Henta is an excellent female singer/songwriter from the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Rudgwick, West Sussex in England, so she brings with her not only a world of travels and experiences, but an eclectic sound, incorporating folk, jazzy electronic, pop, and straight ahead rock. I was lucky enough to be asked to review her latest album, Butterfly Song, reviewed here earlier. I decided to catch up with her through e-mail and ask her some questions about her latest release
SoT- Henta, welcome, I guess I should say back to the Sea of Tranquility. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule promoting your new album Butterfly Song and rehearsing to take some time out to answer some questions for your fans.
Well thank you for such a warm welcome and wonderful review Mark, I really appreciate you taking an interest in my new album and for capturing its true essence.
SoT - Please let's start by describing your youth in the UK and how your past has influenced the direction of your musical experience. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a place called Rudgwick, West Sussex in England. I was lucky enough to live in a house with space, surrounded by trees, so that I could make lots of musical noise. I started to write songs when I was about 10, mostly to be performed by my mum, best friend next door and my fellow students in a mini choir at the Convent School I attended.
When I was about 15 my parents bought me the most wonderful gift of a baby grand piano to further my musical education and creativity, which was put into my music room at the end of the house. I then saved up and bought myself an electric guitar, an amp, a drum machine and a 4-track. I was mostly writing songs on my piano, which is where the core composition really began and I have since revisited songs I wrote when I was 18, and included them on my on my albums.
I joined my first real band when I was 18 called Origin, which was a progressive rock band and was a great introduction to playing live with other musicians. There were just 3 of us as we were always trying to find a bass player but never did in the end. I've kept in contact with those guys over the past 20 years though which is cool. I think that's where I really started to learn about musical dynamics, rhythm and the fun and challenge of collaboration, which I have aspired to recapture ever since.
I think there will always be a little rock in me, even though I have veered more towards electronic, pop and folk music but that's the joy of musical variation, as creative rigidity can certainly hinder growth.
SoT Your next stop was in Seattle, right? Tell us about your adventures in Seattle and how they shaped your music.
Yes after moving a few times in England, I settled in a place called Guildford in Surrey, for about 13 years before deciding to have a huge life change, pack my bags and move to Seattle in 2006. This wasn't a decision I took lightly or quickly I would hasten to add, it was a creative seed that grew and morphed until an opportunity presented itself to me to either accept or decline. This opportunity was made possible through my on-line collaboration with Ludington GT, a DJ/producer who I collaborated with on-line through soundclick.com. I travelled to Seattle, then Reno to play some gigs with him, one of which was at Burningman in the desert in 2005. He invited me to stay with him in Seattle so we could continue to do music together and give me time to write my album Daisy Dancing. Sadly though he passed away suddenly last year just after I moved from Seattle to Roslyn, which was a great shock and loss to us all but he left an amazing legacy and his spirit lives on in my music too.
Soon after moving to Seattle I joined with some other local producers, DJs and musicians and we formed the Electronic Music Collective and we organized some really amazing gigs for people, some in surround sound and often with educational elements to them.
I also met Marcell Marias a producer, DJ, musician and artist and being with him totally opened up my world in many ways, as well as pushing me into doing things I would have lacked confidence to do before on my own. I learned more about writing and performing electronic music and at one point we were performing downtempo and dance sets in different events, including a residency in a restaurant in Seattle. We also worked with David Miles Huber who has since been twice nominated for a Grammy in the surround sound album category. We certainly put a huge amount of energy and effort into all these gigs, always striving to perfect and innovate made even more of a challenge in a city that does not have huge electronic scene!
I also joined the Recording Academy in 2007, which was one of the best things any musician can do to help network with others in the music industry and in my case this lead to the amazing Grammy nomination of my concept album Laserium for the Soul in 2009...
This process has enabled me to be a better musician and improve my craft of recording and mixing in Cubase. Also to me, a good tune is a good tune, whatever genre it's in, so flowing through different styles of music can only enhance your outreach to different groups of people.
SoT This is not your first album after all. Tell us about your complete discography. (Not sure where you received the Grammy nomination, so please discuss that at the proper time period).
Circa 2000 my first release was called The White Rabbit Collection which comprised 7 songs, some originals and some covers which I recorded with my mate Geraint Hughes in London. Geraint was famous for writing a huge hit song called 'I lost my heart to a starship trouper' in the 70s which continues to be a success. I had a lot of fun working with Geraint and we wrote some library music together too.
