Photo courtesy of Tera Lynne Fister and Brickshore Media
The publicist’s request to interview Tera Lynne Fister included this statement, “You’re going to love her.” Guess what? That turned out to be true. She was such fun to talk to. It was just too bad it had to be over the phone thanks to the COVID-19 virus crisis and social distancing. We made the best of our phone interview though and had a really good conversation.
Tera Lynne Fister is a native of Fenton, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. She has called Nashville home for the past eight years, but her musical story began back in her home state. We kicked off our talk with me asking if I had walked into her home on any random Saturday afternoon when she was about seven-years old, what would I have encountered? She told me I probably would have seen her dad sitting in his chair watching Oprah, eating Cheetos and drinking a Pepsi, and her mom in her office off the living room doing medical transcriptions. I would have missed seeing her brother and sister, as they were quite a bit older and would have been off doing something. Finally, there was this last little gem. “You probably would have seen me trying to practice piano.” Apparently, this was where Fister’s journey with musical instruments started, piano lessons around the age of seven. I got a good laugh out of the word “trying”. I pretty much knew from that sentence that I was going to enjoy the interview.
About the time of her tenth birthday, Fister received a three-quarter sized, black Samick guitar as a gift. She took piano lessons at Tower Music and started guitar lessons there, but after several months became bored with them and quit. She didn’t, however, put down her guitar entirely, she had a new plan for learning how to play and it was called CMT. “I would watch and wait for videos with people playing guitars and try and catch things that way.” That was her first step in self-teaching. Later on she started collecting guitar tab printouts of country songs from guitartabs.com and feels that method has served her quite well.
If you ask Fister what kind of music she was exposed to growing up, you may as well put twenty people in a room and tell them to show you their favorite Spotify playlists. Talk about diversity! Her parents listened to a lot of 90’s country. Garth Brooks, Terri Clark and she specifically remembers Shania Twain’s Come On Over album. Her older sister was a “rockhead” who listened to the St. Louis rock station, 105.7 The Point. She recalls hearing bands like Mud and Nirvana coming from the big stereo on her sister’s dresser. Her brother was into musicals and now actually works for a children’s theater company in Birmingham. To round it all out, Sunday dinners were accompanied by the sounds of The Rat Pack. She mentioned that her mom and dad have good singing voices, her brother has a fantastic voice and her grandmother plays piano and can sing. Her family has a lot of musical talent in general.
Never becoming involved with the local music scene in St. Louis, it wasn’t until she moved to Nashville that Fister played professionally. It was a gig at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge where she played a Sunday 2-6 shift, “just belting it out” that she cut her teeth on playing with a full band. Asked if that experience was intimidating, Fister explained that it really wasn’t because she was so naive, and it actually felt like home. “I would rather be on stage than anywhere else, and I still play downtown as often as I can to pay my bills.” That’s great news for anyone that wants to catch Fister live. Tootsie’s and Kid Rock’s are two of the places she’s often scheduled at in Nashville.
So, now that you know a little bit about her background, what about her sound? Tera Lynne Fister describes her sound as sassy, honest, raw and healing. I’d say that’s perfect for everything that’s going on in the world right now. As a live performer she told me she feels she’s a solid guitarist and the banter with her audience is not only fun, but key. Without her saying it, I could tell she excelled at connecting with those watching her performances just by our phone conversation, that’s how personable she was. I mentioned that and she very humbly thanked me for saying so and then agreed she thought she did a pretty good job with it, but not before giving credit to her band. “Another word I would use is ‘carefree’. By ‘carefree’, I mean we’re all up there as a team, doing our best together to put on the best show we can while we’re having fun.”
As a human being, she felt words that described her were perserverance, dedication and willingness. She said all of these contribute to her work ethic, which she feels is very strong, something that became more obvious as our interview went on. Not only is Fister a fun person, she’s a hard worker, that’s a fact.
Fister is a performer. What else does she do? Does she write songs? Of course she does, she lives and works in Nashville, after all. She actually calls herself more of a poet who turns her poems into songs on a guitar afterward. She also said writing songs is one of her favorite things to do. “I’m more of a poem writer. Once that poem is full body, I pick up my guitar and fumble with it until I get a song out of it.” She thinks of herself as a lyric person and enjoys writing with people who are better at melodies. “My melodies are getting stronger as I get older. Once I got in the studio, I found myself more appreciative of things sonically. Things I heard in my head. I didn’t even have the vernacular for some things I wanted in my songs, so I would make a sound effect and the musician would just go, ‘oh yeah, like this,’ and play it, it was amazing.”
Since we were on the topic of the studio, we moved on to her latest single, “Hell Raiser” (Christopher Halson Griffiths, Tera Lynne Fister), which I had been listening to quite a bit prior to our chat. I fell in love with the song. It was exactly my type of jam so I was interested to hear a little more about it. According to Fister, she had the song roughly written for a while before bringing it to a co-write. It had a working title of “White Girl” because as she explained to me, “I’m a very pale, white-skinned, ‘dance-like-a-white-girl’ girl. Merle Haggard has a song called ‘I’m a White Boy’ and there’s a line in that song that I really like too. So, I have this song I wrote in my head. I go to the write and my co-writer tells me he doesn’t think the song is going to be marketable in today’s society. I didn’t mean anything racist or bad by it at all. I really meant I’m a white girl, because I’m really white, like, can’t tan to save my life kind of white, but I went home, slept on it and came back the next day and decided he was right, we needed to change it.”
