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Terri Hendrix Looks Back On Twenty Years Of Songwriting

Mary Keating Bruton
Terri Hendrix

Terri Hendrix is from San Antonio, and got her start playing everywhere from "greasy dives" (as she once told me) to fancier digs like Restaurant Biga back when it was off of McCullough St. In 1996, she released her first album, "Two Dollar Shoes." The infectious title track and folksy melodies were a hit. She kept writing and performing, and became a self-made businesswoman with the establishment of her own record label, Wilory Records (née Tycoon Cowgirl Records).  Twenty years and over a dozen studio/live releases later, her audience has grown into a nationwide following. She still runs her own label and mail-order service at http://terrihendrix.com

While she was in the studio earlier this summer to perform some songs from her latest release, "Love You Strong," I asked her to look back on her career in music with some of my favorite songposts--if you'll allow me to coin a term!

'TWO DOLLAR SHOES' from Two Dollar Shoes (1996)

I loved being self-employed. No longer waiting tables! The Boardwalk Bistro and Bruce [Auden] at Biga restaurant gave me the opportunity to work full-time. Randy [Goss]  at The County Line... Long before I could get a gig in Austin, I had a good steady gig in San Antonio. And then when it came time to do “Two Dollar Shoes,” I felt like there was a great ground swell of support from the fan base. The recording was actually a little difficult, because I didn’t really know about ethics in the studio, about the way things should run, cost-efficiently. And so the record was probably very expensive because of my lack of knowledge! That was ’96, but then by late ’97, early ’98, I had met Lloyd Maines, and he remixed and remastered “Two Dollar Shoes.” From there on out, my career would take a turn.

Had I not met Lloyd, I can honestly say I don’t really think I would have graduated out of the coffeehouses of San Antonio. I wasn’t real thrilled with playing in Austin, because I just liked San Antonio so much, and I’m not great with change. I enjoyed pulling up my truck, setting up my P.A., playing… [but] people don’t listen really well at some of those gigs, at County Line, so you weren’t really having to put anything on the line. You get your pay, and you sell your CDs, and you get your tips and you go home. That’s very different than going to Cactus Café in Austin, and everyone’s quiet and really listening to every lyric, and you’re really putting yourself on the line. When Lloyd entered my life, my music changed. And I had to make a choice between a steady gig in San Antonio and moving on into more 'listening' rooms.

Below: Hear a live performance from the era, recorded and broadcast on Texas Public Radio in 1997. "Two Dollar Shoes" is at 26:30 into the show.

'WALLET' from Wilory Farm (1998)

"Own your own universe" and “live with passion” were Marion Williamson’s quotes. I used to work with her, milking goats. She passed away on February 11, 1997. Those [quotes] stayed with me because I always wanted to be the type of person she was. She talked the talk and walked the walk. I was living out at Canyon Lake at the time, and [my friend Cathy] was my roommate. We used to have a lot of fun. We literally did roll in the grass and kiss the earth because we were so free-spirited together. And that’s where that line came from. Then I had a really weird date that I didn’t like very much, and that was where the line “need need need, I got a need to be wanted, and a need to be free” came from. (Never been great at that end of the department!) That kind of stayed around for a long time, and ended up [in] “Wallet.”

Lloyd Maines: I just kind of let each song dictate what it needed, because she was pretty much all over the map. “Wallet” was folky, and then there was the song “Gravity,” which kind of started out with a middle eastern vibe. “Albert the Perfect Friend” sounds like an old Tin-Pan Alley tune. I tried not to have any kind of preconceived notion when I go into the studio as to what a song should be. If you listen to a song carefully, it’ll tell you how it needs to be.

'I FOUND THE LIONS' from The Ring (2002)

In addition to appearing on "The Ring," "I Found The Lions" was also a regional hit for fellow Texas musician Carolyn Wonderland.

Terri Hendrix: We were on the road, and Lloyd came up with this really great instrumentation. And then it would be several years later that the lyrics would fall into place for that. That was a fun one, writing together.

Lloyd Maines: We were at the Philadelphia Folk Festival backstage, just waiting for our turn to play, and just kind of messin’ around with various grooves on this little papooseguitar we have, and it just kind of happened. We didn’t really try that hard, it fell into place. Later on, she wrote about a true occurrence in her life, about ‘I Found the lions,’ about dealing with mean people. It turned into one of her most requested tunes, one of her greatest hits!

'LI'L JACK SLADE' from the Dixie Chicks album Home (2002)

This instrumental tune won a Grammy for the Dixie Chicks, for Best Instrumental Performance.

I had seen an artist by the name of Natalie MacMaster and was inspired by her playing and singing, and so I went home and wrote this instrumental type song, but it wasn’t done. I kept hearing a fiddle, but I don’t play fiddle. So Lloyd and myself tried to work it in to something for “The Art of Removing Wallpaper,” and we never could.

