Tae Rhee

How did you get into playing music?

I got in when I was 20, so about three years ago last summer. I came up here to go to Cornish, actually, then I swore off fine art and dropped out and started playing music. I'd been doing art for a long time. When I was younger, starting at the age of 10, I did a lot of woodworking. I did a lot of printmaking and was really serious about it. Cornish just burned me out and made me feel kind of trite.

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I just bought a guitar and somebody showed me three chords—pretty much the same three chords I use on every song. I moved to Bremen, Germany, for like six months in 2005, and I was working as a nanny, and I had some crazy stuff happen where I had a lot of time to spend on the guitar, and that was pretty much all I had. I actually haven't babysat or nannied for a while, and I realize I've been missing something. I need to have that nurturing contact.

How did you get hooked up with Baskerville Hill and Damien Jurado?

Right when I came back from Germany, I met Sam [Beebe, aka Black Bear] from Baskerville Hill, and we dated for a year—that was right when the record label started, and everybody was recording a bunch of stuff. Me and Scott [Reitherman] went down to a beach house on the Oregon Coast to record, and it was going to be my record. But it's been so long and everything's changed so much—it was just when I was starting out, just all of a sudden—and so we just kind of scrapped those songs, that idea, and I've just been waiting 'til I felt like it now.

I've been a fan of Damien's for a long time, and he actually found my music page, like, right when I put it up. He e-mailed me and we became pretty fast friends, and then he started playing with me.

I'm pretty terrified of the music scene. It's just scary to me. Just that everyone is reviewing. I think there's a competitiveness in Seattle, being around so many of my friends who have gotten successful, it's just a weird transition. I just got my first couple of bad reviews, and Damien was like, "It's good to start getting bad reviews." But I'm not writing for anybody. The songs aren't theirs to say anything about, and I know the music's not for most everybody. I don't even consider myself a musician. They're just like little tales.

It was pretty funny, the guy who gave me my first bad review, I just ran into him. He made my coffee at a coffee shop after a doctor's appointment, and he said, "Are you Jamie from Husbands, Love Your Wives?" And I said, yeah, and he said, "Oh, I saw you at REVERBfest," and I just knew that it was him. And I said, "Oh, is your name so-and-so?" And he said, yes, and I was like, "Wow, you really hurt my feelings." And he was like, "Oh, I did? I mean, I don't even remember what I wrote—I don't think it was that bad." And I was like, "Yeah, it was really bad." I think he was quite embarrassed, but then we ended up talking, and he's really nice, and now I see him when I get my coffee at the doctor's office.

I'm just really sensitive, and the songs... I never intended to be a musician and release records. I think I've been lucky, and Seattle's been so good to me, at kind of pushing me into it. I've never even tried to book a show—all the shows I've played have been just friends asking me to play with them.

One of the things that confuses me is why a band like Grand Hallway isn't bigger than they are, or why Damien isn't bigger. When Damien dies, he's going to be, suddenly, the great American folk artist of our time. I feel like there's this certain equation, where you add this and this and then you come out with... It just seems very weird to me. There are so many incredible, talented people in the folk scene right now, and you go to their shows and there's like two people there.

(This tea is my favorite tea ever. It's not rose hips or anything—it's pure rose essence; I drink it every night, and it makes me feel like a baby.)

You said you don't consider yourself a musician; do you think of yourself more as a writer?

I do definitely write tons of lyrics spitting out that I don't have music to, just a lot of material that I wish I was more musical. I'd probably have a couple hundred songs if I was more musical.

I like the way that I play, because it's not based on any sort of formula, because I don't know any. When I write a song, usually the words are just coming, and it just kind of comes out. That's why there's a lot of long pauses and kind of messing up on all my demos, because I usually just do them in one straight take. And I don't really like to change anything afterward. I wish I knew how to do more layering and stuff, but the best bet for me is to just open one blank track in GarageBand and just play the whole thing and leave it be.

And you pretty much always play solo or with just a couple people?

