Antigone Rising’s Kristen Ellis-Henderson on kissing her wife for the cover of “Time”

 
 

AE: How did you meet Sarah?
KEH:
We met back in New York City. We had a lot of friends in common and our two groups of friends hung out a lot. We all hung out – but I had my crew and she had her crew and they hung. — I really didn’t like Sarah [laughs]. But I was really good friends with all of her friends and then I went touring. Eight years later, my tour manager [Liz], who was part of Sarah’s group of friends, told me more about her. I was getting to know Sarah through Liz’s stories on the road. I had all these insights into Sarah and I thought, I think I love this Sarah Ellis. Later, Liz threw a party and I couldn’t wait to hang out with her. And she felt the same. It was 2005 [during] Gay Pride in New York.

AE: Personal experiences have always infused peoples’ art, but were you ever concerned about sharing your political beliefs as a musician? For some, it has created a public backlash.
KEH:
There have always been musicians who have done it, like Natalie Merchant. I remember back when Bush was running for re-election and they were doing that tour – there was Springsteen and the Dixie Chicks. On some level, there’s a level of artist where you’re so huge that you’re going to piss some people off. We’re a lot more indie, gritty and grassroots and I wouldn’t know how to live any other way. I wouldn’t know how not to be honest about my life. My feeling is that Sarah and I have been given this opportunity and hopefully we can change peoples’ perceptions about what a gay family looks like. I’m not being political – I’m just living openly. But when we’re given the opportunity to show up, I’ll do whatever I can, but I’m not going to take [my family and kids] to the Westboro Baptist Church to make my point.

AE: In addition to the cover story, you and Sarah also wrote a book about your experiences becoming moms. How did that happen?
KEH:
We actually got approached to do it, which is a weird thing as a musician. All I had to do was get pregnant on the same day as Sarah and four publishers are asking us about it. I couldn’t believe it – “You want to give us a book deal?” It was so unexpected. But the magazine that Sarah was working for at the time – the editor wanted to do a story on it. They had a writer following us through the pregnancies and over the course of those interviews, she would say, “This is a book.” Ultimately, she told her agent about it and we figured we would hire someone, but we couldn’t afford to hire a ghost writer. So Sarah would write it on the subway and I would be trying to write, too. Before the babies were born, it was much easier then.

AE: Besides finding the time to write, how does being a parent change things?
KEH:
Their lives come first and our band has shifted our whole groove. You make it work to accommodate your lifestyle. I miss touring and being on the road more, but we do it more in concentrated spurts. This past weekend we played North Hampton Pride – I woke up Friday morning knowing that I was leaving with the band, and I thought, maybe I could bring one [of the kids]. I took [my son] Thomas with me. It was so awesome! It was a whole weekend with him, being with the band. There were drag queens everywhere and he was like, “What the hell is happening?” He was signing [copies of our] books with a crayon.

AE: What do you say to fans that may question your politics?
KEH:
As of late, we’ve been getting people who are saying Antigone is such a political band. I crack up when I hear that. When we sit down to write, we’re not writing political songs. We’re not really political in our music, but it’s just our existence, our very existence of being out and open that makes a political statement. I do feel like I want our fans to know we’re open, out and proud of who we are. We are living our lives. When I was growing up, I didn’t think that being gay meant all of things that I have now. I want to make sure that younger people, or fans of the band who are our age, are open. I’m surprised by my own life.

AE: Who are your musical influences?
KEH:
My son has a best friend at school, a boy named Daniel. I suggested he listen to “Daniel” by Elton John and now he’s obsessed with Elton. He’s on a first-name basis with him; he listens to Elton nonstop. He’s run the gamut on every Elton John song that exists and he’s watched the DVD. I’ve always loved Elton, but I’m having a rediscovery of him. “Empty Garden,” that song gets me upset every time I hear it. We also listen to Annie, the Broadway musical.

AE: Is that a guilty pleasure?
KEH:
I hated Annie when I was a kid.

AE: Other guilty pleasures?
KEH:
There are so many! I love Katy Perry – I’m obsessed with her. Love her. I watch American Idol. Oh my God, I watch it ravenously. I love that this platform exists where you can actually become a superstar. It blows my mind when I listen to the radio and hear Carrie Underwood, Daughtry or Kelly Clarkson. It’s crazy, the level of success. I mean, we had music superstars – Madonna, George Michael – but American Idol is the last bastion. Plus, I’m a huge Keith Urban fan.

For more info on Antigone Rising, check out their official website, follow them on Twitter and read Kristen’s blog.

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