August 19 marks the one year anniversary of Wandering Soul, the sophomore release from southern California (by way of Hawaii) roots reggae band HIRIE. The record was the second album released by Rootfire Cooperative. The first of its kind, Rootfire Cooperative provides interest-free micro loans and label services to artists to help them produce and promote their music. As a not for profit entity, the Cooperative exists solely for the purpose of supporting artists and raising awareness of the progressive roots genre.
At its apex, Wandering Soul reached the top of the Billboard and iTunes reggae charts. Overall, it has remained in the top 100 for nearly a year, thanks largely to HIRIE’s unrelenting touring, most recently on Rebelution‘s Good Vibes Summer Tour, along with Nahko and Medicine for the People, and Collie Buddz. Life on the road is a grind, but HIRIE has the company of her husband and daughter to help keep her spirits up. To help Rootfire commemorate a year’s passing since her highly successful album dropped, she called in from her bus during a long drive between gigs.
Rootfire: How did Rootfire Cooperative affect your career? Where do you think you’d be without your relationship to the Cooperative? For readers who may not be familiar with the business side of reggae music, could you elaborate a little bit about how this model helps to support artists?
HIRIE: For one, it’s just unheard of for something like Rootfire Cooperative that’s willing to extend micro loans to artists and do it interest-free. Right off the bat, when Rootfire came together with my management and they had the talk, and my manager related the information to me, I was just kind of like “What’s the catch?” Basically, what we needed help with the most was completing our album. Financially, we kind of hit a wall and needed some help pulling through. So, without Rootfire being there and extending this micro loan, which essentially allowed my album to be released in the timely fashion that it did, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.
And of course, having worked closely with Seth Herman (Rootfire founder) it was like having another cog in the machine. He’s really personable and kind, and he’s a visionary. He’s always been so nice to me, even before, right around the time our first album launched and way before I was even thinking about my second one, I had already met this guy and had heard so many great things about him and Rootfire. So, the Rootfire Cooperative definitely held my hand and helped me release the album, and also kind of helped me piece together the hole I had to fill — you know, publicity and how to get my album out there to a wider audience than I had initially. So that was really cool.
RF: What do you think you would have done without the Cooperative? Would you have sought a traditional loan through a bank?
H: I don’t even know if it would have been possible. I mean, I still don’t qualify for loans at this stage. The business is in my name and it’s my credit and all this and I’m learning as I go, but no, I have no idea what I would’ve done. I don’t think I would’ve been able to finish the album. They ended up kind of loaning more than I think they bargained for, but we were able to pay it back really fast because we had such a great team and we were able to really expose the album to a greater audience than what we did at the start.
RF: I heard you have your family on tour with you this summer.
H: Yep, got my daughter sitting next to me right now, putting on some lip gloss. (Laughs.) And my husband is next to me, he’s my tour manager, and my daughter’s security, part time.
RF: Has she been on the road with you the whole time? How did that coincide with school? Is she off for the summer?
H: We homeschool her, so basically, we all just rotate around each other’s schedule. My husband and I both teach her. She’s on the tour full time, since, I think, she turned four. Four and a half maybe, we started bringing her on the road. So, she’s been pulling a lot of shows. I want to say she has like 200 shows under her belt at the age of six.
RF: That’s awesome. It’s nice as a mother to have the peace of mind that you can pursue your dreams without neglecting your motherly responsibilities.
H: Absolutely. That was the issue in the beginning. When I started HIRIE, she was two, and I missed a lot of things. I missed her putting her first sentences together. It was so hard in the beginning because we went like two years without bringing her on the road, so we were gone. I mean we were playing something like 175 shows a year. So we really missed a lot, and that was difficult for me. On Wandering Soul, a lot of the songs I wrote for her. And being away from her was really hard. So, now that we get to bring her on the road, I can’t really see it any other way. Even though I think if she had the opportunity to stay back, she might want to (laughs) every now and then.
RF: Maybe have a little bit more normal of a childhood where you can go outside and play with friends in the neighborhood and things like that?
H: Maybe, I mean she gets to do all of that. For example, this summer tour with Rebelution has been an amphitheater tour, so it’s been outdoors, and she gets a lot of running around. Probably even more than if we were home, you know, just in the house watching tv or something. More so, I think, in the sense of being with grandparents and being spoiled by her grandparents. Every now and then we will fly her out to Hawaii and she’ll spend a couple of weeks with them. I think every kid kind of dreams of going off with grandma and grandpa. She spends a lot of time with us – we’re never apart – my husband, my daughter and I.
RF: So how has this summer tour with Rebelution been going? Are there any highs or lows of the tour that you might like to recount?
H: Sure! Highs are — I mean, I’m in a reggae band, so…. (laughs) No, definitely the highs have been being in front of really massive crowds. Bigger crowds than I think we’ve ever been. This is the biggest tour we’ve ever done. Another high is being on the road with three other bands and being in direct support of all of them. It was really cool to already have this family dynamic with each of the bands — you know, Collie Buddz, and Nahko and Medicine for the People, and Rebelution. We’d just done a winter tour with Reb — just us and them — so that was really nice. So, we went into this really close. We went into Portland, and we went hiking with Nahko and their camp. And Eric (Rachmany) is like best friends with my daughter and they’re always playing Uno. She’ll just disappear and she’ll be in their bus playing games like Mancala or War or something. So, it’s just the whole family aspect really kicked this one into gear and made us feel really special.
