The following is the first of my interview series Girl Talk, featuring talented female musicians in Nashville. If you’d like to be considered for an interview, shoot me an email at email@example.com!
Heather Hershow is an indie-country singer-songwriter from LA who is currently living in Nashville. Her first EP, Her Show, will be released in February. You can preview Heather’s music on her Soundcloud at: https://soundcloud.com/heather-hershow
And check out her website at heatherhershowmusic.squarespace.com for updates on her EP release!
First off, how would you describe your music?
That’s a loaded question. It has a country sound; I write stories. It’s more country with a bit of an indie rock feel, ‘cause I don’t have a country voice necessarily. So it tells those stories, it’s got bluesy guitar, or the slide guitar, but it’s kind of a grab bag, to be honest. That’s my music style, and that’s what I’m sticking with. Influenced by Lady Antebellum, Gavin DeGraw, OneRepublic, kind of all thrown in together.
I know you have a musical theatre background as well, so has that influenced the sort of storytelling that you do?
Storytelling, and structure, and melody-wise. I tend to go off in sometimes different directions with melody or I don’t stick to the same chord progressions because that’s not what you do in musical theatre—you go off on a completely different tangent. And so it’s finding the balance between [going] so far off, like a different melody, and keeping it a little new. But it is all still very new to me. I’ve learned a lot being here [in Nashville], but it is, you know—it’s kind of new territory, being here for about a year, it’s been about learning how to be a better songwriter and storyteller in a different way.
So this is your first EP… what was the recording process like—where did you record?
So I recorded the first three tracks that I had written for the little record—[laughs] that’s what they’re called these days! I recorded those in California through a family friend. He’s got a studio out there, and this was when I had decided to move to Nashville but I hadn’t done it yet. I spent a year still in California, just kinda preparing. And we recorded three tracks; it was “Whiskey,” “Playing with Fire,” and “Tool Shed” [that] were all done back in California.
And then I came out here, and I ended up meeting with one guy who had a studio—super cool, I’ve continued to work with him since. He recorded “Dance Another,” and it had a very Nashville sound—a little more raw, a little more rock and roll, it was very cool. And then I worked with a friend of mine who’s actually my guitarist and friend in California’s brother. [He] has a recording studio, and so I did “Smile We Say Goodbye,” [there]. That was an incredible experience because I sent them a rough demo of it, and I said, “I trust you—go nuts.” They came back at me with this incredible instrumental track, had me come in to do vocals, and then that was it. They were really on top of their stuff.
So those will be what’s on the EP, it’s just five songs, and they’ve been well received. I’ve only recorded the ones that have been well received on live performances. You know I’ve written a bunch but I feel like if you play the record in order, you kind of see the progress of the storytelling and the writing, I think it’s interesting how you kind of go from where I started with “Playing with Fire” and moved into the Nashville way. I hope it’s a testament to what I’ve learned here.
When is that gonna be released?
Working on a release sometime in February… You can hear all of these on SoundCloud, they’re just not downloadable yet.
I wanted to ask you about the inspiration behind “Smile When We Say Goodbye.”
So “Smile When We Say Goodbye” was a co-write with a good friend of mine back home who’s kinda like a big brother to me. And he always asks me to tell him stories, and we fit them into a song. So “Smile When We Say Goodbye,” I was getting ready to leave California and move to Nashville. And it was kind of a mix between, you know—I’d heard so many break-up songs that were like “I hate you!” and “Tool Shed” [one of her other breakup songs] and whatnot, but sometimes breaking up with someone has nothing to do with anything going wrong—it’s just timing and circumstance, and things don’t work. But it doesn’t mean when you say goodbye, that you’re going to be upset, or angry—there’s a sadness, but it’s a different kind of sadness. It’s knowing that I’m gonna smile at what we had… and I don’t leave out the fact that I’m gonna miss something I left behind. But the point is that I’m gonna smile because we had something good…
Well, speaking of the other kind of break-up song, what’s the story behind “Tool Shed?”
That actually—it’s funny, you know you write what you know, but that’s not a personal story at all! I was in a songwriting class, and we were doing phrases. And oddly enough, my mom and I have always had this phrase that, he’s not a tool, he’s the whole toolshed. And my mom came up with this idea of “Can’t find love in a toolshed,” and well, there’s a song there! So I started, and my first draft sounded like I was going through the halls of Home Depot, just picking things up into my cart, and the teacher was like, “I like it, but it’s almost too, look here’s a hammer! Here’s a nail!” And he said, “You gotta find a way to be tongue-in-cheek, but like, [laughs] tone it down a little.” So it’s about that guy that—he’s a jerk basically. He’s a tool.
That is a clever song with a lot of wordplay—are wordplay and humor things that are important to you as an artist?
Thank you! Yes, that’s how I am. I’m a comedian, I like to make people laugh. And if I can do it in a way that incorporates songs as well, I’ll do it.
What’s the next step after the EP release?
I’m playing more shows. After the EP release, I’m going to begin writing more. I’d love to do a raw, not as produced album of just acoustic stuff. But truthfully, the next step is just to get out there more—figure out who needs to hear the EP, and keep writing for people, and not really worry about what my next step is. I told a friend of mine, who asked, “Why do you stay in Nashville?” I said, “Well, to be honest, every day I find something or I meet somebody that makes me need to stay for at least one more day.” And when I think about it, that’s kind of all we have is just one more day. So my next step is just to be here and not wonder what the next step is yet.
Okay, fun get-to-know-you questions are last. Do you prefer smooth or chunky peanut butter?
New country or old country?
You know, I gotta say, I’m a big fan of—oh gosh, I’ll probably get schooled on this—I enjoy new country. I enjoy 90s country, like Shania and Faith Hill, and I’m still learning old county—I’m still new to the genre.
New Star Wars or old Star Wars?
Well—wait, new as in Force Awakens? ‘Cause the prequels don’t count.
No, prequels do NOT count.
Kay. You know, I—ugh, that’s tough. I had so much fun with this new one, really I did. But I just, I can’t not love Han Solo.
I just—oh [realizes my dorky joke, laughs], nice one! I mean, Indiana Jones, just—Harrison Ford.
Favorite ice cream flavor?
This is very specific—there was a Baskin Robbins flavor that came out in February of like 2011, okay? Maybe 2012, I don’t know exactly when. But it is called Love Potion #31. It was chocolate, and it had everything… it was just brilliant, and I love it. I don’t know where that is now, it was like a seasonal flavor, flavor of the month—but I will never forget it.
Favorite childhood TV show?
Oh, there’s so many! I really enjoyed Lizzie McGuire… but I think one of my favorite TV shows as a kid was All That one Nickelodeon, because it was a sketch show, a kids’ sketch show, it was SNL. And I loved laughing and making people laugh.
One final question: what do you want to communicate to people through your music?
Depends on the song, truthfully. I want people to connect their memories to music, maybe to heal through painful experiences, to bring joy. I wrote a song for a friend who ultimately, unfortunately, lost her battle with cancer. But when she was going through it, it was a song of cheering her on, and she found peace and joy in listening to that. It was great, and that was enough for me. And I also just want people to have fun, you know—for that three minutes, they can be in a totally different head space. For three minutes, you can think about something that may have been weighing on your mind from a past relationship. For three and a half minutes, you can literally just stop and dance your ass off. And for three and a half minutes, you can cry, you can laugh, you can dance—you can do anything. You can be moved to do something that you might not have thought you were brave enough to do.