Talks with Adrienne Pierce
CEV: Did you grow up with music in your home?
AP: There was always music playing in the house when I was growing up. My parents played a lot of Carole King, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel and The Beatles. When my great aunt got arthritis and could no longer play her piano she gave it to me because I used to always play it when I went to her house. My brother and I took piano lessons and my sister and I played flute in the school band. My dad has a great voice and was in a barbershop quartet when he was in college. I knew he came from a musical family but I recently found our some really interesting details about this. My grandmother played the cello and sang in the church choir. My grandfather sang in a quartet that had a radio show in Vancouver for a few years and he was also a very good piano player. My grandfather and his brother lied about their ages and volunteered for the First World War. My great uncle was only 15. When he returned from the First World War my grandfather worked in a coal mine in Canmore Alberta. To make a few extra dollars he played the piano at the movie house for the silent movies.
In order to pay for school tuition, and because of his interest and knowledge of religious music, my great uncle was able get jobs as a soloist almost every weekend . He knew the music from the services in the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish faith. He put himself through school this way and graduated with a degree in aeronautical engineering and worked for Howard Hughes for many years.
When he retired he lived in Laguna Hills in California and was the conductor of the local orchestra and choir master at an Episcopal Church.
CEV: You mentioned Horseshoe Bay, BC. In your bio so what influence did growing up there have in the way that you approach the creation of your music and your lyrics?
AP: I grew up on a peninsula. There were beautiful quiet beaches short walks from the house and you could also get lost in the woods and hike in the amazing parks and mountains nearby.
I used to walk my dog for hours most days after school. The buses did not run very often into West Vancouver and Vancouver when I was young. My friends used to say that I lived out in "the boonies".
I think that beauty and slight isolation made it both necessary and easy for me to entertain myself. If you want to be a songwriter it is helpful if you enjoy spending time alone.
CEV: Have you been able to put your degree in psychology to good use when it comes to crafting your songs and understanding what it is that drives people to be who they are?
AP: I do believe my degree has come in handy in a way. I was drawn to psychology because I am very curious about, and interested in, people and why they do the things they do.
CEV: When you started to convert the poetry you had written into songs did you realize that this was what you should be doing in terms of a career?
AP: No. I did realize that I had finally found something that came very naturally to me and that I was getting endless enjoyment and satisfaction from songwriting. I did not think it would become a career though. It never crossed my mind.
CEV: How did you overcome your paralyzing fear of playing in front of people when you first started performing live?
AP: Well, the first 13 times I performed I was so nervous that I threw up just before going on. After the shows I did get a lot of positive feedback and that helped me to go back and do it again. I learned to calm myself down and stretch and breathe and not take myself so seriously. There is really nothing to be afraid of. I cannot really hurt anyone up there. It is not like I am a surgeon or a judge for American Idol. I cannot really inflict a lot of harm with my guitar and voice.
CEV: What is it that you like most about writing and performing music?
AP: There is some great jolt you get when you have a new idea. There is excitement and it carries you into the song and being in the song is great fun. It can be very meditative. The feeling of having created something entirely new out of your mind that you can share with other people is very satisfying.
CEV: Is there a particular subject that you really feel drawn to write about when you are writing songs? Why is that?
AP: I think most songs end up being about love. For awhile I was trying to avoid writing songs about love and songs about myself but in the end most of them are about me and about love. I just write what comes to me. The last song I wrote was actually about the death of small towns but the one before that was about love and the next one probably will be too. I have written songs about war, prescription drugs, hope, selfishness, feeling lost, feeling like your life is moving too fast etc. but even those songs often sound like love songs.
CEV: How much of you personally shows up in the lyrics to your songs? Do you find it a hard to bare your emotions in your songs?
AP: I show up in every line of every song. I do not find it hard to bare my emotions when I am writing but sometimes it can be a little difficult when performing. There was a line about a friend who had died in one of my songs and for a long time I could not sing that song in shows. It was too hard.
CEV: Does making a song personal create a connection with the listener that wouldn't be there if the song were more surface oriented?
AP: This may sound strange or sad but the songs that made me cry when I was writing them are always the songs that people really connect with. Some of those songs sound really joyful and often they are but if it comes from the heart it goes to the heart as they say.
CEV: Sounds like the time spent with Nettwerk was rather short but gave you some perspectives on the business of music you might not have otherwise had. Tell me about what you learned about your music and about the business end of things you learned while you were there.
AP: I was managed by Nettwerk for 4 years so that was actually a fairly significant chunk of my career. The time with the label was quite short though. Really I learned something I knew at the beginning of my career which is that you are really the only one who knows what is best for you. No one will work as hard for you as you will work for yourself. Nettwerk are great and I respect them and appreciate all they did for me. When I go with my gut with my music and with my career things turn out well. If I second guess myself things don't usually work out as well.
CEV: When you are in the middle of writing material for a project like Faultline do you consciously try to inject a theme into the music to go along with your idea of what the album is going to become?
AP: For my Winter Ep which I released last November there was definitely a theme as there will be for the next three EP's I am releasing in 2009.
For Faultline I really was not trying to inject a theme. I had written so many songs and in the end the producers and my manager and I did our best to pick 13 that we thought would make the best album.
CEV: Tell me about some of the music that listeners will find on Faultline and a behind the scenes look at how they started out and how they ended up.