Some of the lows, for me, have probably been just the drives. This tour has had some of the harshest drives that we’ve had to do. We’re doing like 20, 30-hour drives. Like today — (to her driver) how long is this drive? Sixteen hours. (Laughs) So we played the show at the venue last night, slept in the bus, woke up, we were already on the road at 5am. And we just keep on going and going until we finally get to the hotel. Every now and then I’m in the back of the bus and I just start to get a little claustrophobic with the shaking and the tugging of the bus, so once it’s been 20 plus hours in the vehicle you just start to get angsty and you want to be outdoors.
RF: So, what kind of ride are you in?
H: Well I just purchased this vehicle. It’s a 32 passenger International bus, so it’s kind of like a limo-y bus, like a shuttle bus, but longer. It’s really cool. It’s got a Detroit diesel in it. It’s got basically the best engine in the game, and the same body that tow trucks use, so it’s huge. We did the first half of the tour with just the regular 32 feet, but then when we got home for a ten day stretch between the summer tour, we were able to install bunks. So, we have welded bunks. So there’s, let’s see, (counts) eight? (Recounts) Seven? Seven bunks. And my husband, my daughter and I have a full-size mattress in the back. Lots of sleeping space.
RF: Do you have a hot tub in there?
H: I wish! I’m chirping that we were able to fit a full-size mattress back here. It’s really comfortable.
RF: That’s great, I love road trips. I mean, you’re doing it for a living. It’s a little different when you’re doing 20 hours at a time, so I can understand the claustrophobia, but then again, you get to see the continental U.S., so that’s pretty cool.
H: Absolutely! There’s nothing like falling asleep in one state, and then waking up in like a blizzard in another. You open your eyes and it’s like a winter wonderland right outside and it’s just like daaaang, you know? That definitely takes me back. I love being in the south, but I also love being in the east, and the west, and to have the option of doing all that in one bus, like, whoa!
RF: It certainly sounds like an improvement from what you must have started out with in the early days.
H: Yea, absolutely. It definitely is a step up for us and I’m so grateful. I mean, if we weren’t able to remain independent — actually this is probably the biggest reason why I am grateful to Rootfire — they basically provided us with a label type loan but they allowed us to remain independent. I think that is the reason why we’ve grown as far as we have, because we were able to do everything independently. We did a Kickstarter before Rootfire came into play and we were able to raise $46,000 towards the album, and then we put every penny into the musicians, the producers, the mixing, the mastering. We really went all the way there, but then we had a hiccup on one song. So when the loan came in and we were able to complete our album, and then we were able to pay them off, and be independent, and keep everything in house, that was a really, really cool thing. And I think that’s something that Seth spoke about, with this new generation of music goers and music makers. You have the option to remain independent and actually reap the fruits of your labors. We are not tied down and we’re not constantly leaking money everywhere else. So, that’s the beautiful thing about Rootfire Cooperative.
RF: So, you’re able to hold onto everything you earn, and you’re not beholden creatively to anyone, right?
H: Right, right. Correct. And that’s the beautiful outcome of how our situation went down. It’s an interest-free loan, they loved the music, and they never stuck their foot in it. The only constructive input Seth ever gave me was the order of my track list on the album and I agreed completely with what he suggested. I think we tweaked it once or twice and it was great. It was a great relationship.
RF: Do you have any new music in the works?
H: Yeah, we’re writing and recording! Actually, we recorded a couple of demos in the green room at Red Rocks. So that was awesome. (Laughs) I don’t think I’ll ever forget that. We’re writing music, and I’m kind of looking to do some songwriting for a living. I mean, that’s already what I’m doing essentially, but I’ve been looking into songwriting for other artists, and just contributing as much of myself as possible, and creating a living doing what I love to do, not just my own music. So, I’ve been kind of stepping outside my boundaries and writing some other styles of music. Definitely looking to put out an album this next year. That’s the goal, for sure.
RF: So even though you can do whatever you want with your own music, changing genres would probably confuse people. Is that part of why you’re interested in writing for other artists?
H: I could never leave reggae. Reggae is in my blood and everything that I love about music. I couldn’t see myself being in any other genre. But I definitely think reggae has marketability and crossover, and I think that’s what makes it fun and challenging. You’re not alienating your fans by writing a reggae song with a pop hook. You’re still playing reggae, and reggae is still what you love. For me, I love to experiment. I remember when I was thinking about really doing music as a living, I wanted to write trance music. (Laughs.) I love music in general, so it’s fun to experiment. And like you said, it’s fun to leave things as is within your own group, but then to be able to experiment, and jump into other shoes for the day and not worry about any criticism, or anything like that — getting to be someone else, and write something that is also within your capability.
RF: So, you’re interested in writing trance?
H: I used to go to this one Guitar Center all the time in San Marcos, San Diego, and the sales rep there that always helped me – he helped me create my in-house studio, and he helped me buy my first plug-in guitar and all this stuff – he was a trance deejay. And I remember always thinking, I really want to sing trance. I want him to want me to sing trance for him. And I’d kind of just put it out there like that, like I can sing something for you if you’d like. And he would just kind of beat around the bush, he wasn’t gonna give me a try or anything like that. He hadn’t heard any of my stuff. But to this day, I wanna write a trance hook. But I don’t think that’s in anymore. (Laughs.)
HIRIE’s new single “Sun and Shine” (feat. Eric Rachmany) dropped today.
Aug 19: Big Bear Lake, CA – Snow Summit
Sep 2: Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl
Sep 3: Ventura, CA – Discovery
Sep 9: Crystal Bay, NV – Crystal Bay Club
Sep 11: Missoula, MT – Big Sky Brewing Amphitheater
Sep 12: Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory Concert House
Sep 14: Boise, ID – Outlaw Field at the Idaho Botanical Garden
Sep 15: Morrison, CO – Red Rocks Amphitheater
Sep 30: Valley Center, CA – Harrah’s Resort Southern California
Oct 7: Indio, CA – Desert Oasis 2017