My name is Terri Hendrix. I’m an Aquarius, born in San Antonio, Texas, and — apart from maybe the seven or eight years before I “stole” my older sister Tammi’s guitar out from under her bed — I’ve been playing, singing, and writing music my entire life. And for most of that time, going back to somewhere between my first open-mic performance and my last job waiting tables not too long after, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to make a living doing it. Through lean times and high times and all kinds of times in between, my childhood love of writing and performing my own songs (in part because I could almost never remember the words to other people’s songs) has sustained me financially, emotionally, and even physically. It’s taken me all over the country and overseas, introduced me to thousands of friendly faces (and friends!), and ultimately allowed me to “own my own universe.”
I released my debut album, Two Dollar Shoes, way back in 1996. After three different “major” labels sent me rejection letters, I decided to just put the album out myself. It’s now 25 years later, and all three of those other labels have long since gone out of business, but I’m still here, with 20 albums to my name and I own the masters to every single one of them. I just completed a sprawling, five-part (and five-year!) project I call, well, “Project 5.” It started with the albums Love You Strong (Project 5.1) and The Slaughterhouse Sessions (Project 5.2), released a few months apart in 2016, and continued with the October 2019 release of Talk to a Human (Project 5.3) and Who Is Ann? (Project 5.4). The final chapter, Pilgrim’s Progress (Project 5.5), was released in September 2021. Each album in the series is unique unto itself (like that last one being my first-ever all-covers album, and my first “country” album, to boot), but they are all linked by the shared themes of love, hope, and resilience.
To call “Project 5” one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever taken on as an artist would be an understatement. But it’s definitely not the only one. I was diagnosed with epilepsy in my early 20s, meaning I’ve lived with and managed a seizure disorder my entire career. Much more recently — in 2020 — I was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia and an essential vocal tremor. With intensive vocal therapy and an arsenal of breathing techniques, some dating back to my classical music training in high school and college, I am still able to talk, sing, perform, and even record (Pilgrim’s Progress is the proof.) But I don’t take any of it for granted. What’s more, I also made my mind up a long time ago to not just take a proactive stance against any adversity I face health wise, but to do everything in my power to turn it all into a positive. Which is why I’ve invested so much time and passion over the last decade into building something that in the big picture is more important to me than my own music career. A few years back, I launched a 501 C3 non-profit called the OYOU, as in “Own Your Own Universe.” Its mission: To make the arts accessible to everyone, regardless of age, gender, income, or physical mobility, and to empower and transform lives by connecting the mind, body, and spirit through music and creative arts.
As hard as it’s been at times to do what I do while living with a seizure disorder, I believe and know for a fact that playing music, as much as if not more so than any medication, is what has allowed me to actually live with that condition. I’ve also witnessed firsthand how creating, sharing, and experiencing art can have a profoundly positive impact on others living with all kinds of different physical, neurological, emotional, and social challenges. Since its launch back in 2012, the OYOU has hosted countless workshops, retreats, children’s music camps, concert series, support groups, monthly song circles, and myriad other events at various locations throughout Central Texas — and, since 2017, on the grounds of Wilory Farm, the OYOU’s official headquarters in Martindale. I actually purchased the property — 12 acres straddling both Hays and Guadalupe County — myself, after selling my own longtime home in nearby San Marcos, cashing in my equity, and taking out a loan. I did this so that the OYOU could have a permanent base of operations and plenty of room to build without ever being charged a dime for rent, utilities, or property taxes. That means that every dollar donated to the non-profit, either at events or through the OYOU’s website (www.ownyourownuniverse.org), goes directly to funding OYOU programing, including paying all of our workshop teachers and every artist booked for festivals and concert series.
