Columbus native and Athens based performer Terence Robertson “Terry Tertiary”, has come a long way since he left Athens. With creative foundations in Hip Hop, R&B, and electronic pop, he takes his music and creativity to a different and individual, level. In his attempt to diversify his music to appeal to a mass audience,Terry Tertiary has created upbeat music not only to achieve the success that is coveted by every musician, but to also send a message to his audience.
Sometimes it is impossible to tell the direction that an artist’s music career can take, but for Terry, it has been an uphill road strung with some difficulties, including splitting from his duo; however he takes each setback as motivation to push himself further.
Zak Kolesar and I sat down with the musical prodigy to get a better understanding on what drives him to create, how he responds to criticism, the interesting meaning to his name, and how things have been since Backdrop last talked to him.
Michelle Mwaura: So, Terry, from where do you draw your inspiration?
Terry Tertiary: My Inspiration comes from, creativity in general. Hearing someone make a unique sound or add a little flair or specialty to their own craft, whatever it may be, just inspires me. Watching artists come upwith art work, watching other musical artists create their own songs, or even hearing up and coming musical artists that I have never heard of, and it just happens to be on a high level of talent, inspires me to create more. There’s still so much great talent to compete with, which is also something that inspires me.
MM: I have to ask: What is the story behind your name?
TT: While at Ohio U I gained a sociology background. In sociology there is a term called tertiary deviance which describes taking one’s negative stereotypes and turning them into positives. For example, people of Muslim faith: Some of the women wear the hijab, and after 9/11, they got a lot of flak and backlash from the media but…still wear it as a symbol of their religi on and a symbol of what it’s like to be a woman and to wear that. I feel like that’s what I do, not only because I’m black, but as a hip hop artist. Being in the music field when you run into people who have played piano for 11 years and are classically trained, or are opera singers, guitarists, drummers and all these people who have this training, they look at you like, “oh, you rap?” A form of stereotype comes with rappers as being lazy, and I use that as a positive. I embrace the multi-level titles that I have because it makes me who I am and brings inspiration to me when I’m true to myself, and “Terry” is my nick name.
MM: And speaking of, how do you respond to the criticism of “Oh you’re a rapper” or “What’s your back-up plan?”
TT: I don’t want to say that music is my only option. I’ve graduated already and have been seeking something more along the lines of what I majored in, as far as getting a career. It’s not my major plan, but as for it being my passion? Definitely. I would love to be involved with music in some way, whether it’s as a songwriter or a producer. I handle the backlash by knowing that I set my expectations high enough for myself, achieve them and do what is right, or at least what I know is right in my heart. It’s a sense of satisfaction to me.
MM: If you had to choose something, what would you say is your favorite part of creating music?
TT: My favorite part of making music, [and] this might sound shallow, but it’s the conclusion and showing someone your music and seeing how they react to it; especially using that element of surprise in mixing your music with another artist. Showing it to others and seeing yourself, it’s a great feeling to say I worked so hard on this and spent this much time on it. The criticism that can sometimes be bad and other times rewarding is my favorite part. And seeing how it impacts people’s lives and knowing I’m appreciated makes it that much better.
MM: What are some mistakes that people tend to make in pursuing this industry, or any mistakes that you have made that you want people to learn from?
TT: One of the obvious mistakes people make is not enough preparation. Music at its earliest level can be easy. The easiest part of music is creating and posting your music — the most difficult part is knowing the business aspects, such as where you will go for publicity, and how to set up shows since people are starting to do that more and more on their own and…don’t need labels anymore. I feel like I avoided most of those mistakes; I made some little mistakes here and there, but I avoided the big messes by educating myself. I chose to go to a technical college for music to learn, but I wouldn’t advise it to everyone. Higher education isn’t for everyone, but there are forums that have professionals educating people on how to do these things. Where to put your music and where to perform are all aspects people need to understand before they decide to become a pop artist.
MM: How has the transition from being in a duo to being a solo artist been?
TT: It’s been as anything else would. It takes a while to change the way you’re working when you’ve been working with a group. In high school, I was always a solo artist, and then I kind of tried to make a group during my late high school years. I’ve gone from an eight-piece band back to a solo career, then went to a two person group, then back to a solo career. It takes a little bit of getting used to, especially when you’ve been involved for a few years. When I was in an eight-piece group, we were giving and taking from one another…and you’re used to not having so much stress on you as far as song creation, because it was probably left to someone who specialized in it. Now, as a solo artist, I really have to take into account musically what I’m creating, the lyrics that I’m saying, as well as the editing. I look for criticism from certain people within my circle who have helped me in the past, but at the end of the day, it’s my call and I won’t settle for anything else.
MM: When did the decision initially come for you to split with creative partner Mitchell?
TT: Well, there was a level of creative disturbance I felt for a while. I was choosing to ignore it as a friend, [but] after a while, I’m a person [who] no matter how close someone is to me, I can pick up on bad feelings and bad vibes, kind of like intuition. I don’t hate him, I’m not mad at the man or anything, but I definitely felt like as two people we were growing apart, and of course as two musicians. We had different goals, as far as what we wanted to do with certain things, and I just felt like the best option was for me to be a solo artist and for him to be a solo artist. Once you get into a business endeavor, both parties should be in agreement on the steps to take to move forward in a certain area. If not, there’s going to be turbulence. With that being said, best of luck to him. I hope he’s doing great, but I felt it was time for me to speak what was true to my heart, and I didn’t want to hold him up because of that.
MM: What advice can you give to someone in your position who is just starting up,or struggling, and thinking about quitting?
TT: I would say to think about the level of success you’re trying to achieve. Do you want to be at an independent level where you’re kind of performing at somewhat large crowds where there are like 50 to 100, or do you want to be mainstream, where you’re selling out arenas? Once you understand the level you’re trying to get to, you can follow blueprints of other artists to see what they have done to achieve this. Definitely get your professional bases covered: get photos done, make singles and distribute your music on every website. It also helps to make a Facebook SoundCloud, Sonicbids, or even a YouTube account; that’s where people get gigs. Just make sure you do some research — there are so many ways to do it.
Although Tertiary has kept it under wraps, he is releasing a new EP soon and may look to showcase it to those with a music background who would like to collaborate with him. He cites influences for his work from the food, culture and people of Chicago, and is using the drive from not being on the stage for so long to get the ball rolling in up-and-coming plans. Along with the album, he’s also been working on a couple of music videos and getting overseas attention, which apparently is where his largest listening fan base comes from. You can follow Terry on SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/terrytertiary and on Twitter at @TertiaryTerry. If you missed his performance at Donkey Coffee,Terry will make an encore performance at the Baker Student Lounge on April 4, 2014 from 7-9 p.m.