1:1 - Erin Notarthomas

Posted on: October 9, 2014

Interviewed by Dot Dannenberg
Today on 1:1, Dot Dannenberg chats with Erin Notarthomas, the multitalented photographer behind “Brothers” and “Hands.” In addition to photography, Erin performs as Wrenn, her musical alter-ego. Her first album, “HI,” comes out this November.

1:1000: What's your favorite photo you've ever taken?

ERIN NOTARTHOMAS: Oh man… I am always the worst when it comes to picking favorites. I feel like my favorite photograph that I have ever taken is constantly changing. I don't even have a favorite color. I suppose it is a toss up between three of my more current photographs: the portrait of Chris & Ella Pitzgerald in their kitchen, the portrait of my friend Jordana with a large piece of fabric wrapped around her head, or the picture of my sister Maddie under a glossy shroud with the wind blowing and two tiny clouds in a dark sky serving as the background. When I think of all the pictures I have ever taken (which is probably up in the thousands), these three stand out the most to me.

1:1000: Your photography, to me, seems to capture these sometimes ghostly, small moments of stillness: sheets in a heap, a dog perched at the top of a staircase. In contrast, the music I've heard of yours feels a lot faster--quicker. You've got beatboxing in there! Do you think you have two different artistic personas with your photos and music? Or is there a connection?

EN: I don't feel like I have two different artistic personas… but then again, maybe I do. Who knows. All I know is that everything I make is a part of me and a part of how I am feeling. If you took bits of my photography and bits of my songs and put them together, it would become pretty easy to figure out the type of person I am and the things I am constantly thinking about. There are so many layers to a person. Each work of art, each song… they just reveal another one of the many layers that make me who I am.

1:1000: Know thyself, they say. How, exactly, does one get into beatboxing, by the way?

EN: Not too long ago I was in an a cappella group called Noteworthy. There were the "go to" girls that did the beat boxing for most of the songs, so I never really bothered giving it a shot until we had this gig around Christmas time. Both of our beat boxers were not able to make the gig, so we were just going to do it without the VP (vocal percussion). Beatboxing didn't seem like a difficult thing to me, so I just decided to do it during one of our songs at this Christmas gig. Turns out I was pretty good at it. And that was that.

1:1000: What's your favorite song you've written, and what's it about?

EN: Haha, another favorite question. This is constantly changing as well. But today I am very fond of my song "Sunrise". It's about a suicide note sung by the person who has written said note and who has already committed suicide. I wanted to write a song that could maybe explain the reasoning behind suicide in a beautiful way. It seems morbid, but when I listen back to this song I don't feel like it is depressing or scary. It has something sad, yet beautiful in it. After the death of Robin Williams and of a family friend's brother, this song means even more to me today than it did when I was writing it. I wanted the words to bring some sort of comfort to anyone who has suffered from this kind of loss. Suicide is a difficult thing to swallow.

1:1000: It really is--and it’s great that you don’t shy away from the tough stuff. I think we need more of that and fewer albums full of breakup songs (sorry, T. Swift). But from the tracks of yours I’ve heard, your work is anything but conventional. Especially in songs like "Wild Card," I'm reminded of Ani Difranco on her Educated Guess album--who would you claim as your musical influences?

EN: The only person that I am consciously aware of being influenced by is Paul McCartney. I am sure that there are hundreds of artists that have subconsciously inspired me or crept into my songs… it's inevitable. We are influenced by everything around us every day. But I try my best not to focus on being like anyone else. I just want to be me.

1:1000: You mentioned in a conversation with Pastel that your songwriting process is pretty organic and "sometimes a song just happens and you go with it"--how does that compare with your artistic process for photography?

EN: It's pretty much the same… any time I have ever tried to plan out a picture, it doesn't turn out the way I wanted it to. My best photographs are the ones that just happened. The lighting and the subject and the moment just come together perfectly, and it happens. Inspiration hits you out of the blue, and you just have to follow your instincts and go with it.

1:1000: At 1:1000, we're obviously very interested in collaboration--what's it been like collaborating with your boyfriend Chris Padgett on your album?

EN: Chris and I have had some struggles trying to work together, but there is absolutely no way I would be doing what I am doing now without him. Chris and I play two different styles of music and have different ways of working on music. This has caused us to bump heads now and then. But when it works, it is extremely rewarding. Chris is one of the most talented guitarists I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I am so blessed to have his experiences to help guide me through this process. We haven't written any songs together yet, but I am hopeful that one day we will be able to. I am pretty shy with my writing process. I usually go into hiding until I have a song. I play it for him. He tries out some stuff on guitar, and I tell him which riffs I like and which ones I don't, and that's how we work currently.

1:1000: You turned to Kickstarter to fund your first album, HI--what was that experience like?

EN: To be honest, the idea of it really made me uncomfortable at first, but it ended up being great. I just finished school… there was no way I was going to make enough money to get an album out at the rate I wanted to do it on my own. So my good friend suggested Kickstarter (something I had never heard of before). I was shocked when we reached the 5,000 dollar goal… I was even more shocked when we went 3,000 dollars over that goal with a few donations outside of the Kickstarter website. The best part about it was that people weren't just donating to my project, but they were also reaching out to me. My Facebook inbox exploded with encouraging messages from close friends as well as from people I hadn't spoken to in years. Kickstarter was and still is a humbling experience. These people didn't have to give me money, but they chose to support my dream. I will never be able to thank them enough.

1:1000: What has the recording process been like so far?

EN: This is my first time in a real studio. It almost feels like I am on a movie set or something. All the buttons and knobs and colored lights and instruments… it's a dream. I am soaking up all that I can from this experience. Recording is so much fun, but it's also a full time job. We go into the studio around 9:30 in the morning. Sometimes we take a 30 minute break to grab food, and we usually don't get home till past midnight. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I love working this hard. Every now and then, we have a couple of bad hours where it feels like nothing is getting accomplished and we keep doing the same take over and over again. But then there are days where we can cross so much off the list. The album has violins, cello, piano, trombone, trumpets, drums, guitar, etc… so just getting the instrumental tracks laid down has been a huge task. Now we are at a point where the only thing left to do is lay down the master vocals. I couldn't have asked for a better first-time experience. I love the people I am working with. I love the atmosphere. I love everything about it. I really am living a dream right now.

1:1000: Well, I for one couldn’t be more excited to hear what this dream produces. To close us out, give us a little dream-life philosophy. What mantras are you living by lately?

EN: Be limitless.

Wrenn’s album “HI” comes out November 7. Hear more songs and follow all the latest on her website. To see more of her photographs, view her portfolio here.

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