2007 I released my first full album called La Mint Collection in the UK. This was when I was working with a producer called Marc Francois who helped me to learn and embrace digital recording using Cubase on a pc that he built for me. He also co-produced and mastered this album.
2008 I released Daisy Dancing. This was my first US album and mixed and mastered by my friend Laz Harris who has worked on all my subsequent albums too. I collaborated with some great people on this album including Marcell Marias, Ludington GT, David Miles Huber, Ari Joshua and DJ Muad'deep.
2009 Laserium for the Soul This was a concept album I wrote specifically for relaxation, meditation, including songs and instruments and this was Nominated for a Grammy which was all very exciting and overwhelming. It's one of those experiences you need to do more than once to allow yourself to appreciate the whole experience in great depth. Another aspiration of mine!
2010 Red into the Blue Contemporary Classical Trilogy EP 2010 which I was inspired to write by my parents. Also a percentage of the proceeds go to Peter Gabriel's organization called Witness.
2012 Butterfly Song this took me over 2 years to write, partly in Seattle and the last 10 months in Roslyn. I also managed to get Laz Harris to do final mixing and mastering, even though he now lives in Singapore. It was a challenge but we made it happen and I'm very excited about this album!
SoT Your move from Seattle to your new home in Roslyn, Eastern Washington was another great transition that provided more inspiration, right?
Yes moving to Roslyn has been a great experience and very inspiring. Living in the mountains, in a lot of snow and surrendering to Mother Nature is a new thing for me and made me realize how important it is to live in the moment and go with the flow instead of trying to control everything.
SoT I found out about you through Ethan Matthews, and his Echo Us project. Tell us about how Ethan found and recruited you to sing on his album.
Ethan found me on-line through a Seattle weekly publication called The Stranger and just sent me an email to ask if I would be interested in collaborating with him. He was very eloquent in his approach and respectful so I took the time to check out his music which I really liked, as well as his voice. Our collaboration has been continuing nicely over the last few years.
SoT So tell us about Butterfly Song's genesis and synthesis.
I think Butterfly Song has been waiting to emerge for many years. As I have changed and shifted, so has the album and the name was as a result of my own metamorphosis and transformation. For me it was always the opposite of a Swan Song, as the process of change I have been going through has been all about a new awakening and burst of life, which is what I would like to share with others. Fear is a heavy weight to carry around with you and whilst taking a risk is scary, the results outweigh the anxiety. It's much harder to grow if you are stuck in your comfort zone for too long.
SoT Tell us the story behind Butterfly Song's excellent cover and CD booklet art.
Thanks, glad you like it! Once the name emerged for this album, I started to think about imagery and I photographed some butterflies, loaned to me by a friend, which I then merged with these really cool glass beads that I had photographed on this fish sculpture in Leavenworth. I then had this great photo shoot with a friend called Justin Suyama which produced the front cover picture of me and married so well with my butterfly image. I also teamed up with a great graphic artist Brendan Beardsley who I then worked with to shape the rest of the artwork, as Brendan was able to offer his creative vision and technical expertise to blend the artwork and shape it into the album artwork. The good thing about working with him was our mutual color and font appreciation, knowing what worked and what didn't and his ability to turn my vision into a reality.
SoT You had some excellent support from friends in the community and beyond, as well as a very good guest list of musical contributors.
Yes I was very lucky to meet a wonderful new group of friends fairly soon after moving to Roslyn who have been the most amazing support for me. Roger Beardsley and Hugh Fraser were the talented duo who played bass and banjo on my Ameritronica song called Shine Again on the new album. This is not a normal style of music for me but living in Roslyn and listening to different kinds of music certainly influenced my writing.
As well as Ethan Matthews, I also worked with some great musicians from Seattle including Maria Scherer Wilson, Jim Graham and Marcell Marias who all added their own unique style to my songs.
SoT "Magic Queen", the album opener is a wonderful track and re-unites you and Ethan. Did he play the guitar piece in front of you for your first listen, or did he send you files on the Internet?
Thank you, this is a very special track. I originally recorded this on La Mint Collection as a much more simplified version and then performed it live many times with Marcell Marias and it was just crying out for a re-mix featuring more guitar work. Lucky for me, I had already been collaborating with Ethan and he offered to record some guitar for me. I just sent him some files including my original guitar line which was pretty 2-dimensional yet rhythmical and to my surprise, Ethan spent some serious time recording all these amazing guitar parts for me to use on the song. They really shaped the new direction of the song and made it into a far more anthem like tune with great dynamic energy. So everything was done on-line, that's just the way we seem to roll J
SoT "Yellow" is wonderful. You really captured the power and glow of the sun with this one.
