Anne Heaton – Short Bio:
Singer-songwriter and classically trained pianist Anne Heaton has amassed awards and praise from critics, fellow artists and fans with her songs that are by turns “tender, barbed and spiritual” (Washington Post). Her graceful, vulnerable, and sometimes humorous pop-folk songs have captured audience imaginations for over a decade.
Heaton has played the Sundance Film Festival, Lilith Fair (2010), and was a featured artist on the New York Times Music Podcast. Heaton has played numerous times on NPR and has shared the stage with some of her favorite artists including Sarah McLachlan and jazz drummer Max Roach. In 2012, she was invited to perform on The Cayamo Cruise as part of Winterbloom (featuring Antje Duvekot, Meg Hutchinson and Natalia Zukerman) with artists such as Keb ‘Mo and The Civil Wars.
Known for the infectious energy of her live performances — “a natural performer [with] a rich, soaring voice” (Seattle Times) — Heaton has toured throughout the US since 2001 playing acoustic venues, outdoor theaters, rock clubs, and festivals. In 2005, she won Soul City Cafe, a national competition of live performances and online voting to choose Jewel’s opener for her West Coast Tour. In addition to Jewel’s tour, Heaton has toured as an opening act for Melissa Ferrick and HEM, as well as opened for/performed with Chris Trapper, Jill Sobule and Jonatha Brooke.
On the heels of her most recent album, Honeycomb, on February 14, 2014, Anne Heaton releases Dora, a collaborative album of poems-turned-songs with poet Claire Clube. These poem-songs—visceral, ethereal, and set to a mix of singer-songwriter pop, classical and jazz/blues—explore a woman’s relationships with her world and the emotions of divorce. Tragically, in summer 2013, not long after sponsoring a young child in Kenya and just before this album was to be released, poet and collaborator Clube died in a plane crash with her daughter, Bess. “I know she wanted to share these songs with people, and she was a person who lived her life so fully and fearlessly that’s what I’ll take with me,” says Heaton.
Heaton studied at the University of Notre Dame, writing her senior thesis on Debussy’s piano works, and then enriched her musical training by studying composition and jazz vocals at The City College of New York. Always a fan of Peter Gabriel, the Indigo Girls, and Tori Amos, she also became fascinated by early American spirituals while living in New York, and sang in a Harlem gospel choir.
Anne Heaton – Dora Bio:
the collaborative album
by Claire Clube & Anne Heaton
Release date: February 14, 2014
The boldly vulnerable collaborative album Dora from acclaimed singer-songwriter Anne Heaton and lyric poet Claire Clube is a project born of both heartbreak and an enduring love of life. The album, with its dark beauty, delivers healing. Heaton and Clube are both mothers who braved divorce to reclaim the life and sense of self they gave up in their unfulfilling marriages.
With this creative union, Heaton and Clube have crafted a work of hope and empowerment. Dora’s songs are close snapshots of relationships with people and the natural world. I will always be looking into the sea/ I stand chest deep in water/ Level with the gulls, from the song “Selkie,” shows the intimate vantage point of the album.
“I broke free for a more authentic life,” Clube said. “There is nothing glamorous here—it’s the gritty nuts and bolts of being a creative woman, raising a family, and then going through a harsh divorce. Now I’m reorganizing my life. I’m starting over.”
Tragically, Clube was killed in a plane crash in Africa in July 2013, while she and Heaton were in the midst of planning the details surrounding the release of Dora. “So shocking was this news to me,” said Heaton, “that it took me some time to even believe it. The fact that this extremely full-of-life, joyful person could leave was more than surprising.” Heaton hopes that the memory of the wonderful person she knew Clube to be will carry on and be appreciated through this album.
Clube was the author of a book of poems entitled Dora. Heaton has built a career writing songs that comfort and confront with big truths sweetly packed in piano-based folk-pop. The Washington Post has called Heaton’s songs “tender, barbed, and spiritual,” the Boston Globe has described the Chicago-based artist’s music as “lush, introspective, and elegant” and Paste Magazine has called her work “stunning.” Heaton has toured nationally, played the Sundance Film Festival, Lilith Fair, and has been a featured artist on the New York Times Music Podcast. Heaton has also played numerous times on NPR and has had her songs featured on Starbucks in-store playlists around the world. With Dora, Heaton makes her debut as a producer.
“In my heart of hearts, I’m a collaborator,” Heaton said. “Sometimes I feel really connected to a particular audience, but, since I mostly write alone, it was amazing to experience that sense of connection in the creative process itself.”
The seeds of this collaboration began when Clube attended an Anne Heaton show at Club Passim in Boston. It was a time of confusion and pain for Clube, and Club Passim was a place of refuge where she could escape her troubles and discover new music. During this complex time, Clube struggled with the demise of her 25-year marriage, nurtured the poet inside her soul, and grappled with the emotional confusion of finding real love outside of her committed relationship. As the tides shifted in Clube’s life, she and Heaton struck up a friendship. From the warmth and ease of their interactions, Clube and Heaton agreed to collaborate on an album.
