you into a more experimental and cerebral form of music?

Terami Hirsch: I think that I just make music that I hear in my head. I don't think my music is that experimental. I think Bjork is experimental. I think ... Philip Glass is experimental. I'm a singer/songwriter who doesn't know how to produce a Pop-Rock record, so it comes out sounding weird.

KGRL: Which artist do you think has influenced you the most with your songwriting?

Terami Hirsch: I'm not sure that there are any artists that have directly influenced me in how I make music because I'm pretty undisciplined with how I make it. I can't listen to something and know how they did it, and then have it influence me directly. I think that maybe it's absorbed through how I feel about artists. I love Paul Simon. I think he's amazing. I don't sound a thing like him but he's definitely inspired me in more than ten ways when I make my music.

KGRL: What was the first song you ever wrote?

Terami Hirsch: The first song I ever wrote was actually [one for which I] wrote lyrics when I was six years old, because I was bored playing it at the piano. So, I just wrote lyrics. The lyrics were

Please may I, please may I go out to play
Something, something today?

[It was] something completely stupid about how I didn't want to be practicing piano at that point.

The first song that I remember writing ... I recorded ... in a studio when I was fourteen [years old], and it was called Shelter In The Sun.

KGRL: Can you tell us how your songwriting process is?

Terami Hirsch: Usually when I begin writing a new song, I [will] have recently heard something or read something that inspired a spark, like ... a book or a passage in a poem or something like that, that will get me really, really excited. [Then] I'll sit down, and it just comes. Those feelings sort of flood and a song will start to come out. Usually my songwriting process is very "stop-go-stop-go-stop-go-stop-go" because I can't sit down and just write something start to finish. It just doesn't work that way. I end up writing the music and the lyrics at the same time, and just see[ing] what spills out.

KGRL: What about the arrangement? How do you present a song you just wrote to whoever will be playing as your band?

Terami Hirsch: When I work with other musicians and I give them my demo to work with in order for them to arrange their piece, I usually ... give it to the drummer and I say "This is just, you know, an idea. What do you think?" and then they take it from there. But I usually sketch in myself, all of the parts in a demo and then replace them with players later.

KGRL: How long does it usually take for you to finish writing a song?

Terami Hirsch: I would say on average it takes me about a week, from start to finish, to write a full song. The reason it takes so long is I will work for like an hour and then I get stuck, and then I have to go garden, or I have to do something else to get my mind off of it because that's just the way my brain works. It gets tired.

KGRL: We noticed that the release interval of your records, so far, is always 3 years. Is that intentional? Like you have an affinity to the number 3?

Terami Hirsch: Actually, I love the number 3. It's a prime number, and I love prime numbers. I guess it's better three years than eleven years in between [albums]. [Laughs]

No, there's no particular reason why they're three years apart. I guess it just takes me that long to do it!

KGRL: There is a very palpable change in the new record. It's edgier, aggressive and more intense than anything that has come before it - including the vocal-work. What inspired you to write these brilliant masterpieces?

Terami Hirsch: Oh [Laughs]. This might be a little bit of a long answer, but I'm going to give you an honest answer. When I worked on my last album, Entropy 29, I loved the process but it was really, really brutal for me. It was [recording] one little sound at a time and it was brutal, so I deliberately told myself "When I'm working on this new album, it's going to have energy, and it's going to have joy." The songs aren't necessarily joyful but I needed to feel good about those songs, so it might be a little aggressive or a little bit more energetic [than the previous albums], but that's because I really needed to put that into my creative life.

KGRL: How successful do you think your new record is with regards to the musical direction you wanted it to take?

Terami Hirsch: Ah, another good one. I feel that this album, A Broke Machine, is more or less what I expected it to be when I first decided that I was going to set along a new path. One thing that really fell into place was that I started taking voice lessons, and the vocal training ... was this wild ride because when I started I had no idea where I would end up. I had to write my songs around where my voice was going so it sort of evolved from my original idea, but I think that that way it's better. It's more authentic than fixing it in stone ahead of time.

KGRL: How does it feel like listening back to your old records these days?

Terami Hirsch: Pretty much, I don't listen to them because ... there is a lot of baggage. I said what I needed to say. I did what I needed to do. It's like, I also don't look at pictures of myself when I was 16 [years old] anymore; that's what I was then. Maybe when I'm 80 I'll love to look back and go "Oh wow, when I was 16 I was so cute." Or maybe when I'm 80 I'll go "Oh wow, I was 21 and I wrote this song."

You just have to keep moving forward.

KGRL: Which amongst the songs you wrote so far is your favorite?

Terami Hirsch: I don't really have a favorite song of my own, although recently -- I'm going to backtrack on what I just said about not listening to myself -- I happened to listen to Time Machine which was on a limited-edition EP that I put out, and I thought the production was really "fun" on that. That might be one of my favorite production songs, but whole songs in general I don't have a favorite.

KGRL: How about the ones you love performing live?

