Even when Terri Hendrix writes songs about the darker aspects of love, the Texas-based singer-songwriter usually finds resilience, healing and joy in the process. "If you want to see a scary movie, just look inside my head," she sings during her tune, "Slow Down," before she decides to drive out to the desert to breathe some fresh air.
Although she doesn't ignore the trials of life—"Some things you don't get over, you just get through," she sings in another song —Hendrix says she tries to accentuate the positive.
"If I write a song that doesn't do that, I have a hard time (playing) it live. I know too many people who walk through fire and come out the other side—serious breast cancer and other trying circumstances—to not focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like part of my style is that I hope my music brings a little relief and lightness to the listeners."
Hendrix, who has made several appearances in Tucson, including a 2006 performance at the Tucson Folk Festival, will return to the Old Pueblo on Saturday for a concert at the Boondocks Lounge. Part of the Rhythm & Roots series, the show will feature Hendrix and longtime collaborator Lloyd Maines.
Hendrix spoke via phone during a recent break from the studio, where she is in the process of recording two albums at once. "One is a straightforward singer-songwriter album, and the other is more oriented toward acoustic blues," she said.
In terms of musical style, Hendrix is a restless spirit. She plays folk, country, rock, pop, blues, bluegrass and jazz, and often mixes up several genres on the same album. She's even made a children's album. But she wants these two impending releases to be more focused.
"Especially the acoustic blues one. I really want every song, from the opening note to the very end of the album, to honor the blues."
She expects both to be released on her independent label, Wilory Records, by the end of this year, although whether she issues them simultaneously or separately has yet to be determined.
That's OK, though, because as an independent artist, Hendrix is musician, songwriter, manager, publisher, marketer and label chief rolled into one. She has released more than a dozen recordings, including "bootlegs" available only on her website. The do-it-yourself method may be the latest thing for younger artists struggling with a rapidly evolving music industry, but Hendrix has been running her career by herself all along.
"I started in 1996 with Two Dollar Shoes and never looked back. It's very interesting right now, though, considering that people aren't sure which format they want their music in—with CDs and downloads and streaming. Who knows where we'll go next? Pretty soon, the major labels may be a thing of the past.
"And at shows I've played recently, people have asked me, 'Are you on Spotify?' or wherever. Everything's changing so fast now. All I can say is thank goodness I own my publishing and masters. That's essential to being able to control your music and how it gets out there."
In addition to being the captain of her music ship, Hendrix also is an author.
Her excellent book Cry Till You Laugh: The Part That Ain't Art was published as a companion piece to her last album, Cry Till You Laugh, in 2010. Full of lyrics, photos and essays linked to that album, the book also serves as a detailed how-to guide for making your way as an independent musician in the music business.
Her book includes sections on recording, booking, music publishing, legal matters, electronic media, manufacturing and distribution and other subjects of interest to the budding indie artist. It helps that Hendrix's writing style is natural, clear, fluid and charming. She says writing the book wasn't easy, though.
"It takes me a long time to write. Sometimes it's so hard, it's traumatic for me. As a matter of fact, that book came out in 2010, but some of those essays were written as long ago as 1996. And then some of them were written in 2010."
She writes regularly, nonetheless, having long maintained a blog called GoatNotes on her website. "That's still going, but I haven't put anything up there for a while. Lately, I have tried to write essays through my monthly email list."
Hendrix is writing another book, by the way, about her experiences with epilepsy, with which she was diagnosed in 1989. The disease has sidelined her career more than once—she had to cancel a Tucson concert because of it a few years back—but it's under control now, thanks to medication and careful attention to health and lifestyle.
"I've been working on that book since 2003. A lot of it has to do with drug interactions and medications and neurology. And a large part of it is about just facing it, the ways in which you have to deal with life when you have epilepsy. I've kept really good notes. And I hope some of the things I've learned might help others."
Hendrix's motto has long been "Own your own universe," which comes from her song "Wallet," and she is in the process of creating and raising funds for a nonprofit arts center with the same name.
"It's a dream of mine, and it is going to happen. It'll be here in Hays County, probably about 10 acres or so. I've always wanted to have music and art available for all. That's something I feel is really important. I was thinking about gun violence lately, and I wonder how many of those kids who have done violent acts around the country, that if someone put an instrument in their hand, maybe there wouldn't be so much darkness out there."