|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS ERiN MUiR
SUPERNATURALMusic is more than a way of life for singer-songwriter ERIN MUIR - it was odyssey as epic as the ILIAD with our heroineís story beginning in an unassuming, provincial town called Sauk Rapids in Minnesota. As a child, MUIR displayed an amazing aptitude for music which she has since chucked off to musicality running in the family. After studying classical music at ST. OLAF UNIVERSITY, MUIR joined a band and hopped aboard a 1973 VOGUE RV and toured the country for four years. While it wasnít the first class treatment she wouldíve received as an opera singer, the years on the road proved to be character building. Following the bandís demise, MUIR settled into LA life and immediately found work as an actress and lived it up until she came to the realization that music was what she was supposed to be doing. Life experience and MUIRís own quirky musicality have come together to form her debut CD ĎPOETíS LOVELY DAUGHTERí. Produced by BERNIE LARSEN, ĎPOETíSÖí is an album that is almost entirely too seasoned to be a debut. With stellar moments such as SUPERNATURAL and HEART GIVEN, try shelving this CD somewhere in between ANNIE LENNOXís ĎDIVAí and FIONA APPLEís ĎTIDALí.
ERiN MUiR TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HER DEBUT CD POET'S LOVELY DAUGHTER
WORKiNG WiTH BERNiE LARSEN
AND GROWiNG AS A PERSON (iN AN RV)
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke to ERIN MUIR over the phone. Here is how it went.
How does it feel having all of the work done and the CD ready for people to hear?
Iím excited. As a matter of fact, Iím tremulous with excitement. The work that is behind me was so much fun! There is nothing like being in the studio and being in the moment. Now that itís all finished, this is the part of the work that Iím unfamiliar with. Itís very exciting.
I was reading that you are from Sauk Rapids Minnesota.
Thatís right! ĎWhere the Sauk River meets the Mississippi River!í
Describe growing up in such a community.
Well, itís your very typical small village along the Mississippi River in Minnesota. Itís built up on a hill and itís quite beautiful in the Fall and the Spring because if you cross the Mississippi River, you see the hill and you see all of the trees and you see all of the different colors Ė especially during the Fall. I actually grew up on the edge of town near a huge forest so my playground was the woods. So I guess Ďbucolicí is the word I would use to describe where I grew up. My family was a little atypical for the area because largely the beautiful, small, clean Midwestern towns, football is one of the most important things in life. Everything is centered around it.
Its one of those communities where they burn your house down if you donít attend a game.
Yeah, but it was weird because my dad was the football coach at my high school. Because of that my family was kind of famous in a town of a couple thousand people. For me, it was kind of strange because I was the weird kid that did theater and music and quoted Aristotle. I was kind of precocious like that.
Talk about how music was introduced to you.
I had the benefit of growing up in a very musical family. My mother always played piano and my aunt DEBBIE was a classical pianist. She was a performer until she got married and had children so she became a church musician. My parents co-founded a Church and there was a huge musical tradition in the ELCA. I grew up singing in church every week and I started piano lessons at the age of five. By the time I was in my teens as a singer and piano player, I had been introduced through the church choir to the dean of music at a local college. That was when I really started studying music heavily. I would practice for hours and hours everyday but it was always in me. It wasnít an assignment for me. Iíve always loved music. Iíve always written songs. I canít remember when I wrote my first song.
Iíve interviewed artists that have studied music in classical settings and Iíve heard over and over how studying music nearly killed their passion for music. Was this your case?
That wasnít my case. I had some amazing teachers and I still love classical music. I still practice everyday. There was this other thing going on at the time that I was studying classical music. My dad was listening to a lot of blues and jazz and I couldnít escape pop and rock n roll. I was having all sorts of world music around me at the university. The school had a huge population of students from around the world. I had all kinds of music around me. So classical training never made me lose my passion for music. I still love Classical music. I still practice it and I still sing it for fun. However, I will definitely say that the lifestyle of a classical singer isnít one that I would want for myself. I donít know that I want to have to spend my day speaking in whispers, but I donít know if that is actually true. Iíve known some Classical musicians that were really cool and who are trying to find away to do what they do in a more contemporary fashion. I feel like Iím not ďnotĒ Classical because you can hear the Classical training in all of my songs but Iím not strictly that. You know what Iím saying.
At what did writing begin for you?
It happened from the start. I come from a long line of storytellers. The other side of my family is Scottish. I was used to being a storyteller after being surrounded by storytellers. Itís the thing that we do when we get together as a family. We tell tall tales. They start small and they get taller. I had also always been a voracious reader. I started reading when I was three years old. I was the weirdest kid. I would skip class just to go to the library. As far as I can remember, I had always written stories and I started writing little songs about boys that I had crushes on when I was in the first or second grade.
After school, you threw everything to a trailer and just kind of traveled around. Describe what that was like.
That is the part of me that no one can explain. Iím one of those people that just suddenly decide to do something and I do it. I had an opportunity to be singing in a band. I knew I didnít want to be an opera singer. I knew that I wanted to write my own songs. I saw this opportunity and I took it. There was something very exhilarating and exciting about doing this. At the time I was thinking ĎThis is great! Iím going to do thisí but now I think that it was exciting to take everything that I had learned about life and put it on the road just to see what would happen for better or for worse.
What moments were difficult about that experience?
