Interview with Sheri Streeter, Exclusive Track Premiere, “Love in The Time of Hate”

Photo Credit: Mickie Winters

Louisville based Sheri Streeter has won over hearts and minds with their thoughtful blend of folk and post rock, and their willingness to address highly personal themes in candid, frank, and powerful ways. Despite years of lo-fi singles, EPs, demos, and collaborative work, Sheri had not yet released a full-length album. With the help of some friends (including Lung’s Kate Wakefield, who Proglodytes interviewed in 2018), Sheri will be releasing their debut album, That Shadow Too Am I, later this year.

That Shadow Too Am I is a powerful, evocative exploration of human interactions. Their introspective album explore themes such as misogyny, isolation, identity, grief and the challenges of modern life. As a Proglodytes exclusive, we are releasing one of Sheri’s brand new recordings, “Love In the Time of Hate”, a stark reflection on hate-fueled rhetoric and violence. I had the opportunity to speak with Sheri about the themes behind this particular track with, as well as their motivations, inspiration, and goals with their evocative new album. Sheri’s debut album, That Shadow Too Am I, will be released in full on Friday, May 6, 2022.

Tell me about your musical background. How did you get started with music and writing?

My grandmother, father, and older sisters were all singers. Grandma also played piano and Dad gave me my first guitar when I was 15—his old ‘75 Yamaha. I was classically trained on flute as a kid, but I didn’t care much for it, so I took guitar lessons for a couple years, inadvertently learning how to sing and write my own music. But my first songwriting was actually an assignment for a music theory class in high school. In college, I took an interest in writing poetry and prose while I was studying philosophy and social theory. At the same time, I started playing open mics then began booking my own shows out of town.

What were some artists that you felt like inspired you early on, and maybe some artists that continue to inspire you?

I grew up listening to late ‘80s and early 90’s post-punk. I’ve always loved music, but I became obsessive in ‘91 after my grandma died, and the songwriting and politics of bands like R.E.M. and Sonic Youth were pivotal for me. Dad insisted that I play acoustic, but I didn’t know what to do with it until my guitar teacher lent me some Ani DiFranco CDs and introduced me to other folk music and country blues. I started experimenting with alternate tunings and fingerstyle playing. At the time, I resented being steered towards folk music, but the visceral, rhythmic nature and dynamic nuance of an instrument responsive to my hands rather than electronics quickly changed my mind, and I’ve always failed to bond with electric guitars.

I first heard Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison in college when I was really cutting my teeth as a performing songwriter. Up until that point, I didn’t feel like I had the right to write about myself and that others would never relate to me. But those albums taught me that you can explore universal themes about being human through highly personal or even esoteric stories, and in college I was learning how “the personal is political.”

Photo credit: Mickie Winters

Your music is evocative and deeply personal. How did your own journey of self discovery coincide with this new record?

When I first started writing, I just wanted to root out what I long felt to be a fatal flaw but couldn’t quite put my finger on. But I’ve sat with these songs and this record for so long that it helped me finally answer that question. And the album continues to take on more meaning for me each step of the way.

A silver lining from everything that’s happened the past couple years is that I feel able to finally let go and move on from some old pains. So, when I listen to the album now, it feels lighter to me than it did even a year ago—I don’t feel the emotional weight anymore that I carried around in those songs for years. I feel more intentional in my relationships and grounded in myself than ever before.

My father died the day after I announced the album would be coming out this spring, no matter what, after myriad delays kept me from releasing an album that was mostly recorded before the shutdown. The decision to move forward in the midst of a global and personal crisis—as much as making a solo album at all—has centered on a resolve to come into my own as an artist with intention and vulnerability, to love and be loved without compromising who I am, and to find purpose and meaning in life when it’s the hardest to keep going on.

Tell us about the musicians who played on your latest record, and what you feel like they added to your existing compositions.

Lead guitarist Mark Hamilton has been playing with me since the summer of 2017. With his technical skills and broad musical background, he draws out my influences and augments my songwriting like no other accompanist I’ve ever worked with before. Our drummer Zack Kennedy joined the band in the spring of 2019. Mark and Zack had been playing together in a free jazz trio, so that allowed our band to come together very quickly and easily.

In 2019, Kate Wakefield and I played a little weekend run together and she agreed to accompany me as well. We tracked three of the songs we felt worked best from that set for this album. Jake Hellman is another friend whom I’ve collaborated with before. We co-wrote a fun country song for a comp and I was a guest singer with his band Prayer Line for several shows and we released a PJ Harvey cover together. I was happy that producer Dave Chale played on the album as well.

This album is a collection of older, unreleased tracks. How did you choose which songs would make the cut for the album? As an artist who worked a lot in various DIY scenes, what did you hope to retain from the original versions in these newer recordings?

