From: Voices & Visions [url]
Date: 2003

Terami Hirsch

I heard a woman talking the other night about how creativity brings us closer to our creator. I'm not really sure who I believe that creator is, but every time I write a song, I feel a pull to something larger than myself.

What inspires you?

I'm usually inspired by music itself. Sometimes I'll listen to a song and in it, I'll hear another song that needs to be written. Music is a cycle. What's chosen to be performed is just as important as what's not heard. The negative space can define the mass. Sometimes I listen for those silences and hear the cradle for a song.

I can also be inspired by an event in my life, something that I need to explore through lyrics. And sometimes, it's like I hear music in the air. I'll pull a melody that's demanding my attention. Kind of like I'm just a conduit for a greater expression.

Do you ever look to something spiritual for inspiration?

My spirituality is fairly open. I've had spiritual experiences listening to rivers and laying in the dirt. I don't look to a particular entity for an invocation or anything. But I feel there's magick in the world around me and when I'm still, I can feel it. I don't always draw inspiration like this, though. Sometimes it comes in a mundane way. Like, I'll be peeling carrots and a chord progression will slap me.

When did you know you could write music?

I think I was about 6 years old. I already knew I could play the piano, but in my boredom during practice, I started to make up my own little songs. I can't call those moments "inspired" though!

When did you recognize "inspired" songs?

It happened gradually. I was probably in my teens, or pre-teens. I started really writing when I was about 11, but, again, those songs were more for fun than anything else. I don't remember when I started feeling the need to write. And now, that's what it is. It's a driving, insatiable, NEED.

I was lucky. My piano teacher saw that drive in me and began to incorporate time in my lessons for critique of my original pieces. It encouraged me and validated what I was doing.

Do you ever feel your inspiration run dry?

Yes. It's hard to battle that. When it happens, I feel like I'll never be moved again. It terrifies me. Once, I was blocked for two years. Nothing good came in that time. The best way I've found to work through it is to continue writing, even if I don't feel it. Several songs have been written because I was focused on something uninspired and then the movement of another song began to stir. Sometimes I have to let it go in order to harness it.

What other artists inspire you?

I'm inspired by the friends I have who are equally driven to create. We share stories, conflicts, and humor. I cherish that.

But in terms of more popular artists whose music moves me, there's a rotating door. Right now, I'm listening to Radiohead, Idaho, Lisa Germano, and Jeff Buckley and getting those sparks. And at pretty much any time, I can say Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, and The Pixies. They never go out of vogue with me.

What do you think of the music business?

Like everything else, my opinion changes radically and frequently. Where I was searching for validation six months ago, now I'm only looking to create for myself. The industry is separate from the artist. Sometimes the artist needs to be a business person. But right now I'm choosing to be the artist. Period. Since my next album is incubating as I say this sentence, it's important that I ignore the outside influence of opinion.

The music industry is designed to make money, not make art. Being independent keeps me from that. It's one of the blessings I have in controlling my craft.

Creativity and inspiration run like a river. Sometimes, I sit by the stream and have an abundance of water. That water is never created by me. It's part of the flow that will continue to run with or without my interference. And sometimes, I get distracted and wander around the landscape. I'll be too far away to reach over and pull out the water, but I'll hear it running in the background. If I'm lost, I'll continue to hone my ears on the sound until I find my way back. As artists, our connection comes from an existing power and that's an awesome privilege. I'm grateful for any amount of dignity I can bring to it.

Terami is from Los Angeles, where she still resides. A self-described introvert who loves the piano but dislikes singing, she began to stretch beyond her early classical training once she wrote her first song at age 11.

Always driven by music, she's inspired by her favorite artists, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Radiohead, Tori Amos, The Pixies, and Aimee Mann.

With three self-produced albums under her belt (All Girl Band, Stickfigures, and To the Bone), a 2002 nomination for Best Female Singer/Songwriter song (The River) from Just Plain Folks, and an honorable mention from Indie Band Search, she's found her distinct, confessional voice among a generation of sensitive songwriters.