A Quick Q and A
by Kathy Sands-Boehmer
There are singer-songwriters and there are singer-songwriters…. There’s something special about Heather Maloney and it’s absolutely impossible not to notice that her talent is palpable in every way. It isn’t just her unique voice with its edgy crispness but also the rhythms and melodies of her songs that entice each listener to pay attention… closely. Heather recalls the musical collaboration with Darlingside at the Me & Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead two years ago and how her career roared into overdrive and has been spiraling upward ever since. She recounts many other musical pairings with others on the road and tells us her newest album, Making Me Break.
Noise: Heather, you’ve been incredibly busy with touring and promoting your latest album this past year. Have you had been able to have any down time to just sit back and take a breather?
Heather Maloney: Ha ha… nope.
Over the summer I snuck in a couple short trips to Cape Cod but it’s been pretty nutty. If making music wasn’t so darn rewarding it would be an insane career path that I would recommend to no one. But even as I’m sleeping on like 50 different pillows on this fall tour, I couldn’t possibly think of anything else I’d rather do than spread music around to people. Worth it!
Noise: You’re done many gigs with Darlingside since the time you teamed up with them at the Me & Thee two years ago. Was that show and your rehearsals leading up to it the perfect storm of talent and you all just strongly felt that your relationship would be much more than a one-night stand?
Heather: There was much serendipity last year with Darlingside for sure. I think everything that happened (our cover of “Woodstock,” the video in the New York Times, getting a thumbs up from Graham Nash and a couple weeks later playing Folk Alliance in Kansas City where Graham just happened to be the keynote speaker) – all of that was just spontaneous and we just rolled with it. And it was an incredible summer… we broke into a national touring circuit, we hit some of the nation’s best folk festivals… and it was all because of that collaboration. So they are very special to me. They are truly great people and stellar musicians who inspire me so much, and they will always represent a huge turning point in my career.
Noise: Were you totally bowled over when the NY Times gave you a shout-out for your rendition of “Woodstock”? You also must have been on top of the world to get such a wonderful response to the song from Graham Nash!
Heather: Whenever I recount that course of events to anyone, I always make sure to mention how I may have peed myself.
Noise: You’ve also toured with Willie Watson, Gary Clark Jr. and Rodrigo y Gabriela. Did you learn anything from those musicians who have been touring a lot longer than you have? Any words of wisdom?
Heather: Hmmm… maybe the thing that sticks out the most is from Rod y Gab. Those guys are total rock stars, and they own the stage. They tear it up every night. Their crowd always goes wild. And it’s just two guitars! Amazing. But here’s the thing: they are rock stars on stage and the moment they step off the stage they are the most grounded people. Gabriela showed me a meditation app to use while I’m on the road. She suggested keeping an eye mask and earplugs so I could create peace and quiet when there isn’t any to be found. They gave me some of the best tips and tricks to staying grounded… all right after they literally melted thousands of faces. So if I’m bound for the type of success they have, I hope I can hold it all as gracefully and peacefully as they do!
Noise: What was it like getting your inner Olivia Newton-John on while singing “You’re the One That I Want” with Shakey Graves?
Heather: Because that song is inherently a bit goofy, it was just pure fun to bring it to a serious show on a serious stage. I thought it was an amazing idea on Shakey’s part. And getting to perform it with him was a huge honor.
Noise: How would you describe your latest album Making Me Break?
Heather: Musically I think it’s a singer-songwriter record that moves in and out of folk, indie and indie rock. Emotionally it’s a record that came out of dealing with a lot of personal challenges that put me in a kind of fragile place… and then, I know this is cliché, but finding strength in being vulnerable. The record also explores some themes that are up for me, like gender roles, how feminism fits into the world of selling your body (stripping, sex work, porn, etc.) and social media (or imagining a life without it). This album is really just a bunch of vulnerable/ sensitive topics told from the perspective of a vulnerable/ sensitive person.
Noise: When you look back at all your albums, do you have any memorable moments that stand out when you were recording? Did you have any ah-ha moments about yourself or your songwriting?
Heather: In the making of this last record, in working with Bill Reynolds (producer) a great moment was when he suggested to replace a major chord with a minor chord in the chorus, on the third time it repeats. It was such a simple move but it changed everything. The same words sung over top went from sounding hopeful to defeated and the song became so much more dimensional. Bill was an incredible producer that way… he never stepped on the song but instead lifted it up to higher places.
Noise: What can we expect from Heather Maloney in 2016?
Heather: I’ll be expanding the touring radius further and wider and bringing Making Me Break to new ears…. also releasing a lot more video content, which I’m super excited about. And, Imight have written most of the songs for a future record… I’m not even playing them out. Instead I’m slowly working them out, trying my hand at production and hiding away in my new studio space whenever I’m home.
For more information about Heather Maloney, visit her website at www.heathermaloney.com
Heather will be appearing at the Me & Thee Coffeehouse, 28 Mugford Street, Marblehead, MA on November 20. Tickets at www.meandthee.org