Half Dream Discusses SXSW in a Captivating Interview

Half Dream Discusses SXSW in a Captivating Interview: + Read the Interview Below

March 14, 2024 in Features

by Matty G

Local band Half Dream released their latest LP last year, but they have been enchanting audiences long before that with their atmospheric indie-rock sound. I chatted with frontrunner Paige Renée Berry about everything from their origins to their future — and, of course, SXSW.

Read the interview with Paige Renée Berry below.


Photo by DJ Nour (@capturedbydina)

What are your musical origins?

I grew up singing constantly in just about anything I could. So choir, musical theater, the church … There’s a lot of opportunity to sing in that way. My dad was the chief broadcast engineer for a country radio station … so much of my experience was at that station. I was probably like 12 and I got to sit in and meet [a bunch of artists] – it was a lot of experiences like that, so I got to see it up close in a way.

I got a job in design after school and hit a wall – and then I moved here … [my roommate] was in the folk community and sort of introduced me to some people, and we would go to all these storytelling events together. I just very quickly met a lot of really creative people. [Good Looks’ Tyler Jordan] took me to the Kerrville Folk Festival, and it was so inspiring. It was just so beautiful … I think it’s like a vortex or a portal or something. It’s insane. You get all the world’s most artistic sensitive people and you put them in one place.

I made a goal to be able to play a cover by the time I went back to Kerrville in the spring, and what I didn’t expect was that I ended up writing an original song of my own. I played it, and I was just elated. It just felt like something so different from anything that I’ve ever felt, and that’s kind of like the rest is history moment.

What is your songwriting process like, if you have one?

I kind of don’t. My guitar teacher, Jake Farr, once described my writing as like, painterly, which I think is pretty accurate in that I’m kind of listening for colors in the music. If it aligns with something that I’m feeling deeply in the moment, then I’ll just keep playing it and playing it. Then I’ll start saying stream of conscious words that come and sometimes they stick, sometimes they don’t. It feels like I’m a channel more than a conscious process.

It usually just bubbles up from somewhere.

Most of the time, it’s something that I’m dealing with or thinking about. Sometimes it’s playing guitar and then writing from there. Very occasionally a melody will come to me.

What are some influences toward your sound?

There’s a couple things. I grew up in country music. It’s inescapable … There’s just such a focus on storytelling. Sometimes you listen to a song from start to finish. You’re like, well, I’ve read a novel … and my parents were into stuff like seventies radio rock, and the power ballad type stuff … I loved the drama of it and the unabashedness of it.

I think it’s some kind of fusion between the storytelling and then sort of like – the meat … full, or the complete opposite, totally stripped down.

What is something you would say is unique about Will I Still Bloom? in comparison to your previous work?

I would say, in comparison, [Monster of Needing] is a lot more sparse … I was still really finding my voice and footing.

If the first record is why, then this record is how.

The first record was just beginning to dig up why I’m repeating these patterns, why I have all these inescapable feelings, what does it all mean – and just putting something out there.

Another big difference was having a producer whose only job was to produce. Fifth Street Studios heard “Celia,” and they were like “We want to offer you two songs” … and we went in, we did it … It just felt crazy, honestly. It was just different – to have someone whose primary role was to be like, what if we tried it this way?

Since "The Doubter" is the artist pick on Spotify – and arguably a standout song on the record – I was wondering if you could expand upon the process of crafting that song?

I was in this period of time where I was not well – and this was still during the pandemic. It was like, we’re back … but then there’s another wave. I canceled four fully booked tours, and I just didn’t understand how … it’s like [the song] just kind of fell out of my mouth.

A lot of what I’m thinking about, for better or for worse, is how I was raised – very, very religious. In the story of St. Thomas, Thomas sees Jesus after he comes back from the dead and is like, “I don’t think this is real … I literally saw you die in front of me … I can’t believe this is happening.” and then he’s like “What if you take your hand and you put it in my side wound” … and it’s proof that he was there, it happened. That’s why they call him ‘The Doubter.’ I love to subvert religion [in my music] … it’s so rich, and there’s just so much to draw from.

