Why did Thowing Muses and 50Foot Wave anchor Kristin Hersh make her new solo release “Wyatt at the Coyote Palace” a combo pack of two CDs and a prose and poetry book?
Short answer: Because she can.
Early in her 35-year, risk-taking career, she foresaw the post-digital music-biz collapse so presciently, she seriously began exploring new avenues and formats for releasing her work. She started with her ThrowingMusic imprint in 1996, and followed with subscription services like CASH Music, as well as an interactive app for her 2007 children’s book “Toby Snax.”
She also has a tiered collective of hardcore supporters, Strange Angels, who exchange financial backing for exclusive perks.
Hersh — who played almost every instrument on “Wyatt” and appears in The City this week — admits that some of her survival methods were established by her ex-husband Billy O’Connell, whom she recently divorced after 25 years.
She calls it “the opportunity to not engage in anything superficial or shallow or even ear-candy-esque, because I’m listener supported,” she says. In the old major-label days, there was a third ear in the room at all times, she adds. “So it took me a few years to shake off that ghost and be obsessed with the material again. So now, if nothing else, I have integrity.”
That’s why the Rhode Island-bred artist traded the rights to her first solo album, 1994’s “Hips and Makers,” for Throwing Muses’ contractual freedom.
Gradually, she grew more isolated, separated from her actual fan base when touring.
“I liked that, I’m very shy,” she says. “But I noticed that when we did in-stores, the people that we met were sentient beings, almost like friends, and that’s who we were working for. It had never occurred to me that this was such a social endeavor — that you can’t lock it up in your closet and expect it to live and grow. You have to treat it more like a child.”
Her son Wyatt – high functioning on the autism spectrum — played a crucial role in her CD/book set.
As she was recording tunes such as “Detox,” “Wonderland” and “Secret Codes,” he went exploring in a nearby abandoned apartment complex that had been commandeered by a coyote pack. Watching his wide-eyed reaction to nature reminded the mother of four to reconnect with her own inner “Little Prince” child: “So I did, and I really threw myself into this project,” she says.
Through the years, Hersh has learned that fans and serious listeners are different: “Fans are kind of nutty; they’re the people you want to avoid,” she says. “But a listener treats you like a plumber. They want you to keep going, so they pay your bills. They don’t think much of you — they just want your work. And that’s perfect.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Dec. 3
Tickets: $22 to $25
Contact: (415) 375-3370, www.ticketfly.com