Oh man, does this lady have a good voice. Good doesn’t even do it justice. This woman has an AMAZING voice. I was surfing around the other day on Google+ and I saw a video that my friend Peg Fitzpatrick shared. It was of Terra, singing. But the funny thing about me finding this video on Google+ was that this video was a video about Google+… random, I know. But Terra has a ton of connections on Google+ and she decided to write a song about Google+ when she hit a certain number of followers. (Is that what they are called on Google+? I don’t even know!) Anyway, her song was called the Hangout Song and she performed/recorded this song during a Google+ Hangout. How cool is that? Anyway, that video (located at the end of this interview) was enough for me to reach out for an interview. That’s when I learned a TON about Terra. How about I just shut up and let Terra talk! It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to one of the best voices you will ever hear, the one and only Terra Naomi.
The other day I was just browsing on Google+ and I saw your name. Actually, Peg Fitzpatrick shared a video of you singing your hangout song for Google+ Hangouts. What a cool concept. What prompted you to do this?
Thanks! I told everyone on Google+ that I would write a special Hangouts song once I reached 20,000 subscribers. I really enjoy writing fun/funny songs… check out the “City Songs” series on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean!
You had to record that a few times… what happened? Google+ is new, so it’s okay for you to break it!
Well, to be honest, I forgot to press record! I debuted the song live in a hangout and my video camera was set up to record the performance. I’ve actually forgotten to press record before. Luckily this time it wasn’t a bad thing, as I had just written the song the night before, and I’d never played it for anyone, so a little extra practice was probably a good thing!
I LOVE the lyrics to that song, by the way. You might be the first person to write a song about this new social network. Anyway, you just seem fun!
Thanks! I like telling stories. I like getting a reaction, whether tears or laughter. As long as I get some sort of emotional response.
Anyway, let’s get back to the interview. (I could ask you more questions about that, you know…) Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. When did you first get started? You have an incredible voice you know. When did you first realize that you could sing?
I started singing when I was a baby; before I could talk. I was singing full songs by the time I was something like 1 or 1 and a half years old. It was apparently kind of creepy. I started playing piano at age 4, French horn at age 8 (just in case I wasn’t already nerdy enough), and decided that I really wanted to be a singer, so I studied opera and classical music and got my degree in voice performance. I wish YouTube had been around to help guide me in my musical pursuits. I didn’t even realize I could be a singer/songwriter – the town I grew up in was pretty small and conservative, so if you wanted to study music, you went the classical route. At least in my family. It’s so cool that kids can go online and see thousands of examples of other kids making music, writing songs… it’s so much easier to find inspiration and influence now, I think.
You have a tattoo! I bet you have a few. Do they hurt? What do they all mean?
They hurt a little bit but it’s worth the pain. The tattoo on my left shoulder is something I drew when I was working at a restaurant in NYC. I included that story in my song Up Here. The design on my left forearm is something I saw in a tattoo shop when I had just come back to LA from London. It spoke to me. And now it’s on my arm.
I have to admit, I am listening to “To Know I’m Ok” on Spotify right now. Speaking of Spotify, how do you think this service, and the Internet in general, has affected the way people absorb music?
Well, it’s changed everything, hasn’t it? Everything is accessible with one click, new music is readily available, people can discover artists with no real effort at all… that’s the upside. The downside is the obvious “less money in recorded music” thing. But that’s just the way it goes. Artists need to find new ways to make money, and view recorded music as a marketing tool. I think the good outweighs the bad.
You have played some pretty impressive venues this fall. My good friend Curtis People has played Hotel Café before. Is it possible to pick a favorite venue?
It’s hard to pick a favorite. Wembley Stadium was pretty awesome. Tough to compete with that. I’m really into warm, cozy venues with amazing sound, so Hotel Café in LA and Rockwood Music Hall in NYC are great venues. I’ve played some incredibly inspiring, old opera houses in Italy, and any one of those teatros definitely ranks high on the list.
Art… you are just one creative individual. You have some artwork on your website. Tell me more about those. Are they for sale?
I created a lot of that art during my PledgeMusic campaign. That’s how I raised the budget for my new album. I did a lot of art in high school, so I picked up some paintbrushes and markers and other stuff and started creating. It was so great to have a reason to do it again. I sell it at shows sometimes, when I have it to sell. Pieces tend to go pretty fast. I look forward to a long tour on a nice bus, so I can make art during and sell it every night at my shows. (Of course, there is always a long list of things that I intend to do on the long bus rides… what actually gets done is a different story!)