For the record (pun intended), “Wilory Farm” was also the name of my second album, released in 1998. And in case you were wondering or didn’t already know, yes, I named my record label Wilory, too. It’s all in tribute to a late friend of mine, a wonderful teacher, musician, and philanthropist named Marion Williamson. Marion, who was the owner of the original Wilory Farm, took me under her wing when I was in my early 20s and just beginning to find my calling as a performing songwriter. And in exchange for me helping her milk her goats, it was Marion who literally taught me how to “own my own universe.” And I don’t mean just how to take charge of my art and career. A big part of what she taught me was how to take ownership of my epilepsy by following a healthier diet and lifestyle. I admit I lapsed on that after Marion’s passing in 1997, especially after my seizures stopped for a few years. But when they came roaring back in 2003 and forced a reckoning, it was remembering Marion’s guidance that helped me get myself back on track in terms of being more cognizant of my condition and taking better care of myself. That kind of wisdom is a pretty invaluable gift to receive from anyone, and it keeps on giving: Me still being here is living proof.
As big and positive an impact that she had on me, though, Marion wasn’t alone. Because the fact is, a lot of people have helped me on my journey every step of the way. My first album was financed by way of personal loans from a handful of close friends, loans that I was able to pay back with interest within just a few months after the record came out. And when a whole bunch of those CDs needed assembling the day of my official CD release show at Gruene Hall, friends stepped up like pros. It was also with the help of friends that I was able to start mailing list (back before email!), and because of that mailing list, for years and years I was able to cover the expenses for every new album I made through CD pre-sales on my website’s e-commerce store alone. You could say I was “crowd funding” long before crowd funding even became a thing. So as proud as I am to have been an independent artist my entire career, believe me when I say this has never been a one-woman show. Just like the OYOU, which I can’t even imagine existing without the help of our volunteers, teachers, and a board of directors as passionate about the mission as I am, my music career was built on — and still runs on — teamwork.
I’m not gonna lie: Even before all these new challenges, like that aforementioned vocal tremor and learning how to live-stream concerts in order to survive without touring in the era of a worldwide pandemic, this road has never been easy. I’ve seen this crazy industry turned virtually inside out and upside down over the course of the last 25 years, especially since streaming came along and completely wiped out my own reliable income “stream” from album sales. And yet, stubborn and defiant as my favorite goat of Marion’s (the one named after singer Peggy Lee that I made my label’s official mascot), here I am, still at it: writing songs, making new records, and performing as much as I possibly still can. I do it because I still wake up every morning with a sense of purpose — call it a mission — to use my music to do good in the world. And I do it because I still can, thanks in large part, as always, to my invaluable team of supporters and friends. In other words, thanks to you, my Wilory Farmhands.
Now, still being completely honest with you, I gotta admit that it took awhile for me to come around to this Patreon platform. I miss the days of CD pre-sales. Heck, I miss the days of CD sales, period! But stubborn as this old Miss Goat may be, I believe in my mission too much to not adapt and try new things and new ways to connect, share, and build with the people who most believe in both my music and me. Because as far as this pilgrim’s progress goes, I’m a long way from done with my mission to try to make this world a better place any way I can. So, to get to where I still want to go and do all the things I still want to do, I’m willing to literally turn over my life’s work and, through Patreon, happily pay with my art for all the Wilory Farmhands I can get! A few years back, I was honored to have my archives accepted into the care of the esteemed Witliff Collections at Texas State University in San Marcos. And with the Witliff’s help, I can now share those newly digitized archives with you here. I’m talking literally 30 years worth of live recordings from every stage of my career, along with studio outtakes, radio sessions, demo tapes, and even video. And of course I’ll be sharing lots of brand new music and content here, too, from Patreon-only live streams and other exclusive videos to downloads of brand new songs, be they just-between-us solo demos to fully produced studio tracks I’ll premiere here well in advance of official public release. In return, every dollar collected through this site will go right back into creating even more art and music. And I don’t mean just from me. That’s because in addition to helping me be able to continue to write and record, your membership will also help pay for all kinds of upkeep and future building and renovation projects here at Wilory Farm, home of the OYOU. Rest assured,I promise you you’ll never have to milk a single goat (though we’ve got three of them here, along with two rescue mutts and a curmudgeonly old donkey named Niem). But by working and contributing together as Wilory Farmhands, we can all play a role in inspiring generations of new artists for years to come.
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