Terri Hendrix’s The Art of Removing Wallpaper 2012 reworks a seamless collection originally released a decade ago. The pioneering DIY songwriter, who has self-released on her Wilory Records and distributed from her San Marcos, Texas, home for more than 15 years, spoke to CMT Edge about rereleasing Wallpaper, helping others with epilepsy and promoting her music the old-fashioned way.
“I still believe the best way to market is to do the best show you can,” Hendrix says. “I’ve been working on some new [songs]. Some people have been seeing me every show since I haven’t been on the road, and I feel like I owe them some new songs. What I can do that’s new will speak louder than what I post on Facebook.”
CMT Edge: How did The Art of Removing Wallpaper originally take shape?
Hendrix: It all started with “Monopoly.” I was on tour in Florida, and a radio station played this amazing song that had Muhammad Ali speaking right in the middle of it, sort of a preacher speech that he gave, full of fire. It was at the time of the Iraq war, and I could really hear the beating of the Clear Channel drum, the deregulating of the media and deregulation of radio and the pom-poms going for the Iraq war.
I was really upset about it and at odds on it with most of my friends. So I came home from that tour and wrote “Monopoly.” The rest of the album happened around that. I really got politically over the top in 2003 and 2004 throughout the whole Bush term. “Enjoy the Ride,” “It’s About Time,” every song on there goes back to “Monopoly.”
How much does the song’s message apply today?
One hundred percent. You know, maybe even more so as cable is getting bought up as we speak. If we’re not careful, one person will own the Internet and the United States. That wouldn’t make us any different than communist countries. I think there’s a whole lot to think about and worry about. It’s exactly the same [but] I understand both sides. Some parts of deregulation are good, and some parts aren’t good, but I think that a media that becomes so consolidated is not great.
Why rerelease The Art of Removing Wallpaper a decade later?
I wasn’t happy with it. The first time we did it, a lot of different things were happening sonically between CDs and what was going to go to iTunes. Digital sales were starting to happen. Normally, I would just play [an album] on my car or on my Walkman or my stereo, and I could get an overall sense of volume and make sure the mastering was right. But once it became a digital format, it changed the volume, and I didn’t feel like we mastered it loud enough. Mixes and some lyrics were bothering me, and I wanted to fix a few things. Now, it’s done.
Explain the process. You recut some of the songs, then?
Yeah. I never liked some of the lyrics at the top of “Enjoy the Ride,” so I wanted to fix them. Since I own [the masters], I thought, “There’s nothing to stop me from reworking it like I want to.” I’ve never felt like this about another record. I rerecorded the vocal on that, and there are a few others where I did some tweaking vocally. We took reverb off “Quiet Me.” We just got it into a body of work that I’m happy with.
How have you evolved as a songwriter since the album originally came out?
I love music. I love to write. I don’t really know how I’ve evolved. Maybe I think about it a lot more. I wouldn’t let mistakes go by like some of the ones that were on The Art of Removing Wallpaper. I would catch them before they went into recording mode. If I don’t like a lyric, I won’t record the song. I’m picky about it. If there’s a line in something that’s rubbing me weird, I won’t record it — not until that line is done.
Is being a DIY artist easier or more difficult today than when you started?
I think it’s more difficult. There are so many more independent artists, and it’s difficult to keep up with all the changes. There was a while there when I felt like I was one of the only ones, at least in Texas. It made things just a little bit different. Now it’s harder because so many people are doing it. It’s harder because of things like Kickstarter. I’m not a big fan of that. I worry about being set in my ways and not keeping up and being current, but I think it’s important to own your own mailing list. Before you go fundraising like that, have your own cult following.
Social media must help with marketing.
I think it does, but I’m not good at it. I feel weird about stuff like that. I don’t feel like social media should just be all about me. I don’t see it as a tool to promote, and maybe by looking at it that way, it promotes me by having that weird opinion about it. (laughs) Reading self-serving posts isn’t encouraging, but reading about gardening is. “Wow, this person has a neat way to do their garden that keeps away the bugs.” Then I’m interested personally.
Talk about why you opened your Own Your Own Universe center in San Marcos.
Well, 10 years ago, my [epileptic] seizures returned. I had a long period when I was in remission, which can happen. It was just a good spell. I was probably having one nocturnally every now and then, but it wasn’t anything that kept me from getting on the road and touring. In 2003, they came back, and for the past 10 years, it’s been a real struggle to find other women my age that have epilepsy and be able to compare notes. … I felt like there was more I needed to learn, and I didn’t want to just have the Internet be my source. So I opened up to my fan base about it and through that met some really great people that had what I had, and I was able to get some help.
I met a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she was scared, and I knew another woman who had just beat breast cancer, so I hooked those two people up to talk about treatment options. Same with hooking up parents that had children with a mood disorder. Finally, I incorporated music into this, teaching guitar lessons to children with autism and doing my “Life’s a Song” workshops and giving scholarships to people who were in a hardship situation. It just naturally unfolded, and now I can house this whole concept.
You seem more comfortable talking about your epilepsy than you were just a year or two ago when we talked.
Yeah, I have to be. I just know too many kids who have epilepsy. Unfortunately, every year, people will die from a seizure disorder either from an accident or from [a seizure] in your sleep. There’s a lot of stigma and mystery around epilepsy, but there doesn’t have to be. It’s actually more common than we think.
By me being vocal about it, I can help people. I can help kids. I can say, “Hey, this summer before you jump in the water unattended with a seizure disorder, have a buddy with you. Maybe stay off the Guadalupe River. There are other things to do.” Not that you can’t have a full life, but you have to treat epilepsy every day. Being out there and being vocal about it allows me to say, “Yeah, you can get onstage and do whatever you want in this world. Just never forget that you have it. Be careful.”