Artist: Kerry Hart
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Latest album: I Know a Gun
Personal nicknames (or rejected band names): KerBear
Which artist has influenced you the most … and how?
I have been most influenced musically by Peter Gabriel. The record I first burned into my brain was So. Each song dances, a lush landscape of emotion and movement and melody. The sounds painted visuals for me, the percussion is ever present but gentle, structural and textured, the layers of melody and counter melody, the sense of time and place. His voice is used not just to tell the story, but to give it depth and color. The significance of the lyrics, a feeling of humanness, and a lack of perfectionism. These are all things I took into my expression of my experience of the world.
What other art forms — literature, film, dance, painting, etc. — inform your music?
I was fortunate to grow up in New Jersey, just outside of New York City, and I was exposed early in my life to live theater, to actors and plays, to paintings by the masters, to poetry and to poets and to live jazz. I always possessed a love for novels and I really tend to think that each of my songs happens in a time and place to a “someone,” a character if you will, and I can see clearly that my expression in music has been absolutely altered by my exposure to artists in real time, expressing themselves right before my eyes. My live performance aesthetic is definitely inspired by the sensation that what you are about to share with us will only ever happen now, in this time and space. It’s ephemeral. You have to be there or you will miss the bolt of lightening in our hands.
What rituals do you have, either in the studio or before a show?
I have a very consistent meditation practice that is the basis of my well-being. Before any musical work, writing, rehearsing, vocalizing, tracking, or a performance for an audience, I do my meditation to really drop into my center column and root into the Earth and awaken my breath and my vision. I sort of leave myself to a degree, I leave the me that is bound to my story, bound to my life’s joys and burdens, and I breathe into more of an everyman space. I like to move in music from a place of high compassion and passion, so I come to the work both more awake and more in a dream. In music, there is incredible latitude to welcome the truth. I really try and honor that, as I believe it serves the songs.
What’s the toughest time you ever had writing a song?
I think each and every song has a moment where there is something tough about it, except for those gems that land fully formed like gifts. There is no room for playing small with songs. The song and the audience need me in humility and in power to properly honor taking up their sweet time with my creation. I think living in that resonance is a challenge, staying positive against life’s lesser fortunes – and that is before you get to the heavy lifting of crafting a verse, refining your hook, editing out what is superfluous to the flow of the thing. But wow, I love the hard days as much as the best ones. Song life is a trip.
How often do you hide behind a character in a song or use “you” when it’s actually “me”?
I never feel like I am hiding when I play the character that is the singer of the song. Each one is me, thru different colors of the kaleidoscope. Which is not to say my songs are autobiographical. Most are not, but in each one I find the kernel of truth where I can align with the narrator of the song’s tale, and then I leap from there with total abandon. There are single lines in the work that are right from my direct experiences but truly most often, the blend of my emotions from life with the way others move through time and space is where the magic tends to happen. Writing for me is a sacred process. What I need to come through usually does, for me and for the characters in each composition. I love to meet the pieces of the puzzle.
Photo credit: Lauren Dukoff