Erin Hill & her Psychedelic Harp

12th Annual Eclectic Song Vox Pop Winner

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Record Label: Self-Released

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Home Base: New York City

Genre: Indie pop

Categories Entered: Eclectic

Work Submitted: Girl Inventor album

Artists Featured: Erin Hill & her Psychedelic Harp

Label: Gridley Records

Who are your influences?: David Bowie, The Beatles, Kate Bush, The B-52’s

Describe your nominated work:   I see “Stun” as an epic sci-fi tale of love, obsession and revenge across the light years of space.  The instrumentation begins with solo harp & voice; a susurrus of solar space whispers creeps in; then comes cello, bass and the ancient/tribal/futuristic tympani and drums beating out the climax, and at last the denouement, back to solo harp & voice, as life and death hang suspended.  Plus, you can dance to it.  If you’re a Klingon.

Did you use any unusual effects or instruments in this recording?: Well, I use electric harp in all my recordings, which is not unusual for me, but electric harp can certainly be considered an unusual instrument.  I also used pedal steel and cello.  The pedal steel was processed with an Eventide harmonizer to sound more cello-like, so the cellos and pedal steel were my string section.  The space whispers were processed high hat, using multiple analog and digital delays.

Were there any happy accidents while in the studio, or did everything go as planned?:  I didn’t originally have the vocal “Ahhhs” in the solo section, but when G. E. Smith heard the song, he suggested I add some vocalese somewhere.  I thought this was a brilliant idea, so I turned the solo into a duet between my “ahhhhs” and the cellos.  I also originally only recorded one cello line for the solo, but while I was comping in ProTools, I accidentally left another cello part unmuted and liked how it sounded as a round of sorts, so I created the cello duet by layering and rearranging the pieces I had.

How did you raise the funds for this project? How long do you expect it will take to recoup your out-of-pocket recording expenses?: I did a Kickstarter project called “Erin Hill (the Sci-Fi Harp Girl) makes a Music Video Album!” and it ended up in Kickstarter’s Top 40 Most Successful Music Projects.  I used the money to make 2 music videos (“Giant Mushrooms” and “Lookout, Science”) and the entire Girl Inventor album.  And now I’m on Fractured Atlas to raise funds to make more sci-fi music videos from the album, including one for “Stun!”

Why did you choose to submit this work to The 12th IMAs?: There are so many songs contests out there, but the first thing I liked about the IMA’s is right there in its name – it’s for Independent artists, which I’ve been my whole life.  Secondly, I was impressed by their roster of judges.  There were so many artists I respect and whose music and work I love.  Also, I had questions before I submitted, and I actually was able to speak to someone on the phone and they were not only helpful, but really nice!  So that cinched it.

What’s your definition of success and how will you know when you’ve achieved it?:   I do feel that I’m a successful musician, and I make my living as a musician, but I am now making my living mainly by playing other people’s music.  The success that would make me happiest would be to be able to support myself mainly from playing & singing my own original music.   That said, of course I’ll never stop playing covers, because I love, love, love to play my Bowie and Beatles tunes, and I love doing my own harp arrangements of my favorite classic songs.

How will you leverage your IMA honors to achieve your career goals?: Well, to paraphrase Archimedes — Give me an IMA honor and a place to stand and I shall move the world.

Who’s sitting in your audience and what makes your fans unique?: Many of my fans are sci-fi geeks like I am, and they love the sci-fi references and the Twilight Zone-y stories my songs tell.  And many are just people who love the sound of my harp and vocals.

What is your guilty pleasure on the road? Any close calls or mishaps while on tour?: I’m from Kentucky, and often drive from NYC to Louisville to play gigs, and my two favorite stops along the way are Tudor’s Biscuit World and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in Kenova, West Virginia.  I love chocolate malts!!  And yes, one time I finished a gig, carried my harp out to the car, set it down to open the car, put my bags inside and then drove off with my harp still sitting in the parking lot, all alone!  Fortunately I realized it pretty quickly, when I realized “Wow, I can see out the back window, hmm, that’s different…” and returned to find Ylla the Harp patiently waiting for me.

Who are your musical heroes & influences?: My two main heroes are David Bowie and The Beatles.  And I am a huge Paul McCartney fan.  People often ask me, “You write sci-fi songs?  What on earth is a sci-fi song?”  as if it were the strangest thing in the world, and I always use Bowie as an example – I say, “Well, you know Major Tom?  That’s a sci-fi song.  Ziggy Stardust?  Starman?”  And The B-52’s, too, who I love – they have tons of sci-fi songs.

Are there any songs you wish you wrote and why?: “Space Oddity” by David Bowie.  It tells a great sci-fi story and the music is gorgeous.

What artists are you listening to that would surprise your fans?: I’m from Kentucky, so I happen to love country music.  I just recorded a couple of Dolly Parton covers on harp & voice (“Jolene” and “Love is like a Butterfly”).  I also studied opera and German lieder, so two of my favorite classical composers are Hugo Wolf and Paul Hindemith.  And I listen to a lot of Frank Zappa – my two favorite albums are Freak Out and We’re Only in it for the Money.

How do you discover new music? I read Rolling Stone and other music magazines, I read the New York Times, I get recommendations from friends, I watch videos on YouTube, I listen to internet radio, I just keep my eyes and ears open.

Do you buy music or are you content with streaming?: Oh, of course I buy new music!  I like having physical CDs to hold and pore through the liner notes and read along while I listen, and I like to listen on a good system and don’t want to be listening to mp3 quality, especially in the car.  I also love when people release on vinyl, which is still my favorite way to listen to music.  And it’s important to me as an artist that I buy music and support the notion that music (my life’s work) actually has monetary value and is something that can at least generate enough money to allow a musician to break even when they create an album.

How will musicians make a living if fans continue to expect music to be free?: Be born rich, or work at the car wash.  I wouldn’t mind music being free if I also got to live in a free house, have free plumbers fix my plumbing, go to the bank and get some free money from where the free bankers work, and drive my free car to the free grocery store.  Then it would be okay to be a free musician.

What don’t fans/audiences understand about the music industry today?: That “the music industry today” is actually an anagram for ““I must try candy!” I shouted”

Are digital singles/EPs vs. full albums the future?:   I think they’re part of the future, but not the entire future – I love albums, I love the journey.  I believe albums will always be an integral part of music.

Finish this sentence: The music industry is… Since I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, just like Hunter S. Thompson, I’m going to let him answer for me and say:  “The music (industry) is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.  There’s also a negative side.”

What do you have in the works for the upcoming year?: I’m working on a sci-fi Christmas EP (by Erin Hill & her Psychedelic Harp), which will be 4 of my sci-fi Christmas Twilight Zone-like tales, titled The Real North Pole.   I’m also in the midst of the full-length follow-up to Girl Inventor, tentatively titled World in the Sky.  I also plan on shooting two more sci-fi music videos (hopefully with the help of Fractured Atlas and some sci-fi angels) for my songs “How on Earth” and “I am a Lava Lamp.”  And I’m playing a big show in NYC at Joe’s Pub on Saturday, June 15th at 7 PM, which I’m very excited about.

“Giant Mushrooms” official music video –
“Lookout, Science” official music video –