Dora features Clube’s visceral and heartfelt poetry, set to a blend of singer-songwriter pop, classical, and jazz/blues music. One song, “Blue Milk,” expresses the primal and unconditional bond between a mother and her child. The music has a smoky sophistication while Heaton sings with poise and poignancy Clube’s intensely emotional words: My waters break/I howl/You cry/How strange/The placenta plump like a bagpipe/My breasts fill with hot milk/With blue milk they fill. Heaton also sings the stinging chorus with stunning grace: You anoint me/You anoint me/My love is savage.
The title track, “Dora,” based on Clube’s poem of the same name, was loosely inspired by “Dora Markus,” a Eugenio Montale poem from the 1900s. In Clube’s poem, the character Dora embodies a complex but empowering metaphor. She is soft but seductively powerful. Her sense of self is unselfconscious, observed by a woman and desired by a man. With delicate power Heaton sings lines like: Dora do you know how he watches you/As you lie in the grass touching your breasts/Your hand inching beneath your skirt/Your eyes aligned with stars/He loves you ’cause you penetrate his loneliness.
For Heaton, writing music to someone else’s life story was liberating. “For singer-songwriters, our work is often perceived to be solely autobiographical when oftentimes, it is not,” she said. “It was refreshing to create something that would not be assumed to literally represent my own story. At the same time, it gave me more leeway to explore and break rules. I was able to let the music stretch out, not fit into a particular musical box, and include a wider range of styles. I allowed the sensuality of Claire’s words to come through. I felt like a messenger or translator. I think we’ve created something unusual with Dora.”
“It’s been a giant catharsis to wipe the slate clean,” Clube said reflecting on the journey that led to the Dora album. “I’ve experienced major shifts in my life in the last few years and come out the other side. I feel like I can do anything with my life now.”
“Some of my favorite albums, like Peter Gabriel’s US, were, in part, born of marital heartbreak,” said Heaton. “I never wanted to talk about my own divorce because it felt so personal. It was definitely the hardest thing I ever had to do, but my life finally started to move after I let my marriage go. In the community I grew up in, a marriage ending was considered incredibly taboo. I remember as a kid hearing about women who got divorced who then got very sick or were poor or who never got up off the couch for the next 10 years. I didn’t want to be this person, and I was terrified that being a divorced woman could cause this even though rationally I knew it didn’t have to. Then I met Claire, this powerful and joyful person without a trace of bitterness or regret, a fearless woman who had taken a scary step. I said to myself: ‘Here’s someone I want to live like.’ So I took a great interest in her words. I loved the colorful way she interacted with and wrote about people and the natural world. So I had a ball turning these poems into songs.”
Anne Heaton – Honeycomb Bio:
On October 16, 2012, singer-songwriter Anne Heaton released the soulful and liberating Honeycomb. The epiphanic album is dynamically organized into two uplifting moods—euphoric and meditative–with the theme of impermanence uniting both. Overall, it’s wonderfully reminiscent of the days of vinyl, when Side A and Side B each had a distinct feel that, when played in succession, took the listener on an inner journey. Anne Heaton’s fourth album is the critically acclaimed artist’s most unique and affecting album to date.
“The first part you can really sing out loud to while you dance around the house,” Heaton explains. “The second part is music you can let wash over you while you lay down. But the ideas and feelings expressed are very connected—the theme of being present reigns throughout. The album is a pilgrimage toward, and a celebration of, letting go.”
Heaton’s gracefully vulnerable piano-based music has amassed awards, praise from critics, fellow artists, and fans.The Washington Post succinctly says her songs are “tender, barbed, and spiritual.” The Boston Globe has described the Chicago-based artist’s music as “lush, introspective, and elegant.” Paste has called her work “stunning.” Heaton has toured nationally, played the Sundance Film Festival, Lilith Fair, and has been a featured artist on the New York Times Music Podcast. Heaton has also played numerous times on NPR. In 2005, she won Soul City Cafe, a national competition of live performances and online voting to choose Jewel’s opener for her West Coast Tour. In addition to Jewel’s tour, Heaton has also shared the stage with Sarah McLachlan, Winterbloom, Melissa Ferrick, Hem, Chris Trapper, Jill Sobule, The Pernice Brothers, Jennifer Kimball, and Jonatha Brooke. In a live review, The Seattle Times gushed Heaton was “a natural performer [with] a rich, soaring voice.”
Shimmering and buoyant, “The Alchemist” warmly opens Honeycomb. With the glow of a Rhodes organ, it’s a sweet pop treat with a strong spiritual undertow. Heaton’s dreamy opening vocal is mesmerizing and disarming, she sings: You have been fighting it with medicine/You have been fighting it by talking to a friend/You have been fighting it by not fighting it/And surrendering. “‘The Alchemist’ is a conversation about transforming depression and this theme of shifting perspective is present throughout the album,” says Heaton. “For example, in ‘Watching You Win,’ the main character questions his inner sense of ease, failing to see his positive impact on others and, by contrast, in ‘Last Drive’ an elderly man truly sees the beauty in the life he’s lived while he says goodbye to his town for the last time.”
