NSU Talent: Student led band HER MAN shines after First Night Fest performance


Julia Kuchler

HER MAN – Derek Walle, Phoenix Woods and Mia Claire

Those in attendance for First Night Fest this year were lucky enough to witness a performance by HER MAN, a band made up of three Northwestern State University of Louisiana students: two majoring in theater and one in biology.
Mia Claire stands center stage playing the guitar and providing lead vocals, and behind her are Phoenix Woods, providing backup vocals and a beautiful piano melody and Derek Walle on the drums.

According to the band, First Night Fest is always exciting but getting to perform there this year was exceptional. This year was different, and the headliners were a big deal. The trio remembers perfectly where they were and what they were doing when they found out they would be opening for the Plain White T’s.

“The way that we found out was Colie. He sent me a text message and was like ‘do you want to open for the Plain White T’s?’ I was like stop joking bro, that’s not funny,” Claire said. She was already at Woods’ house when this happened and rushed up the stairs to share the news with her friend, who also could not believe they would open for the band.

Walle recalls being concerned when receiving a call from Claire in the late hours of the night, as they never exchange phone calls. His concern then grew as he answered the phone to Claire’s heavy breathing and panicked tone. His nerves were eased when she had announced they would be performing as the opening act for the Plain White T’s, but he too thought this was merely a joke.

HER MAN still cannot believe the performance happened and look back at the show in awe. They got the chance to meet the Plain White T’s and Tom Higgenson was very kind to them, signing a vinyl and a plain white tee and exchanging handshakes.
The crowd was unbelievably energetic throughout their show, dancing and singing along, and people such as Morgan Heinzen and Mckenzi Davis were right beside them making sure things ran smoothly and capturing every moment on camera.
For a band that is just beginning its journey, this was an amazing opportunity. The three had not even had a single practice until they were asked to perform at First Night Fest.

“It wouldn’t have happened, I don’t think, if all three of us weren’t, like, ingrained musicians. I think that was what saved us because even if we had gotten off or something, I would have trusted all of our ears to figure it out and get it back together,” Claire said.
The band truly did not begin until they received that call. Ten days is all they had to prepare to play for the First Night Fest and open for the Plain White T’s.

Claire and Walle both look back with admiration for their bandmate, explaining that Woods learned every single piano piece for the show, by ear, all in one night. While she had heard the songs before, she had never played them and did not have sheet music. She listened to the samples that had been recorded by a professional pianist and picked them up instantly.

While HER MAN has not existed very long, Claire and Walle have been working on music together for about three years. The two friends were originally in a band called Cosmic Latte, but when their guitarist left due to creative differences, they were forced to put their music on pause.

The decline of their former band did not stop Claire from her passion for writing.
“I had a bunch of songs that I had written out from a really bad breakup, so I kind of compiled them together to make a small album,” Claire said.

With years of work, lyrics inspired by bands such as Kings of Leon and Snail Mail and Walle’s contribution of beats inspired by Faith Zapada, they finally had an album consisting of six songs.

With this, the duo had a final decision to make: what name would they publish this music under? They decided on the name HER MAN, inspired by Claire’s grandfather Herman who was a great guitarist, singer and all-around musician.
After three years in the making, “Growing Pains” was finished over a week ago and is ready for its release on Oct. 14.

“It was kind of scary for it to be finished, I’m a little nervous about it,” Claire said. Still, she believes this is the perfect debut album for HER MAN.
The trio are most excited for listeners to hear “Magnolia” and “Masochist Love Song.” After performing it live, they decided to rework “Masochist Love Song” at the last minute and changed almost everything about it.

Claire was determined to keep her original vocals from the song, insisting there was no way they would be as great as what they had already recorded. So, they all decided to do something very untraditional and started with the vocals, rerecording all other elements of the song around them.

So, what is next for HER MAN following their album release?
“I have a plan for like, what could happen in the next year, but I’m hoping that plan gets absolutely ruined because a record deal comes in and we’ve got to move somewhere,” Claire said.

Woods added her own take on where she sees the band’s trajectory.
“My dream with this band is probably just to like, perfect a craft that I’ve been working on for years by being there for the people I love the most and just having fun with it,” Woods said. “Because that’s the dream, I’d rather be having fun than being anxious about it.”