Thursday, April 18, 2024

Singer-songwriter Christiane relies on nature for her creative process

Daily Inter Lake | January 25, 2024 12:00 AM

Christiane Hinterman has been singing and writing songs for as long as she can remember but has rarely shared her art with an audience. It’s something that’s changing as she begins to share more of her music and how she engages with the creative process. 

“Because my songs have their own little life. That's what was the turning point for me — for believing in my songs and making it less about me … It's like, this song is killer and it needs to be heard by people. And I love it, I can get behind my song,” Hinterman said. 

Hinterman, who goes by Christiane on stage, grew up in the woods and on the lakes shores of Michigan and was immediately connected to the nature around her. She went to college to study interpretation, a form of environmental education and has had a career as a nature guide with the National Park Service and many nonprofits, most recently on the Whitefish Trail. She hopes to soon start practicing as a nature therapy guide.

“It’s less teaching, but more getting people into their senses and out of the way of their phones and away from distractions, in their senses in nature. And then, amazing therapeutic things can happen for people — one of which is creative insight. So, nature for me has just always been a source of inspiration and creativity,” Hinterman said. 

Hinterman grew up in Flint, Michigan and said during tough times as a child, she would retreat to nature as a "sanctuary of acceptance."

Her mother introduced her to music. Raising three kids, her mother wanted all her children to play instruments. Her brother and sister opted to play saxophone and flute in the marching band, but Hinterman wasn’t quite into that. 

“I said ‘I'll stick with piano, you just play at home.’ I played for like six or seven years. But, in retrospect, I was bummed because I wasn't playing what I should have probably been playing at the time, like pop music, jazz or ragtime — it was mostly classical. And so I didn't pursue it the way I wish I could have,” Hinterman said.

But a new instrument would enter her life when she took off to college. A guitar was portable, she could carry it with her wherever she liked to go. So, she spent the remainder of her 20s traveling the world, eventually landing back in a place that reminded her a bit of home — with crystal clear lakes and dense green forests. She and her husband moved to Whitefish, where they live with their two young daughters. 

She looks to nature to inspire her music, but don’t expect only mellow folk songs. Though her voice may remind some of singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, it’s determined by what feelings she wants to convey.

“I've always been a person who doesn't like fitting in a box or being stuck with a label or genre. I'm always like, ‘it's bluesy, folky country, bluegrass,’ and the other day, a venue had ‘jazz’ under my name. And then I was playing my songs and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, there is a little jazz sprinkled in,’” Hinterman said. 

Music from the 80s is an integral part of her since it’s the music she grew up listening to. But, when she got out of the house and was introduced to other musicians, she became drawn to many singer-songwriters. A few of her favorites include Greg Brown, Patty Griffin and Gillian Welch.

She considers herself an amateur artist in many things, from painting, photography, drawing and poetry. She’s been studying poetry for the past five years, which lends itself well to her music and love of nature. She sees nature as an endless source of inspiration.

“For me, nature is like this vehicle, it's so steeped in metaphor. Maybe I can't completely express this sorrow, but I can use the moon waning to (show that),” Hinterman said. “That's what poems do, they take something, this tangible thing and put human emotion to it. And then nature also does that.”

Hinterman is a big believer in the creative process being used for more than just the means to an end. Devoting time to a creative venture is as natural as nature itself. It’s like a form of activism, doing something that is time-consuming and doesn’t turn a profit, according to Hinterman, who said we often get convinced that it’s not worth it to get creative. 

“Making music, writing poems and doing art is so fulfilling, because it feels so good to be in that flow of the universe, that side of things, to counteract the things that are bringing us a little bit down or keeping us stuck,” Hinterman said. 

Hinterman performs on Feb. 2 for the Daily Inter Lake’s Press Play series. Subscribers can join for a unique music listening experience at the Daily Inter Lake office by donating to the Newspapers in Education initiative. Concertgoers can bring lunch or purchase one of three lunch options from The House of S&M.

Tickets and lunch are available at or by calling 406-758-4436.

Find out more about Christiane’s music at, or by emailing her at

Reporter Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or by emailing