Terami Hirsch: I really like playing the new songs live. The new songs from A Broke Machine are a lot of fun to play live. Right now I'm rehearsing with a three-piece band, and it's intense. They're rock-and-roll guys. They're in a band called Star Off Machine which is a Huntington Beach band, and they're like Hard Rock. They slam. I'm working with the bassist and drummer from that [band] and it sounds pretty amazing. Playing those songs live -- anything from the new album -- I'm like, "Yeah!"

KGRL: Which song is the most complex for you to perform live?

Terami Hirsch: I cannot play the song The River live. [I] can't do it; [it] won't happen. That's going to depress a lot of people. [Laughs]

KGRL: What was your best experience playing live so far?

Terami Hirsch: Let me think about that.

The best show I ever played was probably a show where nobody showed up. It was at The Crooked Bar in Hollywood, which is now gone. A couple of weeks before I had played there, and it was packed. There was no room for anybody in there and it was fantastic, so they booked me again. I played, and not one person showed up. My mother didn't show up. Nobody.

I was playing to the sound man, and [to] some drunk people who [had] walked from the upstairs to the downstairs and [who] were heckling me for the whole show. So, it wasn't a good show in terms of [feeling] really good, but it was a fantastic learning experience because ... that is the thing that most artists are terrified of in live shows -- that nobody will be there, or they'll be heckled or something like that. Once you get through that, and you realize that you survived and that's just the way it goes, you're stronger. That was a good show because of that.

KGRL: Your record, A Broke Machine, features a rich sound with a lot of loops and samples to make it even sound more complex. Are you going for the same set-up with your live shows, i.e. using loops and samples?

Terami Hirsch: No. I think in the future, if this album does well, and I have the privilege to tour more extensively on it, I'm going to be building up my live show to accommodate that. For right now, I'm going to be touring solo [with] the keyboard -- without any samples or anything -- and then when I play in LA, at least for the next couple of shows, to do it with a rock band. I think that, like you said, the album is more aggressive and it lends itself to that, but these guys are also really fantastic musicians across the board so they can make Fable Moon sound just like it does on the album. It's got a great feel. We're working with it; it's evolving.

KGRL: Have you collaborated with any other artists?

Terami Hirsch: I haven't done much collaboration, although ... I worked last year with the lead singer [of Star Off Machine] for some string arrangement and some keyboard arrangement for one of their songs on their new album. That was kind of the first time I'd ever worked with anybody else ... and I've never co-written with anybody, ever. Nobody wants to write with me. Crazy! I don't know.

KGRL: Is there anyone you wish to collaborate with someday?

Terami Hirsch: I want to write with my friend Charlotte [Martin].

KGRL: Are there any new artists you listen to?

Terami Hirsch: I love Bat For Lashes; I love Patrick Wolf; I love My Brightest Diamond -- and I mean love. I'm [in] Fan Girl love [with] these artists. That's pretty much what I'm listening to -- Oh! The Blow. I love The Blow. I saw her [Khaela Maricich] perform with Mihra at The Henry Ford ... in January, and I didn't know who she was. [She] blew me away. She's just a good, good performer. The songs are great.

KGRL: How hard is it for you being an independent artist?

Terami Hirsch: Being an independent artist sort of has its up days and its down days. Actually, it has its up years and its down years. Being independent is fantastic because of the creative freedom that I have, as well as the ability to [run] my own business the way that I want to do it and surround myself with people that really support me and that "get it". I love that.

The hardest part is doubting myself, and I think that I could doubt myself if I was signed to a major label, or if nobody had ever heard of me (that's a personal thing that really has nothing to do with my status).

KGRL: If given a chance, would you choose to sign up with a major record label?

Terami Hirsch: I'm not looking to sign with a label at all. I think that being an independent artist suits me, and the trick is for me to find people who can help me do what it is that I need to do and build a community of support for myself. I don't really need a lot of money to do what it is [that] I do, and that's what labels would provide -- that, and exposure.

KGRL: What do we expect from Terami Hirsch for the rest of 2008?

Terami Hirsch: Well, in 2008 -- actually in a month from now [April] -- I'm going to be doing a national tour for May and June. That's really big. After that I feel like I can roll over for the rest of the year and play dead, but I'm not going to. I'm probably going to release an EP under a side project that I'm doing, Story Of My Ghost, which is all-electronic. I'm going to try to release that this summer, but I won't be able to work on that until I'm back from the tour. Hopefully I'm going to tour again. I want to keep touring through the rest of the year on A Broke Machine, and hopefully it'll build and more and more people will have heard of it. That's my goal.

KGRL: Any last words for the KGRL listeners?

Terami Hirsch: I love the KGRL listeners. I think they are fantastic! Thank you so much for listening!

Heartfelt thanks goes to Terami Hirsch and Lisa Lombardo.
Transcription was done by our good friend, Flour (E.S.).

Terami Hirsch Links:
Official Website:
MySpace Page: