Thursday, September 1, 2011

Today's Thursday Treat: Singer/Songwriter Sierra Hurtt

Photo of Sierra Hurtt

Today's treat is one of the reasons Thursday Treat was created -- so I could reach out to various artists not only writers but musicians, singers and visual artists and gain (and share) insights to their creative process. As a former professional dancer (and, yeah, it's been a number of years since I pulled on leotards and tights), I also was a choreographer back in the day, and like novelists, romance writers, lyricists and songwriters - it's all about the story that centers on emotion. To me the singer has the wonderful opportunity to 'show' their story by the way they interpret the melody, and if they also write their own lyrics, the opportunity to deliver their story is multiplied wonderfully (same as was the case when as a dancer  who choreographs and performs the dance - most often dancers get to tell a story without words - just movement and music).

So Today's Thursday Treat is Sierra Hurtt - a talented artist and good friend who I met when we were both fan fiction writers in the Buffyverse, and we also were both fascinated by the character of Spike and the actor who played him, James Marsters.

Q.  Let's get to the facts right up front. What's your full name, website, your latest release, the WIP/new CD that is keeping you up at night, your agent, your distributor, how long have you been writing, recording…your successes? Yes, I want the mini bio right here, right now!

My name is Sierra Hurtt and I’m from Philadelphia. You can find me all over the web, (, @sierrahurtt on Twitter). You can go to virtually any music-related site and search for me. I’m currently recording my first full-length CD. It’ll be called “Stranger” and I’m hoping to have it out by November. We’ll see how things progress.

I’ve been recording since I was 4 years old. I guess you could say it’s the family business, as my father is a successful songwriter/producer. Many of my siblings have also been involved in music at one point in their lives, and two still perform. I’m fortunate enough to have been able to tour in the UK and in Portugal over the last couple of years. I find my music much more suited to the European market, and they are very generous with their listening ears. As you know, I also write paranormal fiction, as well as poetry. I’ve had to put those things on hold for a while. I found that splitting my attention across several mediums caused each of them to suffer, but I hope to visit each again soon.

Q.  What's the best kept secret about your writing/recording process?

Sierra says:  When I get stuck, and I mean really stuck – to the point that I can’t even think of a subject about which to write – I go to my influences. If it is a song, I’ll listen to something that I absolutely adore and know by heart. If it is a story, I’ll read a book that I’ve read a thousand times before. Then, as I am listening or reading, I’ll think of ways I would have done it differently. I’ll re-write the song using a different melody and different lyrics. I’ll rewrite a chapter in my own voice. Quite often I won’t get through the whole song, or the whole chapter, before I discard the original. Suddenly, I find that I’ve gone off in a different direction entirely and something new is born.

Q.  What character/theme have you written or are writing about that keeps you up at night - just one, please:)?

Sierra says:  I have two songs on this new CD that have given me fits, one lyrically and the other musically. It’s a first for me, because I’m usually so prepared before I go into the studio. As for my writing, I have two characters that have lived inside me for more than 5 years, from different universes. I used to obsess over both of them, really. In the end, I decided to let them go for a while. I’m letting them live out their lives, somewhere in the back of my mind, until the time comes that I can revisit them and see what they’ve been up to. Hopefully, it’ll be something that I can write about; something that people will want to read. I guess I’ve done the same thing with those two songs. I’ve left them alone while I work on the other material. I’ll come back to them and hopefully they’ll be ready to be heard. And soon.

Q.  What recording artist/television or pop culture fictional character has had the greatest influence on your writing style and why?

Sierra says:  Honestly, I can’t point to one person in music. I have so many influences, and they sometimes clash with one another. They also change daily. If you ask me today, I will say The Police or Debussy. Tomorrow, I might say Ella Fitzgerald or XTC or MuteMath. Right now, I find myself influenced by an entire country! I’m in love with the music coming out of Portugal right now.

In writing, it is a completely different story. Like Alicia, Spike is the fictional character that has had the greatest influence on my writing. If you go back to what I was saying about my writing secrets, and getting stuck,  I suppose he is the character I go back to when I need a push or inspiration. I’ve grown so many, varied characters out of him, but it is easy when the soil is so rich.

Q.  What book/author is the current "hot read" on your bookshelf?

Sierra says:  “Ghost Story”, the latest in Jim Butcher’s Dresden series is next up on my list of must-reads. Currently, I’m reading “Love and Other Near-Death Experiences” by Mil Millington. I’ve been told that I write a very natural dialogue, which I never really understood until I read his work. I think it’s a matter of personal taste, though. Some people really don’t like this style of writing, and I have heard from a few of those people in my own feedback. Ha!

Q.  What's your favorite drink on a cool September evening - and who (fictional or not, friend or family, celebrity or historic figure) would be sitting at your side enjoying that drink with you?

Sierra says:  If I could, I’d throw a garden party, on a warm, Summer night, and invite Jeff Buckley, Oscar Wilde, George Sand, Paulo Coelho, Anne Rice, Maya Angelou, Mercer Ellington, Aaliyah and Pedro Almodovar. Imagine that conversation! Since I don’t drink beer, there would have to be plenty of Lambic and cider on tap, as well as a few bottles of Syrah and Gew├╝rztraminer.

Q.  Who's your favorite author, poet, lyricist and what would you ask them if you had the chance (or when you had the chance)?

Sierra says:  Wow, that’s a big question. I would have to say Hafiz Shirazi, a 14th century Persian poet. I think of his work as the closest that words have ever come to interpreting the soul, without music as accompaniment. So little is known about him, outside of the works he left behind, so I would have a ton of questions. Actually, let’s add him to my garden party guest list!

Q.  Last question…what question have you been dying to answer but no one has ever asked?

Sierra says:  “So, Sierra, if you weren’t you, would you be a fan of yourself?” I just thought of that, haha! It’s a good question, though. I’d like to think that I would be a member of the Purple Nation (the name I’ve given to my fan club). I’m fairly easy-going and what you see is what you get, etc.

Thank you Sierra. Now readers, let's do some blogging here. Sierra will be around today, and welcomes questions about her music, her writing and how the recording sessions are going for her new CD! 

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