It’s been just over five years since I last connected with HIRIE, one of the leading female artists in the modern American reggae scene, but with last week’s release of Mood Swing, her fourth full-length studio album, it seemed like a good time to catch up.
Born of Filipino heritage and raised in Italy and then Hawaii, HIRIE’s multicultural upbringing stemmed from her father’s career as a United Nations worker. After her father’s job prompted a move from Europe to Hawaii, HIRIE grew to develop a strong connection to island music, an influence that threads through her musical catalog, despite the evolution of her sound since her self-titled debut album in 2013.
Mood Swing, as described in her press release, takes listeners on an “emotional rollercoaster… giving listeners a deeper glimpse into who she is as an artist and human.” As an example of her openness and sincerity, HIRIE spoke about the inspiration behind the album, disclosing some personal details, “Being bi-polar, you are constantly dealing with mood swings. I wanted the album to reflect what it’s like when music shifts your mood entirely. Each song comes from a different kind of mood, and can shift you subconsciously. I want my audience to feel their shifts in the music and remember that every mood is in fact just a part of the grand swing!”
Often, people assume successful musicians have the best lives because they are “living the dream.” Enforcing that conception, artists typically share only social media content that endorses their public persona. Yet, of course, behind it all, there could be a myriad of challenges that people may be enduring in their personal lives.
Pulling back the curtain, HIRIE conceded “Being a touring musician is super hard. Yes — lots of fun, traveling and partying along the way — but at the core of it is a lot of sweat, tears and hours and hours of driving, plane rides, lonely hotel beds and empty wallets.”
Going into more detail, she revealed, “We played 90% of our shows for at least five years with no pay. It was the hardest thing we had to do, but we all agreed that HIRIE needed to invest in itself to allow us to travel 200 days out of the year, spreading our music, before anybody reaped monetary benefit. We’ve been broken down dozens of times on the side of the road with a busted engine. We’ve traveled miles through Death Valley in 100+ degree weather with a broken AC. We’ve gotten bed bugs, bronchitis, pneumonia, and so forth, and in our 9-year career, only missed 2 shows.”
Continuing, she concluded, “HIRIE is our baby that we’ve raised and have willingly sacrificed for. All those years are reflected in this album because we wouldn’t be where we are without all of the scars we’ve accumulated along the way.” As an example, she cited the closing song, “Replay,” which was a letter she had written to her band about remembering where they came from:
Remember back when we had a feeling?
We were never given something to believe in
We made a mountain out of any ceiling
We had a dream yet we never started sleeping
To achieve the diversification that she sought for Mood Swing, HIRIE solicited contributions from a number of producers led by Ricky Blaze (Santigold – ‘Disparate Youth’) and Lmr Pro, as well as vocal collaborations from Matisyahu, Kabaka Pyramid, Naomi Cowan, Spragga Benz, ANORA and Chelley. Along with her cast of collaborators and her six-piece band, HIRIE had written an astounding 60 songs before narrowing the collection down to twelve standout tracks.
“I was really excited to collaborate with numerous producers on this album because it allowed me to have multiple perspectives and choose which ones really fit the vibe we were going for.” Another advantage to this approach that she mentioned was “getting to build relationships with all of our producers, seeing the ins and outs of all their processes, and vibe/learn.”
Working with numerous people who each brought varying styles, tastes and opinions to the project could have been a huge challenge, but HIRIE said that the greatest obstacle was simply the physical distance between them at times. “Not getting to meet in person and feel the connection that you get from a physical setting,” she added, “But honestly, it was so much fun, and with today’s technology, space is just a small absence.”
When asked how she feels she has evolved as a songwriter since her last release, HIRIE posited, “Our evolution has been greatly influenced by the time we’ve spent on the road, playing in front of live audiences, having time alone (Covid) and the hunger we feel to get to that next level in our artistry and career. We’re constantly being influenced by the bands we tour with and their impact can be reflected in our ever-changing style.”
Along those lines, how does she feel her new album compares to her previous output? “I love how Mood Swingmarries all of our albums together,” she shared. “We tried to apply some of the elements from our first album – ‘Replay,’ for example, was originally produced by E.N Young, who produced my entire first record, HIRIE.”
She added that her second album, Wandering Soul, “had its ethereal and dubby moments,” which is reflected in songs like “Voices,” “Blast Soon” and Diamond,” while 2019’s Dreamer, “being the poppiest/electronic record” could be heard in songs like “Thief in The Night” and “Hello.”
“I hope there’s a song and vibe for everyone listening,” she smiled, adding that she felt excited about performing the new music on tour. “We’re currently running through our entirely new set and ‘Diamond’ is a really fun jam! Super sticky riddim. ‘Thief in the Night’ will be opening the set and the musical arrangement is so unique to what we’ve done in the past! I can’t wait to see how people feel about all the songs in person!”