Dig Baton Rouge

DIG Meets: Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards

During her career, Erika Wennerstrom has always been an inspiration for self growth. Even with her group Heartless Bastards, she has used her music as a source of reflection and seeking the betterment of oneself. Tonight at Zeeland Street Market, Erika will perform an intimate solo show, offering her meditations through song from her beautiful record, Sweet Unknown. DIG recently was able to catch up with her, and enjoyed discussing various topics such as bettering oneself, writing a solo record and what makes Baton Rouge and Louisiana so unique!

Welcome back to Baton Rouge! When was your last experience in the city?

Thank you. I was at Spanish Moon last year a few days before my album was released. I remember we had a great show.

You’re latest album, Sweet Unknown, is an uplifting soundscape whose inhabitants are your personal reflections, anxieties and finding self love. In today’s world, there seems to be a feeling that there’s no hope in changing oneself for the better. This album seems to embrace that we will always find flaws – even ones we may not recognize until later – but they can be changed if we force ourselves to recognize them. Has writing this album been rewarding to you in that aspect?

Well I want to be clear I don’t agree, nor do I think the majority of society feel that there is no hope to change yourself for the better. I think similar to the serenity prayer that we’re all just human and flawed, but flaws are what make us interesting. Somethings we may not like about ourselves we cannot change. They’re just part of who we are. I think there have been parts of my past I felt vulnerable to share or embarrassed, but I think part of my growth was learning to accept myself as a whole, and to give myself a break. It’s real easy to put walls up. There is definitely room to grow in this life. I don’t know if that is technically changing yourself though or just part of the learning process.

Erika Wennerstrom

the line says, “the world can take me as I am, so deeply flawed and loving kind, I’m just like everybody else, so deeply flawed and loving kind.”

It’s just saying we’re all human doing our best with the hand we’ve been dealt, and that in the end kindness is really what matters. I think underneath all the walls and layers we build that everyone is kind. It’s about looking at everyone, starting with myself first, with compassion. 

Has it been a freeing experience creatively as well?

Yes writing this record came easy. It was a real joy to make! I think writing songs and leading a band for so long created an internal pressure to always keep everybody working, and I think it inhibited my writing. When we went on hiatus this album just poured out of me. 

There’s also a mystical presence in this album. In what sense has your own journey into understanding nature and its spiritual guidance, help influence you in the making of this record?

I tend to write a lot when I go walking out in nature whether it’s a big hiking trip or walking around town lake in Austin. It just helps me disconnect from all the daily noise coming at me. I let go of worry and just connect with the present. I also took a trip to the Amazon Jungle before writing the record. I did some spiritual ceremonies with the Shipibo tribe which was also huge influence on the album. 

What do you find you enjoy most about playing in a smaller setting such as Zeeland Street Market? Are you excited to kick off your tour this way?

I love connecting with people anyway I can. I’ve do intimate shows here and there and I’ve also played in front of 10k people. There’s something really special about both, but they’re very different. 

Is there something you enjoy partaking in, when you get to Baton Rouge?

I’m pretty obsessed with Cajun food! Etouffee especially! I like to try new spots though, so each time I try to go somewhere new to eat. I think that with all my travels around the world that there is truly no place like the Louisiana Bayou in landscape and culture. 

What’s on your record player right now?

I’ve been getting into Kevin Morby lately. I’m a huge Kurt Vile fan. There’s a band I think is just going to blow up huge called Black Pumas out of Austin. The singer kind of reminds me of Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye. There album is coming out in May I think.

What guitar can you not live without?

I just started playing a Gretsch Duo Jet in the past couple years. It’s a love affair. 

Tonight, be sure to check out Erika’s show, with Alex Cook, at 7 p.m. at Zeeland Street Market! More information can be found here.

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