An Intimate Evening with Krista Herring, Portland’s Acoustic Queen

Review by Kenneth Harris

Photo by CB Images, Courtesy of Krista Herring

We’re at the Laurelthirst Public House for an evening of acoustic grace with the talented Krista Herring. Friends and local musicians mill about in anticipation for the “Guitar Butterfly” to land on stage. Krista starts out her set with a pensive song about the nature of love called “Love Is A Mirror.” A delightful beginning to the set, her personable charm is already taking root. She instantly engages the crowd with a story of travel and friends through an introduction to her next song: “Simple Life, which was written while on the road. She began writing it in one part of the country and completed it in another. The song was finished at the home of a friend, who also happened to be at the show that evening. The genuine feeling in this song’s prelude seemed to cast a level of comfort akin to being in a living room with friends. This is part of the magnetism and enchantment of Krista’s performances. The glow in the room was warm and the song was met with open arms (and ears!) from the crowd.

Krista Herring hails from California. Self-taught on guitar from a very young age, this lady came into contact with her own desires to travel and play music abroad. Gathering much inspiration from this and exploring several musical influences such as James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Crosby Stills and Nash, this singer songwriter has been shaped into the passion-wielding weaver of stories and songs she is today. All of this is reflected very well by Krista.

Krista Herring has been part of Portland’s music scene and community for approximately ten years. We’ve come to know her as a gypsy songstress. She loves to travel, explore new areas and she even “The Songwriter’s Pilgrimage” to Nashville and lived there for several months. In fact, Krista brought back some new songs she wrote conveying some of her experiences from her time there. Her presence is always captivating. I’ve seen Krista in festival, cafe and night club settings, and it never ceases to amaze me how she commands attention. Krista somehow magically enchants a crowd. Her smile, smooth guitar and honey-laced vocals always afford an enchanting glow.

By her third song, she is joined by guitarist Chris Casarez. This is a huge surprise, as I’m used to seeing Krista solo. This smooth guitar player accompanies her very well. They play together on stage with a confident familiarity. I was surprised to hear later from Krista that they had never performed together live. Later, Krista is joined by Chuck Kwaske on hand drum as they perform a “down home” song about lovers in new towns that she wrote while living in Nashville called “Pick Your Poison.” At this point everyone is reeling in the charismatic air of this delivery. It’s no surprise she was deemed Best Female Artist at the Portland Music Awards in 2011!

Just when I think things are going really well, Krista takes it up another notch and calls up Fruition’s Mimi Naja to join her on stage! Hearing Mimi sing with Krista is astounding. The two effortlessly deliver rhythm and harmony with finesse and passion. Krista and Mimi are naturals in their own right and complement each other beautifully. This brings on a splendid response from the audience. It’s apparent that Krista has been hard at work, as her set is comprised of songs not recorded on her album, “Lay It Down.”  This is one of the major benefits of the live music scene! Krista fully utilizes this opportunity to share her new material. “Shine,” one of the new songs performed, she explains, was inspired by the movie “42.” This heartfelt song inspires and sets the crowd in an unmistakably tender mood.

The “Gypsy Folk Queen” doesn’t quit there by any means. She takes us then into a world of hope and trust with her alluring song “Are You Ready.” After dazzling us with original songs, she issues an enthralling rendition of Warren Haynes’ “Soulshine.” The show peaks yet again when Mimi returns to the stage to join Krista for her song “Whisper.” For me, this is the highlight of the evening. Seeing these two Lovely Northwest ladies harmonize and play together sets me in a mood no words could describe! The ladies exuded their vocal and musically unique abilities, merging styles with confidence and ease. This is warmly received by Saturday night’s crowd at the Laurelthirst.

After a couple more heartwarming songs from Krista, she closes her set with a couple of covers: “Danny’s Song” by Loggins & Messina and “Hey Ho” by The Lumineers. Our evening of wonderful music has been full of surprises. Afterwards, the stage is cleared for Mimi Naja to come back and do a couple of her original songs on guitar. It’s a real treat to see the “Mandolin Lady” take up guitar and sing some songs.

The night had an undeniable sense of tender elation. These sounds issued were musically warm and satisfying. I must say that never had I felt so cozy at the Laurelthirst! It was the perfect way to warm up after a chilly, rainy Portland day. Amanda Richards added her own artistic creativity to the evening and played a set of music as well. The Laurelthirst was again the host to Portland’s musical treasures! This was a sultry Saturday evening serenade. It reminded me of how lucky we are to have such amazing talent in our backyards. You never know what sort of surprises you’ll get in this town, as we are very fortunate to be amongst so much musical creativity. Many musicians here are very community minded and are very supportive of each other. Beyond that, they seem to gather a real satisfaction from merging their styles and sharing their experiences in the live setting! This evening was a perfect example of said talent. We’re lucky! It’s an awesome time to be a Portlandian! If you love acoustic music, all you really have to do is pick a local event and go. It may end up being a performance including collaborations from some of our finest musicians right here in Portland! I’m so glad we were present.

At the show, I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to sit with the lovely songstress Krista Herring and ask her some questions. Here’s how it went.

