There are musicians, there are songwriters, and then there are artists. Eric Terino is a genuine combination of all three. With the release of his new album, Innovations of Grave Perversity, he brings forth a creative spirit that proves originality and experimentation is still very much alive, even in the 21st century. We spent some time talking with him about his new release, music, art, and life. Worthy thoughts ahead, so be brave and read on!
And while you’re at it, take a listen to Eric Terino‘s An Augury of Hope! It’s innovative!
Music Authentic: Welcome to Music Authentic! Let’s begin with a site-traditional question: How did you sleep last night?
Eric Terino: Ha! Well, my sleep hasn’t been ideal lately. My new LP is out this week and I’ve been busy working through the nights getting everything together for the release. So sleep has taken a bit of a backseat at the moment, but hopefully it’ll all be back on track soon!
Music Authentic: How is life these days? Do you have time to chill out? You have just released a brand new album, Innovations of Grave Perversity, it must have been pretty demanding…
Eric Terino: It has been pretty demanding, especially at this phase of the project. The actual process of making the record took about 6 months, though I’d been writing a number of these songs for over 2 years. But from November 2020 through April 2021, I hunkered down and finished writing and recording everything as a complete work. Then it took another 4 months or so to get all the artwork and album designs completed. I’m sure you’ve heard about the situation with vinyl pressing plants for the past few years? Production times are extremely long right now due to a raw material shortage and the vast increase in demand. So I had to submit everything to the plant around August, which is how long in advance I needed to start production for a March release.
But that whole process of creation, though demanding in its own way, is much more enjoyable for me than where I am at the moment, which is in the phase of trying to promote the record as best I can. There’s a lot of technical stuff involved with the digital releases and getting promotional material out there, which can be really trying at times. But I have to say, it’s been such a fantastic experience all around. As exhausting as it can be, it’s just so rewarding to see the project come to life. So there isn’t much time to chill out at the moment, and regardless of the limited chill time, life is very very good.
Music Authentic: This is your third LP in a row. Some of your songs were nurtured for 15 years. Why now and why these songs?
Eric Terino: Well, the one song on this record that goes back nearly 15 years is “Body Gets Stoned”, which predates all three of my LPs. I wrote that about a dozen lifetimes ago in 2007. It was one of the first bits of inspiration for this project as a whole. I always really believed in that song and I didn’t feel it ever got the opportunity to properly present itself. So I had it in my mind that I’d like to record it again and see where it landed. I was extremely fortunate to connect with the legendary American singer-songwriter Jolie Holland, whom I played the demo for and she agreed to contribute vocals and a beautiful violin arrangement. Once that song was locked down, I realized where I wanted to go with this record. I’d already begun the process of writing the opening and closing tracks on the album (“Felt” and “I Didn’t Live There”), and “Body Gets Stoned” seemed the perfect penultimate statement. It’s sort of my take on a “Que Sera Sera”. It’s a song about understanding that whatever challenges we may face, we’re not alone in those struggles. All is as it is, and will be as it will be. So you know, que sera sera! C’est la vie.
But these songs are so deeply rooted in what’s going on in my life right now. The record tells the story of a journey from winter (coming from a place of despondency and uncertainty) to spring (with the resurrection of a new hope and an openness to the possibility of joy). And that’s exactly where I’ve been, finding my way into a new spring and overcoming traumas from the past. Honestly, I even surprised myself when some of these songs started coming out of me. To go from where I’d been on my last record, writing things like “Once I thought life was worth living, but now I’m sure that I know better” (Champagne and Childhood Hunger’s “Its Not For Me Anymore”) to something like “Even though the heart may stall in solitary lands, allow it to keep mending, for life lies ahead” (Innovations of Grave Perversity’s “Torture The Dead”), is quite a leap! And it all felt completely natural and logical, I’ve been working hard at having a healthier life both physically and spiritually and I feel that’s really shifted my mindset.
Music Authentic: You offer your listeners a journey to a different plane for 40 minutes with this album. The first part in particular brings to mind FINNEAS’ debut. Were there any influences for this record or did you just close the doors of a cabin in the woods while putting it together?
