Terra Spencer. Photo by Jeffrey Dreves Jr.
Terra Spencer. Photo by Jeffrey Dreves Jr.

Meet singer-songwriter, Terra Spencer.

Terra next performs at the Halifax Urban Folk Festival in a Songwriter’s Circle with Owen Meany’s Batting Stance and Erika Kulnys at Good Robot on August 29.

20 Questions with Terra Spencer

1. Your first job.

Working the dorm reception desk at Kings College. I was terrible at it – I never did learn how to forward a phone call. When you’ve worked one whole shift without an essential skill like that, it’s too late to ask for instructions.

2. The job you always wanted as a child?

Co-owning a shop that sold novelty erasers, for which I had a deep and abiding passion. I think I shoplifted a robot eraser once, but can’t remember if I did it on purpose. My best friend Becky and I also practiced running a restaurant but never made it past serving dry dog food and chestnuts.

3. Your pet peeve.

People who spit on sidewalks. I don’t mind the spit, but the act itself is a disgrace.

4. Your hero.

My piano teacher Jim Aulenbach had an infectious enthusiasm for music, cookies, and the Flume Ride at Upper Clements Park. He was tenderhearted and supremely talented and celebrated all kinds of art and cheesy jokes while managing personal pain. Lessons really felt like we were working together to make a song better.

5. Your biggest indulgence.

Tie: chocolate and making myself laugh.

6. One thing no one knows about you.

Few people know that at one point in high school, I had a big poster of New York Rangers-era Mark Messier on my bedroom wall just to find favor with a fellow I liked who definitely never visited my bedroom. Lame.

7. Three things you would want with you on a deserted island.

I like the idea of a deserted island much more than a desert island – it implies people might have left cool stuff behind, or interesting garbage. I’ll bring my nylon string guitar, a notebook, and a jar of mango pickle, which tastes great with everything. It’s the same list of equipment required for me to tour the UK.

8. The one word your best friend would use to describe you.

Polyphiloprogenitive.

9. If they made a movie about your life, who would it star?

A few friends and strangers over the years have told me I look like Claire Danes, which is certainly a kindness to me.

10. Hero or villain?

Not really interesting to me. I like the grey area – ordinary people tangled up in decisions and getting in their own way.

11. Your life’s motto/mantra.

This will all make sense eventually.

12. The last book you read.

“The Almost Moon” by Alice Sebold. I only read one or two books a year and wanted to guarantee I would pay attention to the story, so I chose a book about a woman who murders her mother right out of the gate.

13. The song that is getting the most play right now on your Spotify playlist.

Right now I’ve got a strange mix of songs to learn for projects with friends – Buck Owens to Arcade Fire to Judee Sill – but favorite earworms of late include “Funtimes in Babylon” by Father John Misty, and “Emmet’s Song” by the exquisite Catherine MacLellan. It’s amazing that after millions of songs have been written, someone can find a melody that fresh and floating.

14. If you were a cartoon character, what cartoon character would you be?

Inspector Gadget, just to play piano and guitar at the same time. Plus I think I would be better at self-propelled flying than driving.

15. What will it say on your grave marker?

She died as she lived: secretly hoping the event would be canceled.

16. Who would you most like to have dinner with?

I might have said my favorite author David Sedaris until I met him recently, and learned that although he is delightful, he loves lobster rolls and hates the smell of Subway – two strikes. So I’ll say my friend David Francey, because he loves Subway, where we will no doubt dine in September at the Deep Roots Festival in Wolfville. Yeehaw!

17. Your idea of happiness.

Catching a new song by the tail, and really earning an ice cream.

18. If you could go back in time, what would you tell your twenty-year-old self?

You are halfway to a really great time.

19. The one thing in your life that makes you most proud.

Being married for twenty years to the same person.

20. To be or not to be?

To be is next to godliness. To not be is godliness.

Meet Terra Spencer

Terra Spencer spent much of her youth in a basement in Summerville, Hants County playing piano and secretly strumming her granddad’s guitars.

Since 2014 she has taken the odd break from her day job as a funeral director to tour with acclaimed folk-country musician Ryan Cook – including a recent three-month tour of Ontario, the UK, and Europe – after striking up a friendship with him while scooping ice cream at a music festival.

A newfound passion for songwriting led to her posting a flurry of YouTube videos for a community of enthusiastic and encouraging listeners, co-writing with Ryan for his 2017 release “Having A Great Time”, and collaborating with friends and mentors.

Bridging folk and Americana, Terra’s lyric-driven original songs and gentle, hand-stitched instrumentation with fingerstyle guitar and piano draw from the intimate storytelling spirit of Jackson Browne, Judee Sill, and Ron Sexsmith.

“Other People’s Lives” is Terra’s debut album of original songs, co-produced with longtime friend Jake Smith at Moe’s Place near her family’s home in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Windsor is also home to an empty textile mill that is the subject of her song “Cotton Mill”, beautifully captured in a video by Analog Songs.