Yeah, I've had Damien play with me, and then for a while it was Damien with Scott playing the drums. I had this full band doing some weird country-type stuff, and I've been transition from playing with people to going back to the quieter... I feel like I've gotten a really good sense of how I want it to sound; whereas before I didn't even know how to make a song, like, listenable. There's a certain vibe that the songs need to keep for me. Someone could take them and change them into more bouncier, poppier songs, and we've played them that way, and for me it just doesn't feel right.

And the music is changing; the stories are changing. For a while they were a lot about my experience in Germany and different deaths, and then they were a lot about marriages and babies and moms, and things are kind of shifting right now.

Are there a lot of deaths and babies in your life?

Since I moved to Seattle, there's been eight people I know, that are my age, die—people who I grew up with—and all from suicides and heroin overdoses and horrible accidents... just really bizarre and intense. And so, this year I had a really rough year because it's kind of been too much finally, you know, kind of cracking... a lot of pretty much just really intense energy.

And then, you know, all the babies I've taken care of, and the families, and my own family, and just different ideas of what I would want out of love and marriage and babies. Some of the songs are about how I imagine or hope things would be. I wouldn't change anything, just because every year I feel like I'm changing so much. You know, when you realize you're 19, and then I'm turning 24 next month, and every single thing has taught me something important or helped me to realize that you can choose your happiness or you can choose your sadness... sometimes.

This week my cat Preston, Pear's brother—not real brother—who I've had for a long time, got into an accident, and he passed away. I completely lost it, and I was really surprised. I only had one other animal who died and who I had that kind of reaction to, and that was my horse. A lot of songs are about my horse. I don't know if you've ever seen the pictures with all the apples, but that's where my horse is buried. He was a horse who I had since I was 3, and that was like the most intense relationship to lose. He tried to jump the fence and broke his neck, and it was really heartbreaking. And he was old, so it was really surprising—we were expecting him to die an old-age death. His name was Buddy. We have a lot of other horses, and I love them all, and I've seen several of them being born, and that's really cool. But Buddy, I mean, I was a baby when we got him, and I would sit in his feed bin in my nightgown at night, and he would lick my feet, and he would lie down in the stall, and I would sit with him, and he was so, so gentle and protective of me. Like, he would kick other horses if he thought they were too close to me.

Can you tell me a little bit about your recent hospitalization?

I just kind of cracked. I was just really stressed out and exhausted—all of the deaths and some other major events kind of added up, and I just needed some help. It was really terrible and scary, and I actually was just in a complete daze the last couple of months afterward. Now, seeing how open I was about it, I'm kind of embarrassed. I was just so raw and at the bottom of the barrel that anytime I talked to anybody, I told them everything, or at least a little bit too much. I think it severed a lot of friendships just because I think a lot of people couldn't really handle it, which—I would be terribly scared in that situation too. But also, you know, they had that benefit show for me, and that was really cool. And plus, I'm not embarrassed—I think depression is a serious issue for a lot of people I know and a lot of people I love. I just feel like if you need help you should get it, especially before it gets to the point where you might accidentally do something...

Now, though, things are getting really clear. Something I feel really good about is that I'm not working right now, I'm just focusing on getting my body really healthy and getting my mind really clear. I'm resting and reading everything I ever wanted to read, and my days are really slow—I have the time to make cakes and write new songs, and I'm doing yoga and running and all the things I wasn't doing before that I knew I could to take care of myself.

I have kind of a new mindset about things. Which is basically that you can make your own choices to make things a certain way, and that was something I hadn't really realized before.

Were you still writing songs while you were in the hospital?

That was when the most intense songs were coming. When I was in the hospital, Joe [Syverson] of the Final Spins wrote a song for me, and Damien and I started writing songs back and forth—I could only write the words while I was there. But the night I got out, he was in Europe, and it was really difficult to not see him, because Damien's my best friend. He came [home] the first couple days, but then he had to go to Europe. But the first day I got out, he had sent me these songs, and we were kind of replying to each other with song. Then we released this little story with all the songs on it, and it's pretty rough, rough stuff, like, pretty raw. And I've been writing a lot of words, a lot of stories, since then.

