Kristen Ellis-Henderson is a founding member, guitarist, and songwriter for the alt-country rock band ANTIGONE RISING. The all-female band, known for its catchy songwriting, top-notch musicianship, and relentless touring, has shared the stage with Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthews Band, Rob Thomas, and Joan Jett. For years, the band has been a favorite here in the Cadigan household, where we are currently rocking out to their latest single, "That Was the Whiskey."
Kristen's creativity doesn't stop with her music. She is also the author of TIMES TWO: TWO WOMEN IN LOVE AND THE HAPPY FAMILY THEY MADE, a memoir she wrote with her wife, Sarah Kate Ellis-Henderson, to chronicle their journey when they each got pregnant at the same time and gave birth to their son and daughter.
A songwriter, musician, band member, author, parent, soccer coach -- Kristen is one busy rock star and I am so happy we were able to catch up today with this fun Q&A about the creative life.
I always thought I was a musician, even before I probably was. My sister and I were always in a band, even if we were the only ones in it, from the time I was two years old!
Who or what inspired you as a child … as a teenager?
As a really young kid, I loved listening to Casey Kasem's "Top 40 Countdown." I would have my cassette deck at the ready to bootleg record Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud" or Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" or Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing." By the time I was a teenager, it was all about Pat Benatar and Van Halen.
What creative work most recently inspired you?
An Australian singer/songwriter who goes by "Passenger" is my latest inspiration. He's who I listen to while I re-paint my house.
The most underrated creative (writer, musician, artist) is …
I guess I can't say "Antigone Rising" ... (Robb's note: so I'll say it for you, Kristen!)
What was the best creative advice you ever received?
Grammy-winning songwriter Julie Gold ("From a Distance") taught me her mantra: "They're Wrong." And that was the best advice I ever received. Of course, when we got our record deal, I put that mantra on hold for a little while.
The last concert I saw was ...
Pat Benatar, about two weeks ago!
The next book on my reading pile is …
Dr. Seuss's OH, THE PLACES YOU'LL GO... tonight at bedtime.
The album I must have on a desert island …
The Beatles ABBEY ROAD
Does The Great American Novel exist (yet)? If so, what is it?
I don't think I'm qualified to answer this question--and the answer is probably fairly subjective. I love CATCHER IN THE RYE, but honestly, the most influential books in my life were probably all of Beverly Cleary's RAMONA books.
What creative work might we be surprised to find on your bookshelf, iPod, or TiVo?
I love anything written by Maeve Binchy. My good friend Gretchen was her publicist for a while. It always cracked her up to picture me backstage reading TARA ROAD or EVENING CLASS while we were out on tour with The Allman Brothers and The Rolling Stones. She said that was the furthest demographic they expected to reach!
The book I really should have read by now is …
Facebook and Twitter: friend or foe to a creative?
In addition to writing and performing, how do you express your creativity?
I play and coach soccer. My choice of socks may be a form of expression, as are the drills I come up with for the four year olds. We've found soccer and Hula-Hoops are natural mates.
The song I sing most often with my kids is ...
My kids and I write rock operas all day long. We "sing-speak" to each other. So, depending on whatever we're talking about on a particular day, that's our song. We also love The Beatles, Elton John, and ANNIE.
The most difficult thing about the life of a creative is …
I think part of being creative is working around the difficult.
If I could go back in time to our very first concert, I would tell the band ...
Thanks for stopping by today, Kristen -- always great to get a peek behind-the-scenes of creative lives. (And for the record: no, I did not get the title of my debut novel PHOENIXVILLE RISING from the band's name. Although I was often listening to their music while I wrote. So, maybe ...)