Jim Terr is a creative powerhouse, a singer, songwriter, satirist, and video producer based in New Mexico. His music and lyrics can be heard on advertising jingles, albums, major television networks, the big screen, and in concert. To date his videos have garnered nearly a million views on YouTube.
Since his days as a member of a bluegrass band in the 1970s, Jim has pursued the life of an artiste. It’s not a conventional career path and there have been a few bumps along the way, but Jim has stuck with it, driven by the search for the big hit record (that is, most likely, a song he’s written, cut by a major artist), the desire to improve his craft and the love of what he is doing. This is his story.
Around the time I got out of high school and went to college I got an inheritance which was enough to go to college. I majored in journalism and graduated barely.
I think I’ve always been a freelance creative which is the nearest description to my work now. I get hired to do jingles and videos, anything in the creative realm. And I’ve been funded to do some documentaries and I’ve made some money at songs in movies and jingles and royalties and stuff like that, but I haven’t earned a great amount.
In some ways I fault myself at not having had enough discipline or ‘nose to the grindstone’ to do nine to five jobs. Maybe I’m too ADD or ADHD or whatever it is but I have managed to squeak through doing creative work.
Were you a songwriter from the start?
No, it kind of evolved. I don’t remember if it was two, three or four years after I graduated but I was just hanging around and doing nothing really constructive. I did get a teaching certificate but I never taught.
A friend asked me to join a bluegrass band and we went to California. We recorded an album, I wrote a few songs and really got hooked on songwriting and recording and have been doing that ever since.
I’ve gotten some recognition and that makes me feel I have become a decent songwriter.
Has there ever been a career plan?
Well I’m not a kind of person who would plan. I had some money to play around with and it quickly ran out but I never had anything you call a plan.
I just sort of played around with recording and writing, enough to make a little money as I went along and be encouraged. I’m still in the same state today decades later although I think I’m better and a little more successful.
I think my family has given up on me doing something concrete like being a doctor. Maybe I could have done something like that but I just always floated within the creative realm. A lot of people admire it and say well Jim has done his own thing and stuck to his guns.
Do you hanker for a hit record and major recognition?
I’m very touched by exceptionally great songs and I hope to create some of those. I feel I have created some of those. Although right now I’d be happy for just a meaningless song that happened to make some money. With songwriting and song publishing, a hit song by a major country or pop artist can be worth a million dollars to the writer. And I’ve got a huge catalog of songs to go with it if I get any major recognition.
You know in this particular game you really have to be in Nashville and schmooze. Even if your stuff is great, so is everybody else’s. You’ve got to be there and get to know people and make contacts and that’s the part I’m missing. So I continue to write and try to get better at it, and try to get them in movies and get exposure that way.
How did you get one of your songs in the 1988 movie ‘And God Created Women’?
I happened to see a guy I had known in LA named as the music supervisor on a movie. I got in touch with him to catch up and he said he was coming out to New Mexico and asked me to send him a tape of some of my songs.
He was shooting out here and he liked one of my songs and asked me to sing it in the movie. It was a country song about George Jones. This is twenty-five or thirty years before he (George Jones) passed away which he did recently. So just having one song in one movie made me many thousands of dollars over the years.
What qualities do you feel you possess that have allowed you to plough your own field?
I have a very strong creative gene. I mean if anybody calls me and says I need a song or a video I am just never lost for ideas. And then if nobody calls I’m also never at a loss for ideas. I can write several songs a day. I actually discovered, five or six years ago, that I had THREE great-uncles in Hollywood (same last name as me) who did both music and acting in film. Plus a great-grandfather who wrote Yiddish musical theater! So it’s definitely in my blood somewhere.
I get more ideas than anybody you ever met and with a small percentage of them – which is enough to keep me busy – I write them out and record them and do videos. I’ve got over five hundred videos on YouTube and that’s not even all of them.
There have been times when I’ve lived on the edge financially, and had some insecurity because I haven’t had a regular pay check. I may be too impatient to have ever done a regular job although I have had a few jobs here and there.
But I’ve never lost confidence in my talent and what I have to offer and I think it’s only getting better.
You can find out more about Jim at www.TheSongwriter.us