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But like I said, they're changing—I can't really explain how, but the mood is different, which is good. Even my love songs that I have are heavy feeling for me, but something has happened since getting out. I've always been really emotional playing, but now it's like, right during this period, it's been really hard to do. I've only played maybe four or five shows since. But something has happened now where I'm getting really giggly, kind of covering up for the seriousness that I feel about them.

Are you comfortable with playing live?

I surprisingly am. My first few times I was horrified, but I really like to do it, if the people are listening. You know, I get heckled a lot, playing at, like, the Comet—the most inappropriate place for me to play ever. But I've come to really enjoy it, in a way that, like, it's healthy for me to do. It's really important to have some work that's separate from me, 'cause now it's like all of these things that have happened are turning into this separate thing. Like, that's Husbands, Love Your Wives, and I'm Jamie, you know what I mean? That's why I don't play under my own name.

A lot of [the songs] don't even feel like they're my stories, they just kind of come out of the blue—like, I've never experienced my baby dying in a car wreck—they just kind of come, and they're intense, and I'm almost spitting them out.

I'm really intuitive and sensitive, energywise, kind of spiritually. Actually, after I got out of the hospital, it was really weird: I was at a bookstore, and there was a psychic doing readings. I didn't go to her, but she sensed me, and she came up to me and started asking me all these questions, like, "Are you going through a massive spiritual crisis right now?" Well, yeah. And she told me she could feel my energy and that I had 800,000 past lives. And she came and found me in the bookstore, and it was really strange, and I was scared, and my friend was scared. She said I should look into doing past-life regression, and my friend was like, "No she shouldn't." She told me some weird stuff about master numbers, like if you're born on 11 or 22—and I'm born on 22—and she was like, "I knew you were a master number." She was just going nuts, like, "You have abilities that you don't even know." And I have always been really, really sensitive, if you believe in that kind of thing. You have to believe it to feel it. And I was kind of out of my mind at that time anyway.

I really don't know—I'm definitely open-minded to all that kind of stuff. Me and Damien feel like we've lived some sort of weird life together as friends or like we knew each other in a past life for sure. But I don't know if I'd want to revisit any of them. And then she told me I was going to have a death in my 30s and be revived and then live 'til I was eightysomething, and she said that she's only told one other person when they were going to die. So now I'm going to be, like, on the edge my whole 30s.

I generally lead a pretty holistic life, and I had some trouble with going the allopathic route, with hospitals and doctors. I was kind of trying to steer clear of any of the books or any of the things that spiritually or mentally were more healthy but a lot harder than a quick fix at the hospital. I didn't want to confuse myself too much, so I was trying to just focus on letting myself be treated that way and just knowing that it was temporary and things would get better.

Other than the EP, do you have anything released?

Nothing released, no. I've never really recorded professionally and put it out. We did the correspondence thing, and before that, a long time ago, I released five little songs, and they're my very first songs. So, my voice sounds really—I just recently in the last year came into my own voice, I think—and I didn't know how to have a range or anything. So, it's pretty funny to listen to those. And we had a show at the Triple Door we recorded live, and I'm just starting to sell those. That one I like because it's pretty clear sounding; Damien accompanied me, and all my recordings I do by myself, so it's nice to have that.

I'm really ready to do a record, it's mostly just figuring out timewise, 'cause I have Erik Neumann, who plays upright bass with me, and he's been gone for a couple months. And Damien can only really play with me in the wintertime, and I really want him to be part of the record, because he's been such a big part of it since the start. And there's several people who might contribute certain things.

Chris Early, who I think used to play in the first round of Band of Horses, offered to record my record for free, and he said he would do it in my apartment. And that would be, for me, the best place to do it, naturally; it's just normal for me to play here. And he was like all ready to go in the winter, and then things just kind of flipped over for me, and I just needed more time to focus on a few other things. But one thing that I really would love to do before I leave Seattle is release a record here, because I feel like people here have been really good to me, and it would feel wrong to release it anywhere else. recommended