Thank you, I think I must have sub-consciously written Yellow for those S.A.D moments! I'd love to make a really cool psychedelic video to go with this song.
SoT "Rain', is one of my favorite tracks on the album. You get plenty of it in Seattle and the UK, so maybe writing about it makes it better, right?
Ha, well at least the song Rain helps to put torrential downpour moments into a different light. It's so easy to forget to be grateful for the natural elements and how they affect the bigger picture instead of just altering our mood for the day. Rain is about supporting your community, looking after your natural resources and fighting back against big corporations. I still carry around my umbrella though
some English habits die hard.
SoT You do have a cool gingerbread like house in Roslyn. The track I think describes your love for that house well.
Yes indeed the house I'm living in really does look like a Gingerbread House and has been my sanctuary for the last 10 months for which I am very grateful. It has been very nurturing and opened my eyes to the fact that ultimately we need to learn to love ourselves more and to take responsibility for our own lives. I would add though that had the house really been made of gingerbread, I would have have eaten it some time ago and be homeless now J
SoT "People Come Alive" is almost an anthem. It must take a lot of energy, but does it give you as much back?
It's so interesting to hear your perspective on this song as you're right; it took an enormous amount of energy to actually write this as I was using my TC Helicon voicelive box to create the choir sound in the background to fill the sound. When I perform it live acoustically, I get very energized singing it, especially the lyrics 'People Come Alive' because in a way I'm shouting a people to do just that, wake up and change.
SoT I think we've had a few discussions about your favorite singer to duo with, Peter Gabriel. Would you chose "Whole Heart", or is there another track?
Ahh, well what's an interesting question Mark because when I originally started to write this song, I was going to collaborate with a male singer friend to make it into more of a duet but it never panned out. So I think this would be a perfect song to share with Peter Gabriel, thanks for prompting me into thinking about that again
not that I had ever really stopped dreaming about my PG collaboration of course ;-)
SoT "Back to Peace", took me away to Eastern Washington's fields of dreams. Was that your inspiration?
Although that sounds lovely, I was inspired to write this song as a transition song at the end of the album and then it just kind of morphed into something more expansive and thought provoking. My Roslyn friend Roger is playing beautiful acoustic bass on this and I borrowed his semi-acoustic Gibson to record the guitar parts. I am not really an accomplished guitarist but I just wanted to infuse my energy into this song through actual strings (and string squeaks!).
SoT Your British accent really stands out on "Stay with Me". That is a complement.
Oh well thank you! This song is full of passion and yearning so perhaps the more emphatic I become, the more English I sound in my delivery!
SoT "Whisper", that must have been a lot of fun.
Whisper definitely wanted to be the final track on the album, as the constant beat of the drum indicates the never ending circle of life and the importance of the journey as opposed to just reaching the destination. Now I know that I need to take time and space to listen to my inner voice, as well as the alter-ego gremlin on my shoulder J.
SoT So what is next for Henta?
Well I have the amazing fortune of working with some film and video advanced students at central Washington University who are going to collaborate with me to make some music videos from the new album. These will have their debut screening at my CD Release Party on May 13th at the Re-Bar Seattle.
After that, I get to collapse onto a plane as I travel back to the UK for 2 weeks in mid May to see family and friends. On my return to Roslyn, I'll be moving houses again but do not have any idea where my next destination will be yet.
SoT (Open question if there is anything I missed or something you want to add, go ahead and write about it and I'll design a question around it).
I'd also like to thank everyone who supported my Kickstarter project which funded the production of the eco-wallet CDs and made this an all-round collaborative experience. I've always wanted this album to be an uplifting and healing project, so the more ears it reaches the better.
SoT-Thank you again for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us. We at the Sea of Tranquility wish you much success with the launch of Butterfly Song and all that you do in the future. We the fans will be watching your star rise. ;^)
Ahh, that's so nice thank you, I've so much enjoyed your new musical embrace and good wishes and being part of the Sea of Tranquility. I just feel like a spec on the horizon moving slowly but surely towards a more peaceful world but also know it's going to take a major team effort by humankind and beyond to get there.
(Click here to read our review of Butterfly Song)