See what Erisa Rei had to say about her music, inspirations, and debut album, Black Ball.
What first motivated you to begin making your own music?
Erisa Rei: I first started out doing Christian music in 2004. Back then I was doing it because I felt like it was something I was supposed to do. Obviously I loved music back then too, but after the official genre switch in 2011, my goals became a bit different than before.
And you do have an interesting mix of genres: you have the strong lyrics of great female singer/songwriters but the Americana/Roots sound that's usually not associated with that type of artist; what led to this mixture of genres?
Well, I feel my music is true to who I am as a person. I am a soulful, rootsy person who also happens to be a deep thinker. I grew up in the country, as well as live in the country now; because of this, I feel that rural sound is somewhat present in my music. The gospel influence comes from growing up in church. The blues and soul sound is just innate.
What are you most passionate about/tend to keep in mind when writing a new song?
I am a very intuitive person. Oftentimes my songs come to me in bits and pieces. I have a hard time sitting down and writing a song, for the sake of just writing a song. I mean, I CAN, but it ends up being one that I really don't like that much or [will] use when I go out to perform, let alone put on an album.
The "bits and pieces" usually come when I am doing mundane things, like cooking or driving on the road. Sometimes I'll have a conversation with someone and a phrase will stick out. I'll just file that phrase or idea away for another time in order to ponder it. I think about the ideas for awhile before I actually sit down to write it out into a song.
Are there any recent releases or new artists whose music you've found to be inspiring?
I'm sort of playing catch-up on life, as I didn't listen to a wide variety of music growing up. I recently watched the Muscle Shoals documentary and have been listening to Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You", and Etta James' "Tell Mama". I also love Bettye Lavette's album, Thankful N' Thoughtful, Lake Street Dive's "Bad Self Portraits" and Ray LaMontagne's "Supernova". Lindi Ortega's "Tin Star" is fantastic too.
Speaking of you playing catch-up, how do you balance your role as wife and mother with that of songwriter and performer?
With four imaginary arms spinning plates! Really, I have an amazing husband that watches the kids while I'm gigging. If it is a longer string of tour dates, his mom or my mom comes down to help. It is difficult to keep up with other artists who are single that can go out and tour 200 dates a year. I don't have that luxury. I think that the most I've made it out is 65 dates in one year. Usually, I can squeeze in around 40 or 50. I hope with my next release I'll be able to get in at least 100, but we'll see. I homeschool the kids so I don't feel so guilty about leaving them while on the road.
That's great. So, have you already begun working on some tracks for the next album?
For the past two years, I've been writing. I've learned a few tricks from my producer, Paul Buono, about simplifying a bit, in order to show off my voice. So, I've been trying to find that little niche in the music world that belongs to me. My label, producer and I want to make sure that I am giving the public a really great album this next time. Since March, I've really been able to find a groove. Right now, I'm in the process of demoing the songs. The label will get to hear them after I'm done with that. We'll see if they like them. If they do, then I'll start recording. If they don't, back to the drawing board.
One of the demos available on your SoundCloud page, "Your Kind Of Love", is brilliant; what prompted the track?
Thank you! I'm glad that you like it. That is a song I demoed in March 2012, but it is one that didn't make the cut for the next album, mostly because the "feel" of it doesn't fit. (The other ones are even better, I promise!)
"Your Kind of Love" was prompted from when a particular group of people were expecting me to live up to their life standards (that they didn't keep themselves). When I failed to meet their ridiculous requirements in order to "fit in", I was ultimately rejected by them. I am the type of person that is honest about how I feel, but I don't expect other people to live according to my standards. Just be respectful of me, live the life you want, and I'm cool. However, if someone is disrespectful, hypocritical and then puts me down for not living according their own version of morality ("do as I say and not as I do"), then I stand up for myself and keep walking out my life the way that I see fit.
Do you have any tracks that you think sort of stand out from the rest or that you really enjoy performing live?
I've been trying out my new songs at local writer's nights. They are getting a lot of EXCELLENT response. That makes me feel pretty good about them.
As far as the tracks from previous albums go, "Black Ball", "News To See", "Like Dominoes", "I Still Need You", and "Be Gone, Winter Long" seem to be crowd and fan favorites. My very favorite song is actually one that I don't play out very often, because I always seem to not perform it as well as I love it, is "Sojourn Band" from the album Black Ball.
Going along with the response these new tracks have been receiving, are there any fun stories from the road/performances that you'd like to share?
Well, the main thing is where I have been playing them. It is this cajun restaurant/bar called Kimbro's in Franklin, TN. Every Tuesday night they have a deconstructed writer's night where many of the bands and listeners in the community drop by to play their music and support each other. It has such an amazing feel of community there. We're all there to support each other, not compete. To me, that is what music artists should do with each other. Anytime a music artist feels the need to tear down someone else's music, they either are bitter or not confident enough in themselves. This is something that I had to learn myself, so I'm not condemning anyone. It's just an observation.
Is there anything I didn't ask you about that you'd like to add or anything that you want to say to your fans?
I can't think of anything to add to the interview. As for my fans, sincere thanks for all of your support! I love you all. :)