Disclaimer: This is an interview I conducted with Heather in September 2017. Heather has been busy writing new songs and traveling all over the place singing her songs and making new fans and friends.
photograph of Heather Mae should accompany the definition of “voice” in the dictionary. Having witnessed her performing live on several occasions, I continue to have the utmost respect for what she does on stage. Her engaging personality coupled with her fine singing voice and dynamic piano playing make for a truly memorable experience.
Heather Mae and Crys Matthews will be playing a double bill at the me&thee coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA on October 12. Sarah Clanton will be accompanying Heather on cello. You’re in for a fantastic evening of music!
To learn more about Heather Mae, go to her website.
Check out this video for “Stand Up.”
When did you first realize that you had a ‘voice’? Were you one of those little children who grew up singing in front of people whenever you had a chance or did you slowly cultivate your gift? (and it is a gift)
My parents say that I began singing when I was three. I saw The Little Mermaid and used to gather my siblings and their friends and put on little performances in our living room. But it was usually just the same song over and over again: “Apart of Your World”. I was just as loud then as I am now.
Has piano always been your instrument of choice? What is it about that instrument that helps you unleash your songs?
No, I picked up the piano after I lost my voice. Piano was always an instrument that I desired to play but was too afraid of. I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to sing again, after being diagnosed with nodules, so what else did I have to lose? The only thing that was stopping me was fear. I had all this music in my head and no way to release it because I couldn’t sing, so I put my hands on the keys and started releasing these new songs.
Your passion for social justice is obvious. When did you come to the realization that you could merge your music with your desire to “stand” up for yourself and for others?
When everything is taken from you, when life forces you to press the “Restart” button…you reassess what is important and what is now. It was the moment I was diagnosed with vocal nodules. I felt like I had missed the mark in my first round of my career. Writing music that wasn’t authentic or real. I made a vow to myself, if I ever got my voice back, I would only write music that mattered. Music that might make me lose fans but music that ultimately made a positive difference in the world.
Were you inspired by songwriters from the past who are known for their songs of solidarity? If so, can you tell us who they are and what you liked about their music and their messages?
It actually wasn’t other songwriters that inspired me. It was the issues. I was seeking to write music that had never been written before: social justice-infused, pop singer-songwriter, singing about body positivity, racial equality, LGBTQ discrimination, and more. It was necessary to break away from music for a little while so that I could find that genre and that voice, without external influence. Watching the news, reading authors whose skin tone didn’t match mine, attending protests in D.C.: these are the things that inspired the sounds of these new songs.
What was your concentration at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy? Were you involved with theatre as well as music? And what were the best skills that your schooling there provided you with as you moved forward with your career?
I attended AMDA to study musical theater. When I began writing my own songs, it was mainly in the category of folk. When I got my voice back, I started writing music that pushed the limits of my voice vocally. It was like I wanted to see how far I could go, with this new instrument of mine. After the release of my EP, “I AM ENOUGH”, last year, I started getting feedback that my songs sounded like a musical. I realized that even after all this time, I’m still very much in love with that performance-focused song design.
Your first project entailed writing a song a day for a year. That’s pretty ambitious (but I get the feeling that you don’t do anything half-heartedly!). So does this project of 365 songs exist for completest music fans to own and enjoy?
HAH! I was a baby songwriter at that time. When I started the One Year of Songs project, I had written maybe ten songs in my life. Some of them were kind of nonsense, like jingles for made up companies, improvised instruments on instruments I had never played before, and one medical commercial ad (that was a fun one to make). I don’t think I’d want to release those out into the world but maybe one day. Who knows?
At what point did you discover that your singing voice was in jeopardy? How did you deal with that news?
I knew something was wrong in the Fall of 2013 but I didn’t go to the doctor until April 2014. I knew, but I was just too afraid. Honestly, I dealt with it by going silent for eight months. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done.
Since you’ve recovered, you’ve released I Am Enough to outstanding accolades. You’ve discovered how much your voice and your songs mean to those who often feel like they have no voice. Have you met music fans who have told you what your music means to them?
Yes, and I love meeting every single one. My fans are some of the most openhearted and honest people. They tell me their stories after my shows. Sometimes we just stand at my merch table and hug, quietly, just a moment of “I see you”. And then I have other fans who tell me their coming out stories and we celebrate those. Always.
Do you plan to record a follow-up anytime soon?
OF COURSE! I’ll be releasing a Kickstarter this December for a June 2018 release. Shhhh, that’s a secret.
What else is left for Heather Mae this year?
This month, I’ll be heading to every state in the Southeast with my friend and fellow songwriter/Youtube creator, Tom Goss. We will be heading to Nashville, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Asheville, Roanoke, and many, many more. I would love to see my fans on this last tour of 2017!
Where can we find this information?