Eric Terino: Metaphorically, I did indeed close the cabin doors when I was making this record. I find that it doesn’t serve me well to have too much outside stuff going on when I’m trying to write, at least in terms of music. So I try not to listen to too many other things when I’m in the writing phase. But I was hugely influenced by winter when I was making this album, I think that was the biggest inspiration. I actually did the majority of the writing between November and April, so I truly was writing this journey from winter to spring as it played out in real time. The sheer amount of silence and delicacy that occurs in winter really played into what I wanted this album to sound like. So I spent a lot of time standing out in the forest watching the snow at night, or looking from my window at a frozen pink grey afternoon. Those visuals from my surroundings played a big part in what this record became.
Music Authentic: Older generations tend to repress their thoughts and emotions, newer ones are expressing them more when dealing with issues. What is your experience, which generation is more open to the artistic approach of self-expression you create in your songs?
Eric Terino: That’s a very interesting subject. I completely agree with that assessment and I genuinely think there’s something to be learned from both generations’ methods of expression. I certainly find that as I get older, I’m less inclined to divulge a great deal of my emotional life in one-on-one conversation. In my youth I was more than willing to tell you how I was feeling at any given moment. I think that’s just part of being young, you’re trying to understand how this all works, how you yourself work even. So you have your feelers out, and you’re sharing whatever you can with whomever you can in hopes of getting a better grasp on the whole thing. Then at a certain point you see the big picture, we’re all in this together. Everything you’ve been experiencing is a universal experience and we’re all deeply connected whether we’re capable of acknowledging it or not.
It may be specific to the trajectory of my life, which has had a number of significant traumas, but I find that most people aren’t that eager to share their emotional lives or even receptive to you sharing yours. But as you said, when I converse with generations younger than mine they’re much more open to it than the older generations. I find myself somewhere right in the middle at the moment, and the way I feel most capable of expressing my inner life is through my songs and through my work. I think that’s one of the truly magical things about music, no matter where you come from or at what phase you’re at in your life, you can have a deep emotional connection to a record.
Music Authentic: Your music videos and artistic concepts portray an older soul. How young do you feel when you sing?
Eric Terino: What a kind thing to say, thank you! I suppose in many ways I do feel a thousand years old, and always have. But lately I’m feeling more connected to the person I was as a teenager than I have in a long time. I think there’s something about getting more deeply in touch with your personal spirituality that can really reconnect you with the roots of your true self. That’s something we seem to have a naturally deep connection to in our teenage years. For a lot of people the reception can get very distorted along the way with the introduction of things like alcohol, ambition, mundane responsibilities, drugs, complacency, or whatever technical survival aspects you encounter as you get further out into the world. But it’s never gone, it just tends to get buried in the layers of our existence and needs to be pulled forward sometimes. So I suppose as I was making this record I felt somewhere between my teenage self and the thousand year old man I’ve always carried around with me. Which might actually place me at the exact age I am, not a bad place to be singing from!
Music Authentic: Who is the producer you would like to work with the most?
Eric Terino: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I’ve always produced everything myself so I’m rarely thinking about what it would be like to record with an outside producer. What springs to mind though is either Daniel Lanois or Phil Spector if I was able to get my hands on a time machine. Those records Lanois made with Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, and Marianne Faithfull are incredible. He’s got such a specific sound and one that works so well with “funny voices”, as Dylan put it. And Phil Spector, I mean, where to even begin. The wall of sound technique is just so monumental. Whenever I listen to something like Ike & Tina’s “River Deep – Mountain High”, or Yoko Ono’s “Nobody Sees Me Like You Do” I’m just in awe.
Music Authentic: There is an extremely changing world around us. In the western culture there is a tendency to wait for superheroes to do our bidding. In what ways do you think we could alter the recent course of our societies?
Eric Terino: It’s really shocking, the state of things. I guess if you’re looking at it from a big picture historian kind of perspective then it isn’t that much of a surprise. But it feels like we were making all these great strides forward in the western world about 10 years ago, and now things are drastically swinging back in the other direction. It’s interesting that you mention the “Superhero” sentiment as well, as I find that to be extremely true of most people. There’s a sense of, ‘well this isn’t my responsibility, I can’t do anything to fix all this, such and such better come along and clean up this mess’. But like I was saying earlier, we’re all connected in our experience here on this planet. Yes, there are certainly people with more power and influence than others, but we’re all building this world together based on our collective experiences. If you want to see a kinder world, it starts with you yourself living a kinder life. It sounds implausible, but it’s very real. It starts from the ground up, and when you lead a life holding firm to the values you wish to see in the world then others will feel that energy and start being more true to themselves as well. I think that’s key in shifting the direction of the course we’re currently on, understanding that we all hold a personal responsibility to do and be better for one another.