Fans voted on Honeycomb to be the album title. The track has an ebullient gait with sublime harmonies and Heaton’s hypnotically elegant and airy vocals. In an intriguing contrast to the song’s upbeat, musical candy wrapper, Heaton sings about a crumbling relationship. “ My feeling is that the melody is beautiful and happy because it is paying homage to all the vivid details that were so wonderful about the relationship, even though those things could not save the relationship,” she says. She sings: I was so in love with you/While you were working on the honeycomb/Oh, oh the honeycomb/We couldn’t wait to see what the future would hold/ I’d run down the driveway every day/Don’t leave the moment/Stay.
Part Two of the record includes two Rumi poems based on translations by Coleman Barks, set to music. The tender warmth of “Two Human-Sized Wedding Candles” and the stately “Pearl Become Powder” are cleansing and centering. “‘Pearl Become Powder’ is like you could just relax and let your mind and spirit wander around in the landscape of the song,” says Heaton. Other Honeycomb highlights are the slowburn passion of her rendition of Colplay’s “Viva La Vida,” and Heaton’s goose bump-inducing performance of “Prayer of Saint Francis.” The latter’s universal message of healing is set to breathtakingly gorgeous and spare music. The album was produced by Gary Maurer (Hem), Mike Denneen (Howie Day, Aimee Mann), and Heaton herself.
Heaton began recording the album a few weeks before her daughter was born.“Pregnancy made my voice drop several notes,” she says. “It was a little difficult recording live because I think my daughter’s feet were in my ribcage. On ‘Prayer of Saint Francis’ you’ll notice my voice is a lot lower.”
Honeycomb is innovatively packaged with artwork by graphic artist Brian Grunert that vibrantly evokes the spirit in each of the 12 songs. “These songs are like colorful landscapes, full of detail, and the images are a singular point of focus—one cell of the song to stand for the whole. It’s kind of like in the book Good Night Moon. You go from the colorful scene of the whole bedroom and all the items in there, to the next page, where it’s just an image of a brush on a table.”
“For me, music has been a coping mechanism,” says Heaton. “For years, I was one of those people who woke up feeling down. I had a set point that was just low. Music, for me, is a way to uplift myself, not by running away from bad feelings, but by finding out what they have to say. Singing the lines of mystics like Rumi or St. Francis, people who are coming out of a higher vibrating place of love, feels true and also just feels good.”
Anne began her musical journey as a child learning to play classical piano. While in college at the University of Notre Dame, she studied Philosophy and Theology. There she sang in a rock band, but did not begin writing songs until after graduation and a move to New York City. In New York, she started going to open mikes and joined a Harlem gospel choir. “I learned a lot of great old spirituals in this choir, such as ‘Motherless Child’ among others. John Motley, the choir director, and Cooleridge Taylor-Perkinson, an arranger and composer for the group, introduced me to a lot of early American music. I ended up being invited to tour in Europe as a vocalist with Jazz drummer Max Roach performing gospel, jazz and some of his original compositions.”
“My biggest songwriting heroes, however, were always Peter Gabriel and Tori Amos. The most pivotal moment in music for me was hearing Peter Gabriel’s ‘Us’ for the first time. I think this is when I decided I wanted to make music and write songs. I thought if I could ever touch someone else musically the way Peter did on this record or the way Tori had reached me in so many of her songs, I would have done something worthwhile with my life.”
After writing a batch of songs, Anne performed her first shows as a singer-songwriter during the summer of 1998 at several coffeehouses in New Jersey and New York. In 1999, she made a live tape for fans at shows and in 2001 released her first full length album “Black Notebook” (co-produced by Dave Seitz) which charted on CMJ, received airplay on 33 Triple AAA stations, and includes the fan-favorite “Megan and Kevin,” a wedding toast for her childhood friend. Soon after the release of “Black Notebook”, Anne joined forces with a group of New York City’s up-and -coming singer-songwriters including Edie Carey, Teddy Goldstein, and Andrew Kerr as “Live From New York.” This in-the-round style show which included humor and poignant songs, met with much success, the group selling out most of the rooms it played on both coasts and in the Midwest.
When not on the road with “Live From New York,” Anne toured primarily as a duo with vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Frank Marotta, Jr. in venues such as Club Passim (Cambridge), Schubas Tavern (Chicago), Mississippi Studios (Portland), The Cedar (Minneapolis) and The Living Room (NYC) to name a very few.
***A portion of all proceeds from Anne’s tour this fall will be donated to Fundación Niños de los Andes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the rescue, protection and rehabilitation of street children in Bogota, Colombia (and other towns throughout the country). Anne met many of these street children in 2008 when she visited the Fundación and had an opportunity to hear their stories and learn about their lives. To create awareness, Anne turned some of these stories into songs. (This project is coming in 2014.) This organization remains close to Anne’s heart, and she wants the children to know she cares about them by donating to the organization. Fundación Niños de los Andes helps children, who have lived in violent and insecure conditions, to recuperate psychologically, physically and spiritually and to reintegrate into society. Learn more at http://ninandes.org/ ***