US singer/songwriter Heatherlyn has just released her Christmas EP 'Songs Of The Season'. Louder Than The Music chatted with Heatherlyn to understand the inspiration behind it, how people respond to her music, and of course, what Christmas is like in her home.
For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?
Well, I’m an American singer, musician and songwriter and I’d say music really got into me before I got into music. My mom says I’ve been singing since before I learned to talk. I remember making up little songs in my car seat, and I’ve been performing for audiences for as long as I can remember, starting in church, leading This Little Light of Mine.
It was a little over a decade ago though, when I was in my twenties and making big life choices that I realized if I didn’t go all in and really give it my best shot to answer this calling of music, I’d regret and resent it all my life. I couldn’t have known then exactly how hard this world makes it for artists and musicians, but my partner and I have endured and overcome a lot to get here, and there’s really no turning back now.
Tell us about your new EP 'Songs Of The Season' and what the inspiration behind it was?
Christmas has long been a favourite time of the year for me, but not for the reasons one might typically think. Growing up with a single mom, no child support, and she having a high school education; times were often tough and the budget was always tight. Christmas felt abundant and truly special to me, because every year she’d select a craft for us to make together. Some of my best memories of quality time with my mom growing up were from Thanksgiving to Christmas as we’d create gifts, ornaments, and very carefully and creatively wrap each homemade gift for our relatives and friends.
With regards to the recording, we had an opportunity to record the songs in a very intimate and honest way, using just my voice and my guitar - so what you hear is very much how I perform the songs when performing solo.
Which is your favourite track on the EP and why?
It might depend on the day. I do love the last track Warmth of Your Eyes a whole lot. I wrote it one December when I was missing my mom, and it’s not directly biographical but it feels so deeply true to me. There is much of the season that’s warm and magical and to whatever measure one might or might not be able to enjoy that, there’s often an honest ache - some loss or longing - and I think this song gets at that pretty effectively, and hopefully in a way that’s healing and holds space for whatever the listener’s experience is.
What's Christmas like in your house?
Depends on the year and the happenings around Christmas. Often, my partner and I have been so busy with holiday shows, and I usually play music for sometimes multiple Christmas Eve services, that we don’t mind simply having a super chill day in together. Last year, I was fighting a cold, so we ordered delicious, spicy, cozy Indian curries and watched Elf!
What message would you like people to take from your music?
I desire that my music hold space for the complexity of human existence, to invite people into an awareness that they aren’t alone and I want people to know they’re allowed to be honest, to keep it real, because I believe there is so much truth in honesty and courageously facing our fears, being willing to experience the fullness of life, even the pain of it, is such a rich pathway of healing and full aliveness!
If you could work with any songwriter, who would it be and why?
Oh my gosh, there are so many! But if I have to pick one, I think it’s Sara Bareilles. She is authentic, soulful, and skilled. I love how she’s remained true to herself even through all her many opportunities and successes. I also enjoy how she utilizes a variety of styles and she writes in ways that deeply access universal human experience.
How would you define success in your career as an artist?
I love this question. I truly believe music is medicine when it can make someone laugh, open themselves to new ideas or possibilities, heal a little more - if my music makes a life-giving impact on someone, then that truly has been successful.
One time, a couple came up to me at a show and shared with me that they’re engaged because a song of mine gave her the courage to ask him! I couldn’t believe it - I felt so honoured!
If I could live a healthy, debt free life while continuing to create music and share it with people, that alone is a success.
I try to celebrate the small victories along the way, including ways I’ve learned and grown as I’ve persisted and endured significant challenges along the way.
Pretty much my whole life people have asked me why I’m not famous yet or said something like: “And I’ll be able to say I knew her when….” I think this is largely because celebrity culture tells us that to be famous and widely recognized is to be successful. I might be a little bit famous in really small, tiny ponds, but I’m not sure I’ll ever measure to your basic and widely culturally accepted standards of success.
So, that’s why I say I’d love to simply create a livelihood and remain healthy while continuing to grow and share my gifts. Honestly, sometimes I feel like a failure since I haven’t met those societal measures, so I try to keep coming back to this. I only need for my music, my voice, my singing to change people’s lives in a beautiful way. And even if I die young because this society doesn’t afford me basic quality health care, I will be glad knowing that my efforts were of benefit and blessing to as many as it was.
What is your favourite album of all time?
Oh my goodness, there are too many wonderful albums!
You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your phone. What track is it?
I’m not sure that this song has been written yet.
What does the next year hold for you?
I’m excited for 2020! It’s the 10th anniversary of my partner and I getting on the road to share music. We will actually be retiring our touring van and we’ve already begun to tour a bit differently, making ourselves available when we’re called upon for a specific event, and likely having the hosts fly us out for it. I’m really looking forward to continued work with the 9BEATS COLLECTIVE. We’ve toured in the UK and the US, and in addition we’re looking at some European destinations in the coming year! I’ve never been to that continent before, so I’m thrilled to see and experience the people and cultures there and of course to do our online, TV and festival gigs!