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Women's Day

A benefit concert in Ojai touts a vocal all-female lineup of songwriters.

August 25, 2000|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A solid lineup of female singer-songwriters will take center stage during a Saturday concert at Ojai's Libbey Park to benefit the Arthritis Foundation.

Event organizer Rain Perry, a singer-songwriter out of Ojai who has rheumatoid arthritis, has assembled a stellar cast of performers led by acclaimed rock musicians Victoria Williams and Sara Hickman. Local luminaries include Perry and a number of her friends, such as Perla Batalla, Patricia Cardinali, Julie Christensen and Mary Z. Wilson.

Hickman's output has reached half a dozen with the release of her most recent album, "Spiritual Appliances." This upbeat mom--who has a newborn and a 4-year-old--is also beginning to delve into children's music. She consented to a brief grilling from her Texas home.

How's the rock 'n' roll biz treating you these days?

It's good. I guess it's the same except now I'm a rock 'n' roll mom and I have two little kids. And now I'm doing children's music.

Are you a rich rock star yet?

Isn't "rock star" a state of mind? In terms of "famous," I don't think I've made it then, but in terms of having a nice following and people who are really supportive, then I've definitely made it and that makes me really happy. And hopefully I have the respect of some of my peers.

How does "Spiritual Appliances" fit in with your other five albums?

I produced the whole thing. I think I just got closer to the truth. I elevated my music a little bit and it has my fingerprints all over it. Usually, I go with a bucketful of ideas and someone else adds their own twist to it, which is always a learning experience. But this time, I just thought "I know how to do all of this." . . . It was the best experience I've had so far making a record and I'm going to continue to produce myself, because it's really a lot more loving.

Why are there so many good players from Texas?

I have this theory that Texas and Canada are the parallels of the music world because it seems to me that all the great songwriters come out of Canada, and yet a lot of great songwriters come out of Texas. I don't know why that is, but I think they're both really big places, and when you have really big places and people separated by space, they kind of build their own little universes and make their own creations--art and music--and they get really good at it. I think that's really true about both of those places--since you're isolated, you learn to entertain yourself.

Six albums is a lot. How do you account for your longevity?

I really enjoy touching people, and music is the way that I can connect with people. The older I get and the calmer I get, the more centered I get. It just seems like--I hate to go back to that word--but it gets me closer to the truth. You can almost taste it. Each album, I get closer and closer.

What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

There's a difference in the way women and men make music and some people might think that that's not the truth, but as I've gone along, I think that women are getting stronger as to doing it the way they want to do it instead of emulating what the men are doing.

I would say be true to who you are and what you want to do. People will try to bat that around and criticize it and change it, and you can take in that information and think about it, but you have to be true to what your voice wants you to say and that's really, really hard, especially in a world where everyone is becoming more and more cookie cutter. . . . It's getting harder and harder for genuine songwriters because there's not a place on the radio anymore.

Unless you look like Britney Spears.

Right. Until rococo women come back, it's going to be a tough one. So my message would be: Do it because you love it. You may be the only one that loves it, or you may have thousands and thousands who love what you make, but the point is that you're unique and there's nobody else like you. . . . [If] you can make a living and be happy and spend time with your friends and family and still do what you love, then I'd say you're successful.

How would you describe Sara Hickman music?

I've always felt closest to the lyrics of Paul Simon. I remember when I was a little kid, I used to play his records over and over because I liked his poetry and I liked how picturesque his lyrics were. I liked the fact that not everything rhymed, and to me, I guess I would say that I wanted to be a storyteller and connect with people. That's always been my vision--to bring people closer to a feeling.

I know that sounds esoteric and spiritual, but the world is really hard and people can be really cruel, and yet, there's this beauty that's not going to go away, and I don't want people to forget that. So I try to emulate that in my music.

Life can't be all bad, can it? Someone invented music.

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