Sometimes when you hear something so special, so incredibly moving, you have to tell the world about it. I am fortunate enough to know one-third of the musical trio hONEyhoUSe, Hillary Smith. We sat down to talk about her newest musical endeavor and new CD Medicine Lodge with two other women, Mandy Buchanan and Yvonne Perea. All three women live in different states; all three have the most beautiful voices; all three are simply amazing human beings.
1.Tell me about the birth of hONEyhoUSe.
Three years ago this August was the first time we ever performed together. I was with Soul Kitchen, it was my first time playing in Red River at The Lodge. Yvonne and Mandy had met in Red River prior and they’d been doing a duo. They came to our sound check and we just all kind of fell in love.
In August I was coming back from playing at Trinidaddio with Soul Kitchen and Steve Hegland the owner of The Lodge, invited us to play together and then one thing led to another.
2. What is it about your three voices that is just so special?
I think it’s because we come from all different schools. Mandy has more of a traditional country, laid-back rock background, and boy, the girl can wail! Yvonne is the veteran songwriter and she’s more like “coffeehouse/indy with an edge.” I come from a church background and then have the whole R & B thing.
There is really no reason it should work, but it just does. I’ve worked in the past with different women over the years and you just work, work, work to get that sound, those overtones, and sometimes you can really create it and sometimes it just happens. This is something that’s so magical and so easy. You want people to think that it’s hard, but honestly it’s just really easy.
3. Tell me a little about your writing process.
We get together just a handful of times a year to perform and we niche out some time, a day or an afternoon to just write and that’s how it happens. That’s how we write.
Mandy will usually do beautiful lyrics with a melody. Yvonne usually will have a rhythm and then part of a hook. I will have miles and miles of lyrics that might not make any sense, but we just put it all together. We come together and sometimes it just magically all falls into place. We don’t really have a set pattern. Just kind of happens when it happens.
Working with women has given all three of us the freedom to talk about all the girl stuff we want to discuss - a partner, a husband, a child, a friend that has passed on, love, heartbreak, sex, frustration. It doesn’t feel any way embarrassing. Song writing is very intimate. We’re such goofballs that we just make fun of each other when something is really terrible. You don’t know it’s terrible until you hear it in three part harmony, then it’s terrible times three!
4. What is Medicine Lodge all about?
There’s a big reference to trains and to the word Kansas throughout the whole album - the first song, the cover, the photos.
Last December I met a young woman by the name of Candace, but her nickname was Kansas. She was from Medicine Lodge, Kansas. She was a very good friend of Yvonne and we met in Amarillo when we were playing there. She was just this light of a child, just 23 years old, beautiful and really coming into her own. She was killed one night in a head on with a semi. It’s one of those things, you just felt the light go out somewhere. It was tangible, the loss.
We had talked about deaths of two friends in our prior CD Sun and we decided we wanted to celebrate her life in this one. There have been subtle signs that she’s always close. If you listen carefully to the song “Kansas”, during the first guitar part, you can hear a train whistle.
We were getting ready to record that song at the studio of John Wall. John doesn’t start recording in his studio until around 7 or 8 in the evening so you’re often there until 2 or 3 in the morning. Out in his studio in the South Valley you often hear a lot of low flying aircraft, but I’ve never heard a train. Evidently there are train tracks out there, but I’ve just never heard a train.
Kansas was fascinated with trains. We were getting ready to do a group vocal for the first time of the song “Kansas.” We put on our headphones and we hear a train whistle. We all throw off our headphones and said, “John did you hear that?!” He said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” We told him to play it back and it was was there, the train whistle, it was recorded. Then there was a flash of light in the studio. It validated everything that we had been writing about her, that she’s real close.
The entire CD is full of beautifully written songs. The voices are so perfectly blended and intertwined, you’d think they’d been singing together for many, many years. The best way to hear these voices is live. Hillary, Mandy and Yvonne will be performing at the Harwood Art Center this Thursday @ 7:00pm. They will have Savannah Thomas on djembe and Maude Beehouwer on bass sitting in with them. Seating is limited, so get there early!
If you can’t make it to the show at the Harwood, you can catch them at the Outpost Performance Space on March 23 @ 7:30pm.
They will also be on KUNM Wednesday at around 3:30 with DJ Carol Boss. You can purchase the CD at their shows or on cdbaby, iTunes or the old fashioned way, at locally owned Bookworks.
Treat yourself to a wonderful night of music and let these women lift you up! (Click on the banner photo to hear a song from their last CD!)