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Overcoming Performance Phobia & Sharing Life Changes

Melissa Stukenholtz / Gorman House Photograph
Patresa Hartman's 2nd album is titled "Queen of Everything."

Sixteen years ago, Patresa Hartman started writing songs, but she kept them hidden because she was afraid to let anyone hear them.  By 2011, she had enough of this performance phobia and looked for a place to play her music.

"I set this goal for myself, that I had to do it and I had to do it three times. So it really took about three open mics over the course of two weeks," says Hartman.

Hartman used her 40th birthday as the impetus to make her first album. Now at the age of 42, she has a second collection. It's called "The Queen of Everything." Originally Hartman was going to take leftover material she didn't record from her first album, but went through a divorce. This spawned new material and she wanted to capture it in the studio as she was going through it.

Hartman says while the album is somewhat serious, the album's title isn't meant to be taken seriously.

"I feel like I was making fun of myself, she says. "You know, 'queen of everything', you're supposed to have it all together. And you're being queen of your castle, but if you look around your castle is in ruins and the kingdom is a mess."

The album starts with two songs that sound like a mix of alternative rock and folk. Then the record's pace slows down and the music becomes dramatic about the recent changes in her life. One of those songs, Wild Things, features her mother, a classically-trained cello player.

"That was actually a hectic day," Hartman says. "All these different things were falling apart.  My son fell at preschool. Smashed his face into the floor because he took a nose dive off a auditorium stage. That happened that day.  Also that day I had a conversation with a vet about my dog dying.  That maybe was fitting that my mom was there recording that day."

These pieces are influenced by artist like Alanis Morissette and Ani DeFranco who often use a confessional style of lyrics.

"But I also love people like Grace Potter who just, they just rock the house," she says. "I just said 'rock the house'? What a horrible cliched phrase.  It's something your 82-year-old grandma says. 'You really rocked the house!'"

Hartman's primary career isn't music, but as a school psychologist working on assessment and design intervention for students with behavior and learning disabilities.  But she finds time to keep writing new music, and she says she plans on recording a third album soon.

"Up until this past spring, I hadn't written a ton on the piano," Hartman says.  "It was mostly guitar.  And then all of a sudden, all this piano stuff started coming out. .. and it's a little more playful. So it probably won't be quite as heavy. Oh, maybe. Who knows. There's still time for the bottom to drop out."

Like with her first two records, she'll probably release it on her own without a label and without a manager.

John Pemble is a reporter for IPR