A momentary bout of laziness rarely leads to a new musical identity.
But that’s pretty much what prompted musician/screenwriter/actress Erin Hill to start writing and performing songs on the harp instead of guitar, which had been her instrument of choice.
One day in 2005, looking to flesh out an idea for a tune, Hill reached for her available harp instead of getting up and retrieving one of her guitars, all of which were in another room. After writing the entire song “I’m So Glad” on the harp, Hill figured she should play it live that way, too.
So Hill did just that, and afterward, a friend told her she should perform every song on the harp.
“And it was kind of a V8 moment — why didn’t I think of that?” the New York-based Hill recalls. “So from that moment on, I started writing all my songs on the harp.” She adds with a laugh, “It became the ‘no guitars allowed’ band.”
Aside from featuring an electrified harp, Hill’s music has another uncommon quality to it: science-fiction-themed lyrics. She says sci-fi is practically all she reads, so when a member of her band put forth the challenge a few years ago to write a song based on a story about telepathic mutant rats in outer space, Hill was totally game.
“It was so much fun,” she recalls. “All of a sudden it just opened things up.”
Hill likens her songs to “little Twilight Zone episodes” and says one of the biggest challenges is to not get carried away by cramming the lyrics with every last detail that comes to mind.
“I do write in the traditional pop format, so you have to have a chorus that can work for each time it comes up,” she says. “Even people who don’t get any of the sci-fi [references] … can totally appreciate [the songs] on the non-sci-fi level as well.”
Girl Inventor, her third album in as many years and the first one credited to Erin Hill & Her Psychedelic Harp, is due in October. Hill has filmed a video for the song “Giant Mushrooms,” and with the funds raised through her upcoming Kickstarter campaign, she’ll make videos for the album’s remaining nine tunes.
— By Chris M. Junior
Erin Hill on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Sept. 18: Village of Ossining Public Library — Ossining, N.Y.
* Sept. 24: Strange Folk Festival — O’Fallon, Ill.
* Sept. 30: Lorenzo’s Restaurant, Bar & Cabaret — Staten Island, N.Y.
* Oct. 7: Ferguson Center for the Arts — Newport News, Va.
* Oct. 22: Orpheum Theater — Los Angeles
* Oct. 28: Village of Ossining Public Library — Ossining, N.Y.