Questions for Terra Guitarra
Together this husband a wife duo play ten different instruments. They perform more than 200 shows a year.
Terra Guitarra performs world music-neuvo flamenco-new age instrumental compositions. The duo has been performing together since 1998 at venues all over the U.S. and consists of Bruce Hecksel on guitar, piano, bass, hand drums, and Native American flute and Julie Patchouli on guitar, upright bass, hand drums, percussion, and porch board bass.
The duo will be performing at Jazz in the Park alongside Incendio on June 18 at 6pm in Cathedral Square Park. They responded to our questions via email.
How did you get your start?
We began touring with a group based in the Seattle area in ’94, playing the Pacific Northwest Club circuit as well as the Midwest College and club circuit. Bruce on lead guitar Julie on Bass. We began touring/recording as a duo in ’98 with a number of NACA Showcases, as well as a large club/coffeehouse itinerary.
How did your band members meet?
We were both camp counselors and played in youth groups and met each other while studying at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. We loved combining world, folk and jazz.
How did you get involved in Jazz in the Park and what do you like about performing there?
We have played at the East Town Market for several summers and were invited to play for Jazz in the Park the first time this June by the organizers. We are also playing two days of Bastille Days this July.
Who are your main musical influences?
Paco de Lucia, Al Dimeola, Joni Mitchell, Ernest Ranglin.
How do you try to connect to and work the audience?
We tell stories about the songs and let them know where they come from and where we come from. We even hand out percussion and have the audience join us on occasion.
Which famous musicians do you most admire?
Leonard Cohen. His whole life is a meditation, the music is a meditation and at 80 years old he literally skips on and off stage and reverences (bows with his hands in “prayer position”) his musicians while they solo.
How would you describe the state of popular music today?
The Wild West, and the decline of western civilization.
How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?
We are married (to each other) and are both full time musicians. So our main obligation is truly to the music. We love to write music, record, rehearse and of course play live shows. We balance our busy touring schedule with getting out of the van as much as possible, hiking or riding our bikes in whatever city or area we are visiting, it also helps us get to know the place more. Being an independent record label, Earthsign Records, we divide our strengths to manage, book, run and engineer a small recording studio, tour logistics, and finances for the band. Bruce also is a recognized visual artist and painter with several exhibitions of his work happening each year.
How did you get your start in music?
Piano lessons age 5 (bruce) Violin age 5 (Julie) Bruce Punk and Metal bands age 15, Julie Open Mics Chicago age 15.
What is your favorite thing to see in the audience while you are on stage?
Bliss, eyes closed absorbing the vibes.
What are some of your most memorable experiences performing on stage?
First time we played for 5,000 people at a music festival. First standing ovation at a live radio program that had been running for 15 years. Naomi Judd telling us how important what we we’re doing was.
What are your fondest musical memories?
Writing our first instrumental piece “Patchouli” in college sitting by a river. Our first gig ever at a coffeehouse in IL.
Where are you performing next, where can people see you?
Bastille Days July 9 & 10, Historic Third Ward Art Festival September 5 & 6. We have a summer tour of 65 dates all over Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and out to New York.
What do you love the most about performing live?
We have been doing it for so long now, we can really read each other so well it’s like once we hook in we are floating on the music and we can go where it carries us. We have the freedom to improv on the spot and know the other is riding the wave right with us. It’s the joy of making the music each time.
How do you handle making mistakes during a live set?
Well we try not to, but just like in life, we don’t sweat the small stuff. We were once told by another jazz musician, if you make the mistake, make it two more times in a row and now it’s a riff!
Where are your favorite places to perform?
We love to perform concerts outdoors, concerts in the parks and festivals. In fact we make our winter tours in the south so we can continue to play music outdoors.
What do you think of Milwaukee as a musical city?
We like Milwaukee a lot and feel good vibes every time we play in town. Terra Guitarra’s music has been featured on several radio programs: Lake Effect on WUWM and Instrumental Saturdays on WMSE as well as WPR. I feel like people in Milwaukee know good music and they come out to support it.