So, they changed it. Fister went down a long list of things she thought she was, rather than just a white girl. A sister, a daughter, a singer, a woman… That’s it! “I’m a woman.” That won. She loved the idea that she was a woman and she liked to raise a little Hell every now and then. Most of all, she loves that it goes over well when played live. “It’s not a man hater song either. It’s the one that after a show the girls all come up to me and say they love. It sticks out.” I told her I thought it was a “Go Me” kind of a song. She agreed and then went on to describe it as sort of a “dirty, Dwight Yoakam-like” song. It definitely has a dusty, been-lying-on-the-floor-for-a-while flavor that gives it a really cool edge. Exactly why I instantly loved it. Give it a listen. If you aren’t a fan, we might not make fast friends.
Video courtesy of Tera Lynne Fister and YouTube
When talking about her songwriting heroes, right at the top of her list sits Merle Haggard. His simplicity with lyrics, especially in short sentences is what really impresses her. Fister cited “Misery and Gin” and “If We Make it Through December” as great examples. Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark make the grade as current writers that she idolizes lyrically.
As for songwriters she looks up to for their musicianship, she swings in a different direction completely. Fister is a huge fan of Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters. “I love the obnoxiously loud guitars and drums. I’m a sucker for headbangers.” I asked her if she was a fan of Grohl when he was still with Nirvana and she said she absolutely was. She also said she often plays rock songs during her sets in downtown Nashville. So if you see her playing there, if you have a side passion for a little rock and roll, don’t be afraid to request something out of the country realm. You just might get it with a welcoming smile.
At the time of this writing, we are deep in the throes of the COVID-19 virus pandemonium and all of the venues in Nashville and pretty much everywhere else, are closed, but when life gets back to normal, where will we be able to see Tera Lynne Fister play live? How about a ten-day festival in Switzerland? That’s happening in early August. As of now, that’s still on. Keep up with Fister’s social media sites for the latest updates about that festival. In Nashville, as I said earlier, Kid Rock’s and Tootsie’s are both good places to find her, and again, her socials will always let you know where she’ll be and when.
Photo courtesy of Tera Lynne Fister and Brickshore Media
Of course in these unusual times, just about every artist is doing what they need to do in order to stay out there for their fans and that’s to take advantage of technology and play online shows. Fister is right there with the rest and she’ll be doing the same thing. There will be a show with The 615 Hideaway where she’ll play her album front to back. Keep checking her social media sites for a date on that. She’ll also be playing solo live streams. I can’t wait for these to happen myself. This woman was great fun just to talk to! I can’t even imagine what she’s like to see performing! I really hope you’ll all join me during the online broadcasts, and we can all “social distance” together and party with Tera Lynne Fister from our various locations across the globe. It’ll be fun!
We have that to look forward to, so even though life has kind of stalled, we still have great music and entertainment. “Hell Raiser” came out in November 2019. The lyric video is out now. The music video just released. Two more singles with lyric and music videos are on the horizon, so I’m excited and you should be too. Everything about this artist is unique and makes me want more from her, so yes, it’s very good news that she has other things coming our way. We can be confident that what’s slated to release is all quality stuff too. Producers Tom Donovan and Chris Griffiths, who also served as guitarist and bassist respectively on the album, came to Fister via artist Will Hoge’s band. These aren’t just any musicians. They’re seasoned pros.
It wasn’t like we were on a big time crunch just being stuck in our homes, so we took the opportunity to have a little fun. I asked Tera Lynne Fister a few “Nashville” questions. I hope if you visit our beautiful area, you might take her advice and patronize some of the places she recommends. We ask these questions not just for fun, but to give you, our readers, good ideas for places to go that locals love. Places that you probably won’t see on the tourist websites. Oh, and we take their advice too! You have no idea how many of their suggestions I’ve used. Places I never would have thought of that they were spot on about. Nashville and its surrounding areas are enormous. Explore!
Best coffee: The Billy Goat Coffee Cafe in Mt. Juliet
Best Small Venue for Live Music: The Station Inn in The Gulch
Best Recommendation You Won’t Find on a Tourist Website: Star Bagel in Sylvan Park. Family-owned. They have breakfast. They have good, fresh salads. Great coffee. Friendly, fast service. Except maybe Sunday because of the church crowd, it might be slower. I get the “Green Eggs & Ham” on an Everything Bagel. It’s awesome.
Best Place to go if you get to Nashville and decide your hair is ALL WRONG: Harlow Salon on Music Row.
Last, but never least, what does Tera Lynne Fister think when she “Thinks Country”? “My first gut reaction is heartbreakers. That and pedal steel.”
I can’t say enough about this artist. She made such a grand impression over the phone! I’m talking about a cold, cold call. I knew nothing about her other than hearing two songs. I barely had a minute to see a quick photo of her and listen to her songs several times. Normally, I prepare better. I was going on a wing, a prayer and a “You’re going to love her.” I didn’t need the wing or the prayer.
Photo courtesy of Tera Lynne Fister and Brickshore Media
Tera Lynne Fister Website: https://www.teralynnefister.com/
*Featured image courtesy of Tera Lynne Fister