Sneha Girap (Editor)

Kristin Hersh

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Instruments  Guitar, vocals
Spouse  Billy O'Connell
Role  Singer ·

Name  Kristin Hersh
Years active  1981–present
Siblings  Tanya Donelly
Kristin Hersh The Unique Language of Kristin Hersh Innocent Words

Born  August 7, 1966 (age 49) Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. (1966-08-07)
Genres  Alternative rock, folk, pop
Occupation(s)  Musician, songwriter, author
Labels  4AD Records Throwing Music Sire/Reprise/Warner Bros. Records
Associated acts  Throwing Muses, 50 Foot Wave
Children  Dylan O'Connell, Bodhi O'Connell, Ryder O'Connell, Wyatt O'Connell
Albums  Hips and Makers, Learn to Sing Like a Star, Strange Angels, Sunny Border Blue, Sky Motel

Kristin hersh birn alive

Kristin Hersh (born August 7, 1966) is an American singer, songwriter and author, known for her solo work and with her rock bands Throwing Muses and 50FootWave. She has released ten solo albums. Her guitar work and composition style ranges from jaggedly dissonant to traditional folk. Hersh's lyrics have a stream-of-consciousness style, reflecting her personal experiences.


Kristin Hersh httpswwwkristinhershcomimagesdinadouglassK

Early life

Kristin Hersh Boxx Magazine Kristin Hersh Is Throwing Muses Again

Hersh was born in Atlanta, Georgia and moved to Newport, Rhode Island when she was six years old. Her father was a professor at Salve Regina University in Newport and her mother a special educational needs teacher. She was interested in music at an early age and wanted to learn guitar chords so her father gave her a guitar when she was nine. Her parents separated when Hersh was 11 and her mother married the father of her best friend Tanya Donelly. Hersh talked Donelly into starting a band, then called The Muses when they were 14.

Throwing Muses and early solo work

Kristin Hersh 20120817154000jpg

Throwing Muses was formed in 1981 when Hersh and Donelly were freshmen in high school. Friends from school, including Elaine Adamedes, Becca Blumen, Leslie Langston and David Narcizo, were part of the group with Narcizo becoming a long-term member. Hersh initially wrote and sang most of Throwing Muses' songs, often in changing tempos. Donelly also contributed songs and lead vocals.

Kristin Hersh httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

Hersh attended Salve Regina University, majoring in archetypal psychology and philosophy, and the Rhode Island School of Design, but dropped out shortly before graduating to establish the band in Boston, Massachusetts, where they had been playing on weekends. While at Salve, Hersh befriended film actress Betty Hutton, who was attending the school in her 60s; Hutton also attended several early Throwing Muses shows in Newport.

The Throwing Muses were signed to 4AD, the first American group to be signed on the British label, and released their first EP Chains Changed in 1986. Two releases followed, The Fat Skier and the album House Tornado. The 4AD Throwing Muses biography describes its sound at the time as "... joining the dots between elliptical post-punk, harmonious folk jangle and rockabilly thunder without ever settling into standard genre patterns." For the Muses 1986 UK tour, the Boston-based Pixies, embarking on their first European tour, was the opening band.

The band signed a U.S. deal with Sire/Reprise Records in 1987 and began touring the U.S. and Europe while recording albums, with Hersh writing most of the songs. The band became a trio when Donelly left the group after 1991's The Real Ramona.

In 1994, Hersh began a solo career on Sire/Reprise and 4AD as an acoustic performer, beginning with Hips and Makers, an album sparsely arranged around her vocals, guitar, and a cellist, in contrast to the volatile, electric sound of her band work. Michael Stipe of R.E.M. made an appearance on this first solo album. After receiving some airplay and major media coverage for the Muses album University in 1995, Hersh moved to Rykodisc for the band's 1996 album, Limbo, and released her solo album, Strange Angels in 1998.

To better control her career and the distribution of her recorded material, she created the ThrowingMusic label with then-husband and manager Billy O'Connell in 1996. This enabled her to co-release some of her projects, including an ongoing download-subscription service called Works in Progress (WIP) for releases available through the label's website. Hersh continued to offer her solo releases online, releasing "Sky Motel" in 1999.

By the mid-90s, David Narcizo became Throwing Muses' permanent drummer, still playing in the band whenever they tour. Throwing Muses functions as a noncommercial musical enterprise, focusing on touring over record sales and airplay. In a 2014 interview, Hersh stated, “As far as I’m concerned, music is not a commodity. It’s something that people have earned by being human. They have a right to hear it, and a right to share it, as they always have in churches and parties. That’s how music happens.”

2000 to present

In 2001, Hersh released the Sunny Border Blue solo album, on which she again played nearly all instruments. She described the album as having even more intensity than her previous works, as she continued her pursuit of songwriting as being in part a way to transform "ugly feelings" into art. She also collaborated further with like-minded alternative artists like Vic Chesnutt, Willard Grant Conspiracy, Grant Lee Phillips, and John Doe.

In 2003, she released The Grotto, an acoustic solo album of song sketches with personal lyrics set in Providence, RI, with Andrew Bird on violin and Howe Gelb on piano. On the same date a self-titled album by Throwing Muses was also released, the first since Limbo. Both were recorded at Steve Rizzo's studio in Rhode Island. When Narcizo was unable to tour on a full-time basis due to other commitments, Hersh formed her power rock trio 50FootWave. Her touring appearances and recording efforts in 2004 and 2005 centered around both 50 Foot Wave and her solo career.

