We take a look at what makes the talented alternative and gothic rock, singer songwriter Therina Bella, tick. The interview was conducted by Jamsphere’s Rick Jamm. Therina also won Jamsphere’s 2012 “Song Of The Year Award”.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
THERINA: I probably began singing in utero. As a child I was very musical and interested in musical instruments and performing. I began taking piano lessons when I was nine from a conservatory trained teacher who seemed like she’d break your knuckles if you made a mistake. As a result I was highly motivated to practice.
2. Who has been, or are, your musical influences?
THERINA: I think the first time I ever heard Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, I knew I wanted to write music. I used to study Freddie Mercury’s singing and tried to emulate him. So Queen are a huge influence of mine. I also love David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Muse, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos… I could go on and on.
3. Put together your dream jam session band made up of your all time favourite musicians.
THERINA: I’d just like to have an entire record produced by Trent Reznor. That would be my dream. I wouldn’t mind Matt Bellamy of Muse coming by to lay down some guitar on it either. If we can resurrect the dead, I’d love to bring back Freddie Mercury to sing with me and lay down some piano.
4. Describe your first instrument or piece of musical equipment.
THERINA: My parent’s bought an old upright piano from the 1930’s for me when I was nine. I still play the very same piano. I also played xylophone in my elementary school band.
5. What CD is in your car stereo right now?
THERINA: PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, but honestly I listen to my I-Pod on Shuffle a lot more than CD’s these days.
6. Which song or musical composition do you wish you had created and why?
THERINA: This is so difficult to answer because there are so many gorgeous songs out there that make me want to cry and this answer changes from day to day depending on my mood…
7. The greatest album ever, and why?
THERINA: I can’t narrow it down to one but here are four of my favourites: Nine Inch Nails- The Downward Spiral because it was the album I used to listen to while I was a sullen pre-teen and teen. Queen- A Night At The Opera because it contains, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “The Prophet’s Song” two of the coolest Queen songs ever recorded. Muse- Absolution because there are so many beautiful songs and arrangements on it. Fiona Apple- When The Pawn… because she writes some of the greatest lyrics in the universe.
8. If you were forced to pick one, which of your original compositions is your favourite?
THERINA: My songs, Starcrossed, Forever and Ether are among my favourites. I’m a very prolific writer so I’m sure I’ll probably compose my next favourite song tomorrow or the next day.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making your music the way it is?
THERINA: Rainbow Sprinkles.
10. Does the place where you live ( or places you have lived ) affect the music you create and in what ways?
THERINA: I live in NYC and sometimes the winters are brutal. I mostly stay indoors for three months, get seasonal affective disorder and wind up composing sad songs about death and the apocalypse. If I lived in a tropical place, I’d probably be writing happy commercial pop songs about love and puppies.
11. What aspect of music making excites you most?
THERINA: I love the creative aspect of making music. I love composing music and writing lyrics and then recording and arranging that song so it’s immortalized forever. I do enjoy performing live as well, but I prefer the permanence of recorded music. Since death and mortality are a recurring, underlying theme of the songs I write, I like the idea that my recorded music will out live me.
12. What aspect of music making discourages you most?
THERINA: It’s financially difficult to make music. It’s very expensive to record in a studio and produce quality material. Once you’ve saved up enough cash and can record your music and you have a CD to sell or downloads to sell, we live in an age where NO ONE actually wants to buy the music. People expect to get music for free. Which leaves most musicians in this awful paradox of not knowing how the hell to keep making music without going into tremendous debt and surviving only on ramen noodles.
13. What are your thoughts about the actual state of the music industry today?
THERINA: Most musicians I know are no longer looking to get a “record deal”. Record deals are obsolete unless you are creating corporate disposable pop music. If you want to make interesting music or art, you are better off releasing it yourself. The internet has done amazing things for independent artists, allowing them to release their music and be potentially exposed to thousands of people they would have never been able to reach otherwise. The downside to all this technology is that people expect to get music for free. A lot of artist’s are relying on fan funding to record and release music, but I’m not sure if that is a way you can actually pay your rent… The state of the music industry is a scary one at this time. I’m not sure if there will be much of an industry left in a few years. We’ll only have the Katy Perry’s and Lady Gaga’s left in the major label world. And all indie artists will be trying to forge their own path sans record deal.
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed (and one you didn’t but should have)?
THERINA: My dad always told me to trust my instincts and to go with my gut, so that’s what I do when I need to make a music business related decision. One piece of advice I got and SHOULD have followed was given to me by my management team just as I was offered a major label deal when I was only 18 years old, “Just do what the label wants. Release the music they want you to release even though it’s pop. Once you become famous and go to make your second record, you can do whatever you want.”
I turned that $250,000 deal down, because they wanted me to be something I’m not. I wanted to be dark and create artistic records. I wanted to be like PJ Harvey, not Britney Spears. Nowadays, after struggling so long going the Indie route, I’ll take the tube top and head piece microphone and lip sync with a smile. So remember kids, if the opportunity ever comes to you to sell out…. TAKE IT!!
15. At this time in your career, as an independent artist, which factor do you desire most (increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure etc…) and why?
THERINA: More media exposure hands down! It means nothing to have a well recorded, well distributed record out if no one has ever heard of you.
16. How often and for how long do actually practise or exercise your talent
THERINA: I’m a very serious vocalist and I train my voice daily for at least 20 minutes a day. On an average day I spend about 3-5 hours playing guitar, piano, singing, composing and recording.
17. Which is your favourite distribution platform ( Tunecore, Audiolife, CD Baby, your own Website, etc…) and why?
THERINA: I think the one I personally use the most to find music is I-Tunes. I know a lot of electronic distro companies offer I-Tunes to their clients.
18. Live gigging or studio recording, pick your first choice and why?
THERINA: I prefer studio recording. I’ve never played a live show where I thought the sound or venue was amazing. I’ve always had some technical difficulties occur or an awful sound person controlling the board. I love recording in the studio. It’s so much fun and I love being in complete control of how everything sounds and arranging and mixing a song the way I envision it my mind. It’s one of the best parts of being a composer.
19. Analogue or Digital effects in music production. Choose one and tell us why?
THERINA: I really love analogue effects. I especially love analogue synthesizers and how the same sound is very difficult to reproduce again. I love analogue delay and lots of different analogue guitar pedals. However- I also love the digital aspect of recording music. It’s much less time consuming which means it costs less and you are able to produce a record in a short amount of time.
20. If you were not a musician, what would you be doing today?
THERINA: I’d be a trainer in a Russian Cat Circus or a Unicorn Breeder.