INTERVIEW

PM: Thanks so much for doing this. I really appreciate your time. Let’s start with when you first came out to Portland.

KH: Originally I moved up to Ashland for a couple of years from southern California, and then to Portland in 2005. I was drawn to Portland after living in Ashland and southern California as I was looking for a place that was sort of a balance between the two; between the small town and the city. Ashland was a little too small for me. I couldn’t quite bust out there and grow, so I came to Portland.

PM: I know you’ve been playing guitar since you were very young. 16 is it?

KH: Yeah that’s right. For my 16th Birthday my mom got me a little 90-dollar Yamaha from the pawn shop to start me out and I attempted to teach myself from one of those classical books but didn’t find it very interesting. Eventually, a few months later, I got into a group lesson class with one of my best friends, and we started learning some chords and “Blowin’ In The Wind” and stuff like that. We’d sit on the curb in Orange County and practice our little hippie songs and then go see No Doubt play at the Warehouse back before No Doubt was big! So we’d go see ska. I’ve always been a little bit of a paradox. Sort of a mix between earthy and well, you know, city. (Laughs)

PM: That’s Awesome!

KH: (Breaks out into song: “I’m a little bit country; I’m a little bit rock n roll…”)

PM: What was it like transitioning up here? Getting gigs and meeting people; how was that for you?

KH: Portland is where I officially launched my career. When I started tapping into the scene in 2005, Keegan Smith was the first local artist I started getting together and jamming with. I started opening for him at shows. So yeah; I started playing back in the day when the Green Room was still in existence in Northwest Portland. The Bitter End was still around in those days — and even indoor smoking. Things started to get really consistent for me in 2009 when I went into the studio and released my album “Lay It Down”. At that point I started to play much more often locally and began to really immerse myself musically in many scenes. Portland has many different musical scenes. I love Portland’s diversity in musicians and I’ve really enjoyed meeting several of them. Although I may not fit into one of those particular genres or scenes, I take a part of each one with me. I explored as many of the musical scenes I could find before feeling like I hit a ceiling here. I felt that in order for me to progress and move forward, I needed to move on. This had all become clear to me around November 2011. I sold everything and moved to Nashville at the beginning of 2012. I had no idea this would happen but I received a ton of support. It was the right thing. I had no idea how long I’d be out there. I was open. I knew there was something out there for me. I went to Nashville to become a better at my craft as a singer/songwriter and to learn more about the business. I spent about a year there. You know, up here in Portland, we have this cool little hipster town and very community oriented folks but what does it look like for the rest of the world? What are people in the business looking for and what do they know that we don’t know? That was my main reason for going to Nashville. I love being musically involved more than words could ever say. It’s so much a part of me that I can’t not do it. I could be poor and working at a coffee shop for the rest of my life but I have to play music. You see, there’s this understanding that when you make music, it’s no longer yours after you make it. It’s for the audience. It’s an act of service. Yes, it’s art and very healing for me, also. Still, I wanted to challenge myself to become a better songwriter to make more of an impact. How do I really give people what they need? How do I strike a balance between my medicine and their medicine?

PM: Wow, that’s really amazing! Would you talk a little about some of what inspires you to write?

KH: For me, songwriting is twofold. It’s a way for me to process experiences in my life and also a way for me to give back. So in essence, writing a song is a way for me to turn our messy human experiences into art. So it’s always my hope that what was a gift to me in writing the song is also a gift to the listener. My songwriting has taken a sort of natural evolution. The thread you will hear throughout is trying to find beauty in the dark. Nonetheless, I’m on a very positive, fast track these days, so you’ll be hearing a lot more of that coming out in the new material.

PM: Many of your fans, myself included, know that you have many wonderful songs both on and off of “Lay It Down.” I think it’s neat that only your true fans who attend shows regularly know about your new material. (Krista blushes a bit, giggles and says, “It’s true.”) At the same time, is there anything new on the production front?

KH: Funny you should ask. Just so happens, not only did I sign with a brand new management team but I also signed a contract with new producer/band member Ryan Yerdon. He’s been a drummer for many major bands. He also has been very instrumental in my life. I would say if what we’re doing now goes anywhere, it’s because of him. I consider his contributions invaluable. So we’ve been in the studio, rehearsing very often. We’re preparing to record a new EP, which we’re hoping to launch in the next few months. We’ll be launching a Kickstarter in support of that new EP in the very near future, so be on the lookout! (ED. NOTE: Krista Herring’s Kickstarter campaign is currently in full swing! If you’re a fan, help her release some of her newest music.) This is going to be unlike anything you’ve ever heard from me. The musicianship and professionalism that will be on this recording will be very good.

PM: That’s very exciting! You’re such an inspirational musician. We’re really grateful that you took some time with us here at Portland Metronome.

KH: Thank You. Yaaaayyyyyy!

SETLIST

Love Is A Mirror

Simple Life

Before Your Time

Pick Your Poison

*One Foot In

*Rails To Ride

Shine

Are You Ready

Soulshine- Warren Haynes

*Whisper

Good News

If Ya Don’t Mind

Danny’s Song- Loggins & Messina

Hey Ho- Lumineres

 

* With Mimi Naja

 

Author: Kara

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