He produced “Home,” [the Dixie Chicks] needed an instrumental, he remembered what we had done, he took it to them, they liked it, added their expertise to it, they sped it up about 500 times… and then there you have “Li’l Jack Slade!” And I call my house [sings] “This is the house that Jack built, remember this house!” That song helped me buy a home. I’m forever grateful. I went to Walmart by myself and bought the record, tore open the wrapping, and saw my name, and that’s when it hit me, it really happened! We went to the Grammys, and at the end [of the ceremony], they played it over the loudspeaker, and I thought I was going to faint! I felt like such a hick in high heels. I was just so blown away.

'GET YOUR GOAT ON' from the children's album Celebrate the Difference (2005)

Those that say it cannot be done Should never waste the time of someone Just like you and just like me Putting it down in history The way I see it you can stew or do You can turn yellow You can turn blue Or you can strut your stuff down the avenue And get your goat on

Terri Hendrix: I get nervous before I play sometimes. And sometimes even though I put on a smile and be positive, sometimes I have to fight being a little grouch. Some of those lyrics are me reprimanding myself, and saying ‘come on, get on out there and don’t be a naysayer!’ And then also, it’s for the naysayer, for the people that sit in the bleachers and comment on the game of life, and don’t ever get out there and really play.

Lloyd Maines: Anyone who’s ever dealt with a goat knows that they’re very stubborn. They really kind of refuse to be herded. Sheep, you can herd. Sheep are followers, goats seem to be the leaders and are very stubborn. Terri’s very stubborn, and you know you’ve heard the phrase ‘get your groove on,’ well we thought for these kids we’d do a song called ‘Get Your Goat On,’ which means be an individual. Don’t be a follower, be a leader.

Nathan Cone: You’re stubbon?

Terri Hendrix: Yeah, I am. To a fault. I am. I’m stubbon. Honestly, I kind of get on my nerves sometimes! [laughs]

'LLUVIA DE ESTRELLAS' from Willory Farm (1998) and Celebrate The Difference (2005)

Terri Hendrix: The original recording was made in 1998. I had been playing it live for quite a while, and with the players I played with, it had a certain format. When Lloyd started working with me at that time, he was great about ‘this is how you do it live, let’s hold true to that,’ and so we recorded it that way. Over the years it changed and changed, and when I decided to re-record it for the kids record, Lloyd by then had been working with me for several years, it was adapted more toward the way we did it. It also went up a key, so it was more comfortable to sing.

Lloyd Maines: The one constant in both those recordings is that we got Joel Guzman to play accordion on both versions, which kind of keeps it all tied together.

'THE SPIRITUAL KIND' from The Spiritual Kind (2007)

I’ve always been fascinated by religion, and I don’t understand how something so beautiful can get so warped. So ‘The Spiritual Kind’ is like, there’s beauty in all religions. The Koran is beautiful, it originated in poetry. People take it and warp it. So the song is about the spirituality of faith and mankind, the beauty in faith. From the atheist, they have faith that they don’t believe, to the person that is the pope, that embodies belief. Both have a faith and both have a belief, and both need to be respected as what they believe in. And to me, ‘Spiritual Kind’ is just  a lighthearted approach to just relax and have faith.

Below: a 2007 performance of "The Spiritual Kind" live in the TPR studios.

'SOMETIMES' from Cry Till You Laugh (2010)

When I say we toured, I really feel like we hit it hard. We went out there as a duo, and a lot of times got away with gigs where everyone would be a band and we’d be a duo. We still laugh about pulling in [to a venue] and it was like ‘tour bus, tour bus, tour bus, Honda Element.’ We had a lot of energy, but it got more and more difficult after 9/11, with travel restrictions. We were on a shuttle [one day], and I looked over at Lloyd and he was just kind of slumped over, and I was just like [sings] “Sometimes…I just wanna lay right down and cryyyy….” And all of a sudden this melody came out with these lyrics. I’ll never forget that just falling out of my mouth, kind of under my breath, on that shuttle.

'LOVE YOU STRONG' from Love You Strong (2016)

I was actually really surprised to how [the audience] responded to “Love You Strong.” Because I thought, ‘what if the record is a downer?’ But then I thought well, that was not my purpose. My purpose was to show love, real love. It’s not love songs, but just real love.

WHO IS ANN? (2017)

Okay, so this one isn't out yet, but I loved this quip Lloyd Maines had about the upcoming electronic EP: "Five songs where maybe Jed Clampett might have had a hand in the production. [all laugh]"

Learn more about Terri Hendrix online at her website.

[Comments about 'Li'l Jack Slade' transcribed from a 2007 TPR interveiw]