People can find your music on YouTube, last.fm, iTunes, Amazon… you are also on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace… how do you find time for all of these social networks?
I’m everywhere! (laughs)
Yeah, it’s tough to find time, and I do everything myself, so the answer is that I don’t always do it as well as it could be done. Ideally, I’d release a new YouTube video every week, I’d tweet all day long and pay attention to MySpace every now and then. (Does anyone still use it, though?). I do the best I can to keep up with everything.
Speaking of YouTube, you actually became pretty popular on there. Your video Say It’s Possible has over 4 million views. What’s that feel like? How much do you attribute your success to YouTube?
A lot of the success I have been so fortunate to experience is directly related to the videos I posted on YouTube, and the exposure I got from those videos. I’m very grateful.
You have a LOT of recordings online, but my favorite has to be Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. That is actually one of my favorite songs of all time. (That song is in Shrek, you know!) Anyway, why do you record so many cover songs? Do you play a lot of covers when you perform live?
Thank you! I love that song, too, and was always reluctant to cover it because so many people do. But I think I did the song justice and I’m really proud of my version. I feel like it moves people, which is always the goal. I didn’t start out recording cover songs, and I play almost all originals at my shows, but sometimes a song moves me and I record my own version of it. I also like the fact that people might search for a song or artist they already know and discover me in the process.
I have not seen you live. I hope to change that soon. (Get to Indiana!) What can someone expect from a live performance?
My live performances are highly emotional, intimate, intense and fun. I sing my ass off, not afraid to admit it, and I put every ounce of myself into my performances. Which is not to say that I jump around and put on a crazy show. Completely the opposite. I feel like my performances create an introspective feeling in the listener, and my highest goal is to connect with the audience.
You had a song featured on Road Rules. I love that show! MTV doesn’t play music anymore, so it’s nice to get your tunes on there by whatever means possible. What was it like the first time you heard/saw that on TV?
To be honest, I don’t think I ever saw it!
You have performed with some of the biggest names in the business… for instance, The Fray, Natasha Bedingfield, and Tyler Hilton. (Tyler is actually really good friends with Curtis.) Do you get nervous playing with such big names?
No, I don’t get nervous around most artists. I’m always honored when they ask me to play or tour with them. There is a short list of artists who would totally intimidate me, and I hope to have the opportunity to share a stage with every single one of them someday!
I love it that you blog. I blog! Where do you come up with ideas for a new blog post?
I just write about whatever is on my mind, when I feel like writing. I should probably be more consistent with it. I’ll add that to the list of things I should probably be doing!
Let’s go back to that Rockwood show. If I’m not mistaken, that was a free show. But the free stuff didn’t stop with the music. Tanqueray was also there, right? Free gin? Shut the front door… how did you manage that?
I’m embarrassed because I think it was actually another gin company, not Tanqueray! I feel bad announcing Tanqueray when the promotion should have gone to this other company. I think it was Hendrick’s. The club hooked that up. I didn’t arrange it.
I know you are in LA now… but where are you originally from?
Upstate New York.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
Joni Mitchell, Johnny Cash, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, Carole King, Sam Cooke, Patty Griffin, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt.
You have played so many show over the years… in all of those shows, what’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I don’t remember! I’m sure I forgot some lyrics at some point. I think I had a wardrobe malfunction once… which is to say that part of my dress fell off… I’m not easily embarrassed on stage because everything that happens is just something to talk about, something to work with, a moment in time. I’ve had many more embarrassing moments OFF stage…
Let’s look into the future for a second… where do you see yourself in five years?
I will have released a couple albums that I love, and I’ll be touring all over the world most of the time, writing for other artists, too, living between LA, NYC, Nashville and London.
When this is all said and done, and you are no longer performing, what do you want to be remembered for? What is the Terra Naomi legacy?
I’d like to be an artist who helps people connect with their own emotions. I want my music to move people, to inspire them, to ignite in them the feeling that they can live the life they wish to lead. I’d like people to feel like my songs really touch them.
Man, I feel like I could ask you questions ALL day! But I know you are busy. Thank you for taking the time to sit and talk with me. With that being said, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
Thanks for coming up with great questions. It was really fun to answer them! I wish all the best to you and everyone reading this interview, and look forward to playing music for you live in your towns/cities/countries sometime in the near future! I’m touring Europe and the UK in January / February, and the US in the spring, so I’ll see you then!