LONG BEFORE SHE first appeared on the magazine’s cover (Fall 2007, Issue 32), Terri Hendrix could claim bragging rights to being the first artist, period, ever profiled in Texas Music. Not that she ever would brag about such a thing herself — but as the writer of both pieces, I have no such qualms.
When I met publisher Stewart Ramser at SXSW in spring 1999 and heard his plans for this magazine, Hendrix was one of the first two stories I pitched him. My Flatlanders cover would have to wait until Issue 2, but my Hendrix “Spotlight” was fast-tracked to appear not just in the premiere issue (Winter 2000) but as the pre-publication sample article Ramser would use in the first Texas Music media kit.
The timing was perfect. After years of building a grassroots fanbase, the San Antonio-born, San Marcos-based songwriter had just won Best New Artist at the 1999 Austin Music Awards and was one of the brightest rising folk stars in Texas and beyond. Wilory Farm, her second album and first collaboration with Lloyd Maines, had even taken her overseas.
“It was an exciting time, for sure,” Hendrix recalls. “I felt a sense of satisfaction that things were really clicking. We didn’t have a record label, booking agent, management or any of those ‘wheels’ of the industry, but we were playing ball with everybody who did have all of that, and we accomplished the same things they were, all on our own.
“Of course,” she adds with a grin, “I can also remember being gullible as a goose. And naive! I was like a Lab puppy: ‘Who, me? Wow! Let’s go!’”
But considering she owns the masters to every album she’s ever made (18 and counting), Hendrix was never really that naive about what she calls “the part that’s not art.”
And as for the part that is art, well, the genre-blurring breadth and emotional depth of her music speaks for itself. Wilory Farm and its 2000 follow-up, Places in Between — the two pivotal early albums that put her on the map — both sound as fresh and unlike anyone else out there today as they did upon release, and the artistic growth on every record she’s made since is testament to her stubborn refusal to stop pushing herself.
ENCORE: Hendrix was the subject of our Fall 2007 cover story (left photo), but her coverage in the magazine dates back to our debut issue in Winter 2000.
To wit: In 2016, Hendrix released two of the finest albums of her career, Love You Strong and The Slaughterhouse Sessions. Though stylistically night and day (the former folky and vulnerable, the latter bluesy and assertive), both were thematically linked as the first two chapters of an ambitious omnibus she calls “Project 5.”
This September, she continued Project 5 with the eclectic and open-hearted Talk to a Human and the “electronica”-infused EP Who Is Ann? (“Ann” being closet techno-freak Hendrix’s middle name). The final chapter will be a memoir, The Girl with the Exploding Brain, chronicling her life-long battle with epilepsy.
Hendrix first told fans about her seizure condition in 2005, two years after it returned following a long remission. She opened up about it further in her 2007 Texas Music cover story, hoping then, as now, that sharing her experience could help others facing similar challenges.
It was that sense of purpose, coupled with Hendrix’s conviction that music has been a key factor in her mental and physical resilience, that seeded what she considers the most important endeavor of her life: founding the OYOU, a Central Texas-based nonprofit dedicated to enriching people’s lives regardless of age, income or mobility.
Launched in 2013, the OYOU (for “Own Your Own Universe,” Hendrix’s personal mantra) hosts dozens of events a year, including workshops, children’s music camps and free concert series.
In 2017, Hendrix sold her home in San Marcos, the one she called “the house that Jack built” — after the Dixie Chicks’ Grammy-winning instrumental “Lil’ Jack Slade,” which she co-wrote — to buy a 12-acre plot of land in nearby Martindale. Hendrix and her beloved mutts now live in a small apartment on the property, with a pen just outside for a donkey and family of goats.
But she didn’t buy the spread for herself. The nonprofit’s offices are next door to her modest living quarters, and in 2020 she plans to break ground on an OYOU arts center.
“I bought the property so the OYOU wouldn’t have to pay rent, utilities or real estate tax,” she explains. “By keeping the overhead low, you don’t have to fundraise all the time.”
And her name for the property where she’s building this dream? Wilory Farm.
Which brings us back to where our conversation started, 20 years ago. I ask Hendrix, now 51, if there’s any wisdom she wishes she could share with her younger self.
“I remember being really hypersensitive of what people thought of me,” she admits. “People saw me as ‘cheery,’ and I’d take offense at that internally, because I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist. There’s a certain ‘table’ or conversation I’d hoped to be invited to join, and I remember a sense of not quite fitting in and thinking it was because maybe those people hadn’t really listened to what I was doing.
“But,” she continues with a smile, “what’s so wonderful about where I am now is I still respect that table, but I’ve created my own table. And I don’t want to sit at any other table but mine. I really like what I’m doing, and I don’t care if it’s dark or light. People can make any assumption they want about what I do, but it’s not my business to lead them where to go.
“I know my writing, and I’m too busy to justify it to anyone. And that’s a really freeing place to be.”
Click here to read more noteworthy moments, artists and albums in Texas music.