Independent output

In 2007, Hersh released her first solo album in four years, entitled Learn to Sing Like a Star. NPR Music described Hersh's "emotional and raw" pop songs as both "accessible and off-kilter." Concurrently she launched CASH Music, a subscription-based, direct-to-consumer website. Subscribers to CASH Music support her output and receive albums and print releases, downloadable content, and guest spots for live shows. 50FootWave's EP Power+Light was released on CASH in 2009 and Hersh was involved in several projects—a second collection of Appalachian folk songs, The Shady Circle and a series of new free tracks. The album Crooked was released as a downloadable album and hardback book containing essays about each track.

Throwing Muses reformed in 2013 and released Purgatory/Paradise, a 32-track album accompanied by a book designed by Narcizo, who works as a graphic designer. The book features photos, artwork and lyrics by Hersh. It was the band's first release in ten years.

At this point in her career, Hersh's output was independently released online. She expressed that she wanted a complete break with the music industry, stating, "Because we differ from the recording industry ethically, we had been asked to dumb down our product so many times. I have been asked to act and look like a bimbo so many times and I just decided, 'I’m not going to turn my back on my music. I’m not going to turn my back on women.' We’re morally bound to not participate in the traditional recording industry because we disagree with it. So we continue to play music, which has nothing to do with the music business."

In October 2016 she released the double album Wyatt at the Coyote Place and an accompanying book. Hersh embarked on a tour in support of the album.

Themes and style

Hersh's vocal style ranges from softly melodic to impassioned screaming. A few of her songwriting subjects have included childbirth ("Hysterical Bending"), love ("Tar Kissers", "Lavender"), surreal vignettes ("Delicate Cutters", "Fish"), death ("Limbo"), emotional anguish ("The Letter"), loss of custody of her first son ("Candyland"), and the shedding of a relationship's anxiety ("Snake Oil").

Simon Reynolds in The New York Times pointed to Hersh's "mesmerizing" explorations of "rage, aggression and mental chaos" as evidence of female rock artists of the early 1990s pushing against gender role boundaries to express "more than simply vulnerability or defiance" in their work.

Ann Powers, also in the Times, wrote of Hersh's musical style: "Her plastic, sometimes obsessively circular song structures emphasize staggered rhythms and extreme dynamic shifts, and her voice, a carnal cry that pushes through her body gathering up air, lends her often oblique lyrics an oracular veneer."


Hersh has said her parents' album collections, featuring Patti Smith, the Carter Family, Stevie Wonder, Robert Johnson, Talking Heads, The Clash, Steve Miller, The Beatles, Philip Glass, and traditional music all influenced her when she was growing up. Among her early contemporary musical influences are The Raincoats, Talking Heads, Violent Femmes, Meat Puppets, Dead Kennedys, Hüsker Dü, Velvet Underground, R.E.M., and X.


Hersh's illustrated children's book Toby Snax was published in 2007 and further developed in 2011 as an interactive app for children. The app allows children to hear her read the story out loud and features her recordings of lullabies that she learned as a girl in Tennessee.

Her 2010 memoir Rat Girl (published in the UK as Paradoxical Undressing) is based on a diary she wrote when she was 18, touring with Throwing Muses, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and pregnant with her first child. Rob Sheffield in The New York Times called it an "uncommonly touching punk memoir," and named it #8 in Rolling Stone's "25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time."

Hersh's 2015 memoir, Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt, is a rumination on her friendship with the late singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt. She cites him as one of her songwriting influences with his "fluid timing and the grace of a melody that breaks the rules of meter."

Personal life

Hersh was married to her former manager Billy O'Connell for 25 years until they divorced in 2013. She has four sons.

Hersh has talked openly about her bouts with mental illness and its role in her musical process. A car accident at age 16 while she was riding her bicycle gave her a double concussion that affected the way she heard sounds. She described it as hearing ambient sounds continuously and "...the sounds would alter their sonic vocabulary until I was hearing syllables, and drums. And then all these words would come.” She's stated that hearing "pieces of songs" in her mind compelled her to take the pieces apart and craft songs from them. She also claims that she doesn't remember writing her early songs—that "they wrote her."

She's had more than one diagnosis (and misdiagnoses) for her condition, including schizophrenic disorder, bipolar disorder, and most recently post-traumatic and dissociative disorders, which she says have been successfully treated with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Studio albums

  • Hips and Makers – 1994
  • Strange Angels – 1998
  • Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight – 1998
  • Sky Motel – 1999
  • Sunny Border Blue – 2001
  • The Grotto – 2003
  • Learn to Sing Like a Star – 2007
  • Speedbath – 2008 under Creative Commons License
  • Crooked – 2010
  • Wyatt at the Coyote Palace (2016)
  • Cover songs

  • "Wave of Mutilation" (Pixies) - American Laundromat Records, High School Reunion: a tribute to those great 80's films!, 2005
  • "Like a Hurricane" (Neil Young) - American Laundromat Records, Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity, 2008
  • Books

  • Hersh, Kristin (2007). Toby Snax. Delicate Press. ISBN 978-1934703014.
  • Hersh, Kristin (2010). Rat Girl. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0143117391.
  • Hersh, Kristin (2015). Don't Suck, Don't Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0292759473.
  • An evening with kristin hersh at powells books in portland oregon october 30 2015


    Kristin Hersh Wikipedia