A number of the tracks were actually previously released in alternate forms. Although I listen back fondly to my old recordings, this album was how I always wanted to present these songs. The tracks on the record felt the most interconnected thematically and relevant to my life at that time.

I asked the producer to play organ on “Inside Her” as a nod to my collaboration with Zack Kouns on the “Richer for the Grief” EP. Gabriel Walker included a MIDI instrument on the original version of “Love in the Time of Hate” which I always thought sounded like scratching a drum stick along a cymbal, so I asked Zack Kennedy to do that at his very first rehearsal for our live set. I invited Jake Hellman to play bass and sing backup on “A House is Not a Home” after I decided that song was too personal to use for the country side project we had together. Kate Wakefield tracked cello and backing vocals from our favorite moments from that little weekend run she did with me a couple months before I started recording.

The track “Broken Doll” features guest vocals from the amazing Kate Wakefield from Lung. Tell us about the story behind this song, and what it was like to work with Kate!

Kate’s a pro and a pal, and I’m a fan of her solo work as well as Lung. She was just as easy to work with as my bandmates and she’s one of my favorite performers in the area. She’s also a fellow Michigander, so we clicked right away. Since she lives in Cincy and my producer Dave Chale wanted to check out John Hoffman’s studio anyway, we rented out The Lodge in northern Kentucky to record Kate. The studio is a former masonic lodge with a performance hall that sounds haunting, and Lung has also extensively recorded there.

My songwriting centers on storytelling built upon real-life imagery and metaphor. While the subject (like many others on the record) is a composite of several people, including myself, it was first inspired by someone I know parading out for friends in a baby doll dress. I wanted to explore playfulness and immaturity in these lyrics, as well as two “broken” people playing house without vulnerability and reciprocity. But the song is really about our impact on others in our relationships when we haven’t worked through our own issues, especially familial trauma.

Photo Credit: Mickie Winters

The song “Love In the Time Of Hate” is a re-recording of a previous track that you had released that dealt with rhetoric surrounding hate crimes and violence. What prompted you to write this tune? Describe some of your feelings as you brought this song to life.

I wrote this song in tears after watching videos of gatherers at the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally screaming racist and homophobic epithets at counter-protesters before a car drove into a crowd, injuring dozens and killing someone. That moment publicly brought to light a long, slow rise in hate rhetoric and violence towards marginalized communities which has only since gotten worse.

The lyrics were also influenced by being confronted with my own privilege in several past interracial and queer relationships I had in which my then-partner wanted to get married and have a family. I realized how terrifying that prospect was in our current political climate, but I knew that I could ultimately choose to walk away from the issues raised by the song while many people can’t. After 2020, I came to have mixed feelings about the track and began to wonder how much I centered myself in a story I wasn’t entitled to tell.

As you re-recorded this track, were there any differences in intention or feeling the second time around?

I was heavily involved in the production of this album and the live arrangements with my band whereas the previous version of this song was produced by a friend/neighbor and sound designer/composer who, I soon learned, doesn’t like rock music much at all. While we found some common ground in synth artists, I simply wanted to make an album that showcased me as a writer in a more revealing, authentic way than any of my previous releases have.

“The Forest” is described as “the emotional pinnacle of the album”. Can you give us some background on how this song came about?

I wrote it in a Tennessee cabin on my way back to Louisville from long travels and a difficult tour. These are the most unedited, stream-of-consciousness lyrics of the entire record and are a turning point in the chronology of the album from songs written during a long period in which I didn’t intend on performing ever again. I was quite emotional about playing shows again. It was also a point personally when I began to acknowledge myself as the only constant in my problems and started asking myself how I ended running around the country only to land in the middle of nowhere. This song was always a favorite of mine to open or close a set, and it was the first song that Mark and I ever performed together, so I chose it for the first single.

Will we be able to catch you live? Please share any upcoming shows or tour dates.

I had hoped to tour nationally in 2020 in support of this release, but I currently have no plans to play shows right now. I’m focused on writing and recording new material and giving myself space to grieve and process the past couple years. And I’ve been thinking a lot about what it would take for me to feel comfortable playing out again, but I still don’t have a good answer yet. All that said, I really haven’t wanted to play shows anyway since my last one in 2019. I hope to tour the record one day, probably along with a second one—circumstances notwithstanding.

Finally, how can we best support you as an artist as you prepare for this release? What is your preferred way for people to acquire your new album (bandcamp, website/direct, etc.)?

I want to make the record accessible to everyone through streaming, but pre-ordering and downloading the album helps keep an independent releases such as this sustainable:

Thanks, Sheri, for talking to us about your new record! Please support Sheri by preordering their amazing new record on their Bandcamp, and following them on the various socials (Check out their Linktree here).

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