Music Authentic: Who is your hero?
Eric Terino: Well, I have to say I have many in different regards. But I dedicated Innovations of Grave Perversity to two of my heroes, or heroines rather. My partner in life Ashley Kozlosky and my beautiful friend Brittany Pirie, both of whom passed away nearly a decade ago. These women were the kindest, most sincere people you’d ever have the pleasure of meeting. No matter what situation they were faced with they’d always respond with compassion and dignity, and that’s no small feat. The fact that I’ve had the great fortune of being able to share my life with both of them for periods of time has truly been the greatest gift I could ever conceive of.
The song “Invocations”, which is the track from which the album title was gleaned, was written for the two of them. It’s about how we manage the death of loved ones from a more advanced perspective and creating a space for their spirits and energies to reside within us in a healthy reinforcing way. That’s why there are only two choruses in the song, which are “With a fervent desire, I built your house by the sea, with walls of glass and a roof of masonry.” I wanted to construct a space in my mind for each one of them to inhabit in this present day. The imagery of a house made of glass with a roof of stones all sleeping by the sea was exactly how it felt. It’s beautiful and extremely delicate. You have to construct it in just the right way so that it’s capable of protecting those memories and the spirits that remain. I love them both deeply, and I hope that wherever they are they’ve been able to hear the record and enjoy it. I hope I’ve made them proud.
Music Authentic: It’s a common question, but if you could meet your younger self what would you say?
Eric Terino: “This is not going to go how you expect, but you’re going to be okay.” When I think back on that kid running around a college campus or New York City, he had no idea how intense life could become. How truly devastating and painful certain experiences would be. I mean, not only was I someone who grew up as an LGBTQ+ person in a world that was (and in many regards still is) not accepting or welcoming to us, but I also dealt with a number of mental health issues, and then of course the extremely untimely and tragic deaths of my close friends. The old adage is true though, you never really know how much you can withstand until you’re actually faced with it. My younger self would be in for quite a surprise if I could communicate with him now. I doubt he’d even believe me if I told him everything that’s about to happen to him. But I think he would be very proud of the person he sees today.
Music Authentic: How disciplined does one need to be to stay in the path of creativity and making sustainable art these days?
Eric Terino: I think the level of discipline, or rather the methods of discipline, are very different for every individual artist. For me personally, I find that the foundation of being able to create sustainable work is built on having a sound mind and healthy life. That clarity of mind is what allows me to connect with creative forces and produce the work. But even in my own personal experience the methods of discipline have been very different at different times. For example, with my last record (Champagne and Childhood Hunger) I was getting up early and dedicating 5 or 6 hours every day to just sitting down and writing, regardless of whether I felt inspired or not. Whereas with the Innovations… album I was more relaxed with the process, only writing as inspiration presented itself. But still of course within the framework of ‘I’m making this record and I’m dedicated to completing it in the next few months’. That’s actually a very important piece of this equation, you need to be firmly committed to completing a project or it’s never going to get where you envision it. I think the level of commitment is more crucial to the artistic process than “discipline”.
Music Authentic: Spring is here, the Sun is shining brighter and hotter. What endeavors do you see for yourself?
Eric Terino: It truly is, though it was a bit of a blizzard here today actually! Which I really enjoyed, it’s nice to see all that beautiful snow out there a few more times before we head into the warmth. Especially as I’m currently in the midst of releasing this record, the snow really brought me back to the place I was in when I started the process of putting it all together. So that’s where I am at the moment, working my way through the promotional side of things and hoping I can garner some awareness for the project and that people will connect with these songs. I’ve put a great deal of myself into this album and I know I don’t lead an isolated existence, there are many of us making our way out of the winter’s of our lives and into the spring. So with any luck, people will be able to discover this record and see some of their own experiences reflected back within it. As for the future, only time will tell. But I’m looking forward to seeing where I find myself next.
Music Authentic: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us and let us know about any new material you have!
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Appe Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/eric-terino/1461138815