Oh my goodness, it's another edition of Three Music Thingz, where I ask musicians for three thingz that are essential to their music making.
Today we've got Hero Magnus, a singer-songwriter from DC who's been living in New Orleans as of late. She just put out a single called "Therapy Song," which is brimming with cheerful heartache, and reminds me a bit of the Kate Nash / Lily Allen indie-pop lyrical-realness moment, but with some Indigo Girls-y rootsiness thrown in. "You’re the ship and I’m the harbor / So I won’t speak around your father / Living’s only getting harder / I don’t think this year is our year," Hero sings over an arrangement that increases in twanginess over time. Her vocals are occasionally double-tracked, which enhanced the peppy mood, even in the face of inevitable relationship doom. Sometimes u gotta smile thru the pain baby!!
Hero shared some pretty sick thingz, so without further ado...let's take a look...
- Inner-eye-corner glitter
I like to wear glitter on my cheeks and/or highlighter on the inner corners of my eyes, although I’m pretty sure the last time this was trendy was right around 2016. There are two parts of this process that are essential to my music. First, the ritual: glitter application is part of the transformation from regular Hero to performance Hero. Even if I’m already wearing glitter from earlier in the day, I’ll put more on in the venue bathroom right before I perform, which is why if you see me playing a show, I’ll be very very shiny. It isn’t the glitter itself, but the process of putting it on. Secondly, whatever physical item I apply to my body in anticipation of a performance has to remind me that I am both myself and also not-myself. For me, songwriting starts with authenticity — noticing the world, channeling your experience — and performing starts with artifice — building worlds, inhabiting others. The two eventually commingle; both elements are important. Basically, the glitter is a metaphor. Or maybe it just looks cute. Who knows!
- The love of a good woman
Famously true: painters have muses. I have my friend Reilly, who clomped around hallways with me in 2020 while we tried out different rhymes for “Therapy Song” (and eventually settled on “you’re the ship / I’m the harbor”) for which I am forever in her debt. But the love of a good woman can take many forms. Other variations include glamorous writers who buy you drinks and introduce you to more art friends; mothers; and being in love with someone who will entertain frantic late-night cover art texts. If you are lacking the love of a good woman and wonder if you can still be a musician I promise you can, because the love-of-a-good-woman-being-ripped-from-your-grasp also counts. I can’t tell if this is sexist. I try to pay it forward by being the essential good woman for the other artists in my life.
- Daily prompts
I started using songwriting prompts recently. Examples: “write from the perspective of a five-year-old,” “do something on guitar that you’ve never done before,” “every word has to be 100% nonfiction.” Sometimes I solicit my friends for prompts; otherwise I get them from books and papers I’m reading or other art that I see. Instead of starting with a blank page, I start with a germ that already has some weight to it. Prompts also make me feel like I’m in fourth grade English class, which makes me think about the smell of gel pens, which is enjoyable. Anyway, it’s important that the song eventually takes on its own life, and the initial prompt becomes unrecognizable. I never want my songs to feel like an exercise. Ongoing prompt collection is an activity pretty similar to leaf-collecting. It is super fun to go about my day looking for leaves and to ask my friends to give me any nice leaves they find, and then the next morning I wake up with a box of little inspirations.