AP: I wrote Fool's Gold with Niko Friesen who was then the drummer in my band and it was one of my first co-writes. We were really excited about it so we demoed it in Vancouver with our friend, producer Jeff Dawson. That demo was then placed on Grey's Anatomy. It was after Fool's Gold was written that I went and wrote with some writers in New York and Los Angeles. I had a huge backlog of songs I had written alone that I was anxious to record them but I realized I was lucky to have the opportunity to meet and write with some really talented people. I wrote a song called Lost and Found in New York with my friend Tim Bright. Lost and Found ended up on the Veronica Mars soundtrack and at this point I decided to put out an EP but Nettwerk stepped in and made it possible for me to make a full length album. I had written two songs with Jeff Trott (Sheryl Crow) and we really enjoyed working together so we decided he would produce the album.
Thom Russo who I met on a plane on the way to SXSW also produced three songs. Thom is a great guy and has worked with some really amazing people and he gets embarrassed when I go on about it but he has won 8 Grammys. Thom and Jeff both brought in amazing players for Faultline.
We had Roger Manning (Jellyfish), Justin Meldal Johnsen (Beck, NIN), Victor Indrizzo (Macy Gray, Beck, Alanis Morrisette), Joey Waronker (Beck, REM etc, etc,) Vincent Jones (Sarah McLachlan, Dave Gahan, Alanis Morrisette) and many more great players. Making Faultline was a excellent experience.
CEV: Is there any one particular song on Faultline that really rings true with you or had the most impact on you as you were writing it?
AP: I had to fight a little to get Laundry and Dishes on the record. I am so glad I did because it is my favorite and it still rings true for me. It is also one of the songs that fans have made their own videos for and put up on YouTube.
CEV: How have you been doing in regards to getting the word out about Faultline and how has it been accepted by your listeners so far?
AP: Faultline was released digitally in 2007 and was only just released into stores in The United States in November 2008.
CEV: Are you pretty much a one woman show when it comes to the business end of marketing, selling and placing your music in other mediums? Do you like this aspect of your music career as much as creating the music in the first place?
AP: At this point I am a one woman show. I have had wonderful help from Nettwerk in the area of placing my music in other mediums and I have also placed my own music and continue to do so. I do manage myself and I do the booking, promoting, marketing etc. Nettwerk kindly allowed me to manufacture and basically re-release Faultline in November 08 when Borders showed interest in carrying it in their stores. I have read here and there that I am signed to this or that label or that I have signed to Borders (which is of course a store and not a label at all) but I am totally Independent and do not have any deals at this time. I presently really enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being an Independent artist. I financed and put out my most recent album (Winter) through my own label, Insectgirl Records which I run by myself. I do not enjoy the business side as much as I enjoy making the music but I do enjoy it more than any other job I have had so far.
CEV: I liked what you said about having a fan club in Brazil in your bio. With the Internet though it isn't that unusual to actually have fans all around the world. With the advent of MySpace and Facebook and the web in general do you find yourself closer to your fans than you would have been without the technology? Do you enjoy this immediate connection to those who listen to your music?
AP: I love the immediate connection. You are absolutely right that it is not at all unusual now for indie artists to have fans all over the world which is really wonderful.
CEV: How do you feel about the competitiveness of the music industry? Is it always you against some other female vocalist to be a success or is the musical world big enough for everyone to have some success?
AP: I read recently that instead of people fighting over their piece of the pie we should just bake a bigger pie. That makes sense to me.
Music is definitely not a competitive sport for me. I may be thrilled about an opportunity that someone else would have no interest in. I can honestly say that I am always happy for the other artists I know when they have success. I know how hard everyone is working and how much it takes to make things happen. I just keep making music and every 6 months or so my goals change. I only measure myself against where I was a year ago or where I want to be in a year.
CEV: When you do your live shows how is it that you go about connecting with each new audience in each new city so that the show is sort of personal to them?
AP: My shows are generally small enough and quiet enough that I can actually talk to people in the audience and they can talk to me. That helps it to become more personal. I also talk to people after shows as often as I can.
CEV: You have done some collaborations with your music and I was wondering what it is like working with other songwriters and how is it different than sitting down on your own and creating a song?
AP: I would compare it to cooking by yourself or cooking with someone else. Sometimes you create the best thing when you are in your own world with complete control over every detail. Other times someone else has just the right ingredient for the meal or color for the painting or chord for the song and they take it to a new level.
CEV: Are you a hands on kind of person when it comes to the production, engineering and final mixing of your music prior to releasing the finished product?
AP: I prefer to be in the studio for every note of every instrument played and for the mixing and mastering also.
I co-produced and mixed my latest EP and I loved every minute of it.
CEV: When you want to relax or be entertained what is it that you load onto your iPod or pop into your stereo system?
AP: Recently I have been listening to the soundtrack from Slumdog Millionaire, Bon Iver, Rachmaninoff, Mary J. Blige, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Metallica.
CEV: What's next for Adrienne Pierce in regards to your music?
AP: I am releasing 4 EP's, one for each season. I released Winter in November 2008 and the others will come out in 2009 at the beginning of each season. I will also be releasing my third full length album, Oh Deer, in 2009.
CEV: Any final thoughts for your fans or about your music in general as we close out this interview?
AP: I would just like to thank my fans for their support. It means the world to me.
CEV: We are looking forward to your releases this year and of course we hope that 2009 will be a good year for you as well. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at CEV.