Singer Songwriter Christine Tier crafts unusual songs from such a unique perspective, sometimes sad, sometimes sardonic, but always deeply intelligent, that she reminds one of a songwriting version of Margaret Atwood. In this interview supporting her second appearance at Hugh's Room as part of the June 2nd Singers Playground concert she talks about her roots, her approach to songwriting and how her other life as a criminal lawyer influences her work as a musician.
Micah: How did growing up in a smaller place influence your persecutive or point of view? Christine: I grew up in a small Northern town so I'm not a natural "city person". I like plants and animals and very early mornings. And warm, open people.
When did you discover that you had the gift of making such unusual songs? When I started getting strong emotional reactions from people - tears or goosebumps (or shock). But nothing thrills me more than noticing that someone in the audience seems to know the words. I really dig that.
How do you know when a song is being born? It always starts with a chord progression from noodling around on the guitar, then a melody line and a phrase or two. Usually they dissipate like foggy dreams before they are fully formed. I sense they are probably crap so I dont try to retrieve them. When one gets stuck in my head for days, looping over and over and I can't focus and I bump into walls, and I don't want to go to bed I just want to work on the song - then I know I'm onto a good one.
What are the elements that are important to you when you are crafting a song Two things come to mind. First, there has to be some substance to it. Don't rhyme 'your eyes' with 'blue skies' unless you have a point about eyes and skies. I guess that's why I'm more often rhyming 'blood' and 'mud' than eyes' and 'skies'. Second, there has to be emotional impact of some kind. Maybe that's the same point I'm not sure..
Tell us about the way in which your work as a lawyer informs your songwriting and vis versa. You might think that because I'm a criminal lawyer, and I write a lot of songs about violence and death, that my job influences my musical content. I don't actually think that's true. I think my fascination with the darker sides of human nature inspires my interest in both arenas. And in my spare time (when I have any) I read murder mysteries and watch crime dramas. I think practicing criminal law has deepened my insight into human nature though (at least the dark side of it) and has given me a focus and discipline about writing.
You are at the beginning stages of a new recording. What kinds of things will be different than your last recording? My first CD was all studio musicians. My musicianship has improved since then so I will play a lot more of the music myself on this one. I am much more comfortable with my voice now too. I want to do a more organic and acoustic recording. More sparse. Less production. Cheaper :)).
How has the work with Singers Playground impacted your development? Enormously - it has helped me not only with the skill set but also with the confidence. Micah's vocal coaching, master classes and therapy!! Singing is a head trip and you need someone who understands that.
You've been playing a residency at Latinada. How has that helped you as an artist? Latinada has been great. I love Latin music and I play a bit of Latin music but mostly I play my own. It's perplexing how they welcoming they are of me. It is a magical and rare place. There is no pretence there - just cool people who love music.
What are you planning for the audience at Hugh's Room June 5th?I have a swingy sambaesque song "Lock the Doors" about sex in a car (can I say that in a blog?) and a tear jerker and a crush song - oh and Willie's Farm - written from the perspective of a murdered prostitute!Christine Tier's Web Site
Reservations and Info for June 5th Singers Playground Concert
Singers Playground Official Website