First of all, living with between three and five guys at any given moment on a tour bus for even three weeks was a new experience for me. It was like being one of the guy even though I wasnít. You hear things that you wish you hadnít heard but you are glad that you heard them because itís a great education. Before this experience, I didnít know how to drive. I didnít know how to drive a stick shift, and I didnít know anything about car repair. Iím not saying that I was non-resourceful, but I wasnít used to really taking care of myself. When you are flying like that and you run into crazy people that want to engage with you, you have to learn when to walk away and when to stand up for yourself especially when bar owners donít want to pay you. Sure I had the benefit of the band and the guys around me but I learned how to be a lot stronger through this experience. That is the sort of education that is not always easy but it is definitely worth it.
I forget how long you had kept that up.
I did that off and on for a bout four years. There were a few different incarnations of that band. It wasnít always the same group of guys but it was always me and the same drummer. Then we had the same guitar player for several years and then the same bass player for about three years.
Eventually, you settled in Los Angeles. What was that like?
Los Angeles is a reflection of who you are as a person. It is what you make of it. The danger is that people come to Los Angeles with an idea of what itís going to be and you will find a way to match that idea. A lot of people come ere thinking that they are going to be famous in about six months time and thatís ridiculous. Iím pretty sure that they are secretly thinking that in six months they wonít make it and theyíll head home when those six months are up all so they can say that they gave it a shot. For me I had this idea that it was going to be a circus and it was. Iím one of those people that an adventure just happens to. OF example, within two months I became SAG and I got a job. The only person that I knew barely was my producer BERNIE. I put myself out there to meet people and have an adventure and I did. I fell in with a weird Hollywood party crowd and it seemed exciting at first because these were famous people that I was partying with but at the same time it wasnít fulfilling.
What got you away from that scene?
I realized that I needed to be doing music. Some time had gone by and even though all of these things had been happening, I had realized that I wasnít being myself. Music was the whole point in the first place and I wasnít doing any of it. I had been doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing in order to be a musician in Los Angeles. But I came to realize that being a musician in Los Angeles is the same as being a musician in Minneapolis and is the same as being a musician in Paris. For whatever reason, I assigned this different value to Los Angeles which was false and I realized that I was unhappy because I wasnít singing. I wasnít singing my songs and doing my stuff. Los Angeles is jus another city with another set of people some of whom are sharks and some of whom are artists. Everyone is doing the best they can - whatever that means for them. So, one day, I called BERNIE and said ďLetís make a record!Ē
Describe working with BERNIE LARSEN.
I feel so lucky to work with him. First of all he is an amazing listener. He has his own vision and he had his own hearing but heís not just coming from where he is but form where you are. I could bring a song into him. I had the benefit of knowing him before working with him so he knew where I was coming form already but Iím of the opinion that he will do this for everyone. He will hear where you are as a singer or a songwriter, and he will come to where you are with his vision, and together we will create something. It really was a partnership to create these songs.
Did the songs on this album come other periods in your life or were they written specifically for this release.
They were written for this album except for BLACK BUTTERFLY which is a song that came to me when I was living in that 1973 VOGUE. We were living in Minneapolis and we were about to go out on a tour to the south. It was the tour in which the VOGUE broke down and we ended up crashing at the drummerís momís house in Naples Florida. We were sitting parked in front of my sisterís house in Minneapolis and it was getting really cold. That song came from being inside of a 1973 VOGUE RV and I was freezing cold. Aside from BLACK BUTTERFLY, the other songs were written for this record although I truly believe that BLACK BUTTERFLY was truly written for this record. I just didnít know it at the time.
Explain how songs get written for you.
Everyday I practice and everyday I write. Everyday I do something for at least an hour to keep myself present. Often Iíll be writing lines Iíve written a thousand times before and all of a sudden there is a feeling of openness that comes to me and I know right then and there that I have to get my paper and my pencil because the song is coming. It is like going through nine months of labor and all of a sudden, youíre water breaks and here you are. The song feels like itís coming all of a sudden and youíve got to be there and take the song as it comes. Usually it will take me about five or ten minutes to write it all out. The structure, the lyrics and the words all come to me like that. The songs come from a magical place but hey do require all of these other ingredients to be stirring up within you in order for them to be born.
From the album, what moments stand out for you the most Ė musically speaking?
That changes often. I love on SUPERNATURAL that very opening and how thunderous and exciting it is. You just know that something is about to happen. That always takes my breath away. When you are in the middle of recording it, you donít know that that is what is going to happen. You get a feeling like it might but when you hear it later, itís amazing. That very first opening moment to SUPERNATURAL just excites me. I also loved when we were doing HEART GIVEN. It was a song that BERNIE and I wrote together. There are moments where I would be singing and he would suggest something to an emotional aspect about the performance and I would just let that re-frame me and let it fall through my being and re-sing it and I love that I get to hear that now. I can hear those shifts and changes in mood. Itís exciting to me to be able to hear that.
From the time you stepped onto that 1973 VOGUE RV up until now, what has been the biggest surprise for you?
I did not expect to fall in love with music over and over again. It never dies for me. It is such a passion and such a beautiful gift in life to be able to fall in love with singing everyday.
What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this CD?
I would love it if it opened up someone to their own passion in life. I feel very grateful to have a passion like music an to be able to engage in something I love so much. I would love for people to listen tot his record have their own love and passion open up for them. Whatever that is.