Artist Spotlight

Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards on Being a Midwest Musician

Heartless Bastards return to their home, Cincinnati May 19th and 20th to play two nights at the Woodward Theater with Old 97’s and BJ Barham. I was lucky enough to chat with Erika Wennerstom on the phone (before their show in Boston) about growing up in the Midwest and how she got her start playing music.

“I always wanted to do this. My dad sent me a guitar when I was 16. When I was 18 I decided to buckle down and learn,” says Erika. Before Heartless Bastards, Erika played bass in a Cincinnati/Dayton band called Shesus (quite the Midwest supergroup). Then in 2002, she started Heartless Bastards as a recording project. “It was at the very end of the year during the Cincinnati (Riverfront) Stadium implosion.”

Photo by: Courtney Chavanell
Photo by: Courtney Chavanell

Erika and the band moved to Texas in 2007. It was after she and Mike Lamping had ended their long relationship and she says the hardest part about moving was “adjusting to so much change at once.” Cincinnati is still her favorite place to play. “It’s where the band started and it’s really great feeling all of the support from family and friends. It’s just home, it’s always going to be my home.” Heartless Bastards are veterans at touring and Erika says her favorite part is “the show itself, the response from the audience and people who identify with what [they’re] doing. The travel part can be physically and mentally exhausting.”

When I asked her who her biggest inspirations were, her first response was that taking influence from others makes it “harder to find identity within.” However, she did cite Ray Charles, Joan Jett, Otis Redding and everything Motown as what she’s enjoyed listening to growing up.

Erika Wennerstrom has been an amazing and strong female musician for quite awhile now. She has some good advice for those just starting out: “I feel like there’s always going to be haters. Believe in what you’re doing and don’t listen to someone’s negative comments. You can’t ever please everybody, make yourself happy. What is success for that matter? Is Justin Bieber more successful than Tom Waits? Art is so particular.”

Be sure to check them out as they tour this summer and especially if you’re in Cincinnati for their two homecoming shows at the Woodward!!

An avid rock musician and enthusiast as well as a rock history buff.

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