Kristin Hersh - Biography
In many ways, the solo career of Kristin Hersh functions as a second act foil to her better known first act doppelganger of frontwoman for American alt-rock pioneers The Throwing Muses. Where the Muses sound was largely hard, thick, schizophrenic alt-pop, the majority of Hersh’s solo work has been dominated by contemplative, lushly melancholic, and mostly acoustic fair. Although her blatantly honest lyrics remain intact for both, there is a more urgent sense of intimacy within Hersh’s solo efforts, as if one just happened to open up her dairy and it quickly became an addictive and fascinating read.
Born in Newport, Rhode Island on August 8, 1966, Hersh learned to play guitar at age nine and was writing songs by age fourteen. She formed The Throwing Muses with her step sister, Tanya Donnelly, while in high school. It was around this time that Hersh’s began to experience symptoms of bi-polar disorder, ironically brought on by her gift for songwriting. The dramatic time signature and tempo shifts, along with the surreal lyrical content of many early Throwing Muses tracks are often attributed to Hersh’s struggle with mental illness. Although she eventually gained control of her mind through the psychoactive drug Lithium, Hersh’s battles with bi-polar disorder would rage throughout most of her tenure with the band. The Muses took a short hiatus in 1993 while Hersh recorded her haunting acoustic solo debut, Hips and Makers (1994 Reprise), which spawned the unlikely hit single, “Your Ghost,” a duet with R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe. After the Throwing Muses ran out of creative juice in 1996, Hersh returned to her solo career in earnest, releasing another set of stark stripped down acoustic alt-folk called Strange Angels (1998 Rykodisc).
Around this time Hersh became embroiled in a custody battle for her eldest son, Dylan, with her former husband who cited her bi-polar disorder and rock n’roll touring lifestyle as unhealthy for the child. Unfortunately, the court agreed and Hersh lost custody. Although she spent the next several years in various legal/custody battles, Hersh continued to release a series of critically praised albums, like the plugged in fusion pop of Sky Motel (1999 4AD), the tender folk ballads of Sunny Border Blue (2001 4AD), and the darkly spectral The Grotto (2003 4AD), which featured contribution from fellow indie folk wunderkind Andrew Bird.
In typical Kristin Hersh fashion, she opened a third chapter of her career during this time with the screaming math rock outfit 50 Foot Wave, which served as yet another artistic foil to her softer more subtle solo material. Four years on, Hersh returned to her alt-rock roots with her most critically praised solo effort yet, Learn to Sing Like A Star (2007 Yep Roc), stopping by Amoeba Hollywood for a promotional acoustic in-store set on February 17, 2007. Hersh is currently running her own label, Throwing Music, with her husband/manager. The eighth Kristin Hersh solo effort, tentatively titled Crooked, is slated for a 2010 release.