In The Doubter, I was thinking a lot about watching my life pass me by and not knowing what was real, what isn’t, what I want to keep.

[Jake] also says he thinks [the album] is his best guitar work … I think the guitar solo on "The Doubter" might be my favorite of the whole record.


Photo by DJ Nour (@capturedbydina)

If you could be reincarnated into any artist, dead or alive, who would you choose?

Joni Mitchell, hands down. No question. I think of her daily.

What is one thing you love about being a musician within the Austin music scene?

I could get a map out, close my eyes, and go to wherever that is, and there’s probably live music and it’s probably good – there’s a breadth of opportunities to see not only local artists, but we have such a crazy local scene.

I really do feel like we’re in this very special moment in Austin music.

I feel like my peers, like the people who are my friends, but also our writing too, is so special and I feel like we’re all thinking of similar things … not only are they so talented, but I really find that the musicians I respect and emulate, especially locally, are just kind people. They’re just really good, really compassionate. A lot of our music community is willing to share their struggles and their vulnerability, which ultimately makes it more sustainable to be a musician in Austin.

What would you say is the most gratifying thing about performing live for an audience?

I would say the energy that they give back … we played Free Week at Chess Club earlier this year, and it was one of the first shows where everyone in that room was there. They were with us.

I don’t think I saw a single person on their phone. Everyone was encouraging and present, and it was electric.

There was this moment where I felt like I needed to scream because I was just so pent up on energy, and I was like “Hey, what if we all screamed right now?” I was going to count to three and before I could even count, the whole room screamed – and I was like, this is nuts. This is what it feels like to be a rock star.

Once you write a song, once you perform it and put it out there, it’s not yours anymore – it becomes their experience, so it’s really cool to see how people take it in.


Photo by DJ Nour (@capturedbydina)

What are you most looking forward to at SXSW?

Honestly, hanging out with my band – I mean, there’s a lot of things. I'm really stoked to see new music, artists that I’d have to wait a long time to see otherwise. But truly, I really love my band. I love doing things with them. I love making music with them, and we have a good time.

Do you have any pre-show or post-show rituals?

I really love doing makeup … it really calms me down, like more involved makeup, cause it’s just something to focus on so fully because I still get anxious on show days.

Tyler and I would be on the way to a show and a song would come on the radio – maybe one he really liked or something – and he’d be like, that’s a positive moment. So I think about that when I’m on the way to the show – if something comes on the radio that’s really close to my heart. There’s been a couple times where I got in the car and Half Dream was playing and I was like man – it’s a sign!

Right before we play, I’ve been having us just take a minute to put our hands in all like a baseball team. I’m like “I love you. We’re going to do great. We’re going to listen to each other. We’re going to have a good time.”

That’s what this is really about; us having fun and sharing our art. It doesn’t have to be anything else.

Is there a specific song you are looking forward to performing the most?

We actually have a new song – well, I played it solo a couple of times, but this is the first full-band performance of it. It’s called “Fly” ... it’s got a fun hook, and it’s just fun to play. The band has been in so much flux over time, and this is the first time we’re getting to arrange a song together, in this version of the band, so everyone’s really stoked.


Photo by DJ Nour (@capturedbydina)

What's in store for Half Dream post-SXSW?

We’re booked pretty much through June, and we’ll be doing a tour for almost a week in September.

What are your goals?

I just want as many ears to hear our music as possible because I think that we’re saying something important. I think my band feels that way, too. It feels very collaborative and very unified in a way that maybe it didn’t before – very possible in a way that it didn’t before.

The goal is to tour full time.

During the pandemic, I was like, if I’m going to be spending so much time doing what I’m doing, I think I’ve got to be either all in or out, cause otherwise none of this makes sense. That’s the sort of nebulous answer: we’re going to be playing, we’re going to be touring.

Overall, I just want to meet people and connect and tell stories and have fun.

Check out Half Dream here!

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