ode boutique

Artist Interview

Heather Maloney

April 12, 2018

                                          
                                                                              [All photos by Chattman Photography]

Artist, activist, and adamanent coffee connoisseur, Heather Maloney is the kind of woman you want at your table. Listening to her songs makes you feel like you have a close friend in the room. Through music, she tells stories of love and loss, heartbreak and heart-mending.  We were lucky enought to get to hang with Heather and play dress up for a day, and she couldn't have been more gracious and humble...characteristics sometimes rare in a person with so much talent and prowess. Join us in welcoming Heather and her songs to Ode on Friday, April 13th, from 6-8PM.  

What inspires you to write a song?
Most of my songs are silver linings; the brightest and shiniest things I could drudge up from my darkest and gnarliest experiences. That sounds dramatic, but it's true for me. When I'm struggling with something I write it into a song and I usually write my way into the bright side of it. My mom is a psychotherapist (sometimes that's more obvious than I'd like), and growing up in a household where talking about feelings was as normal as talking about what to eat for dinner ("I'm sorry for unconsciously projecting my need for validation onto you yesterday at the recital. Do you want pizza or pasta?"). The parallels between therapy and songwriting have shaped me fully, and many of the same reasons someone might go to therapy are the same reasons that prompt me to write songs.

What's your most rockstar outfit?
I don't own it yet, but I've been on a quest for leather pants for some time. They don't have to be real leather they just have to fit perfectly. Where are they, dammit?? 


What's your favorite place to perform?
On a single tour I'll perform in a grand theater one night and a living room the next. I can say honestly that some of the most memorable, electric moments have happened in the smaller listening rooms. There is something that just can't be replaced when the room gets bigger; a connectivity and a feedback loop between performer and audience that is just so contained, undiluted and pure magic. 

You just released a song, "How Many More". Can you tell us about the impetus for writing and recording it?
My February tour took me through Florida, right after the Parkland school shooting. I heard the news when I was staying in Orlando, right down the street from the Pulse nightclub, where over the past 2 winters I've watched the walls around the building become an ever-changing shrine of rainbows, candles, flowers and notes. About 10 minutes across Route 4, La Plaza Live was where I'd played my first show in Orlando, only a few months before singer Christina Grimmie was shot and killed standing at the same merch table I stood at. Listening to the horrifying live reports from Parkland, I was hit with a nauseating feeling of total immersion... of being totally immersed in a culture of gun violence that has run so rampant and so wildly out-of-control that it's evidence could be seen in every direction. It was everywhere. I went back to my cottage and picked up my guitar, thinking that if I could write out the feeling maybe I'd be able to shake the feeling of helplessness. I tried to write but nothing worth keeping came out, just some sloppy emotions with zero clarity. A few days of consuming news later, there she was. Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez gave a speech that moved me to my core and lit my heart on fire. I picked up my guitar again, and this time a song came pouring out, fully formed. The song title was clear too: How Many More. 


I had a show in St. Augustine Florida that night, and for the first time in my 8 years of touring, I wrote and performed a song in the same day. I played How Many More again the following night in Sarasota. After each show I promised a number of people that I'd take an iphone video and post it in a few days. I never did. It dawned on me that the song could be utilized in a more powerful way than just a facebook post.

So I got on the phone and asked for a whole bunch of favors from a whole bunch of people, and amazingly every single person said YES. Within a couple of weeks we'd recorded, mixed, mastered, filmed and released 'How Many More' without spending a cent so that literally 100% of the proceeds generated have gone (and are still going!) directly to gun control advocacy groups (Everytown & Mom's Demand Action). I was blown away by the generosity of the entire group of volunteers and I've been blown away by how much support has poured in from downloads, donations & streams. (Here are all of the generous people who volunteered their time, skills & resources: Signature Sounds Recording Co, Ryan Hommel, Andrew Oedel at Ghost Hit Records, Melissa McClung, Kevin Butler at Test Tube Audio, Susa Talan and, what do you know, Ode Boutique!!)



If you could bring back the Lilith Fair, who would perform?
Oh yesssss I love this question. So many songwriters-who-happen-to-be-female are killing it right now. Aimee Mann's last record is still on repeat so hopefully she'd come and play the whole damn thing. I'm With Her is a super-group that has blessed us all. Laura Marling I will love forever and ever amen. Courtney Barnett, The Staves, Tori Amos, Regina Spektor, Lori McKenna, Emmylou Harris, Jesca Hoop, Brandi Carlile, Lucinda Williams, Phoebe Bridgers, HAIM, First Aid Kit, Anais Mitchell, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, The Weather Station, Julien Baker, Neko Case, Valerie June, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin, there are so many more!! But seriously I'd die from happiness if all of these women played a single festival. I would just cease to exist. 

PS - NOWHERE in the festival write-ups would be read the words "Female Singer-Songwriter".  At THIS festival we'd know that that's not a fucking genre. All of these women are in different genres and NONE of them have to do with their gender! (sorry I just had to vent)


What are your daily rituals on the road?
1 - finding the snobbiest most delicious pour-over coffee in whatever city I wake up in.  2 - Podcasts podcasts podcasts. So much van-time.  3 - Find two minutes to breath/meditate before the show.  4 - Lavender diffuser and classy-AF-single-serve Sutter Home = hotel room of my dreams.

You spent years studying at a meditation center. What is your relationship with meditation now?
On a silent retreat, meditation can be very structured. Each day there is a rhythm and pattern, a certain amount of hours spent doing sitting meditation, walking meditation, attending a Dharma talk... you eat at the same times, sleep at the same times, watch the same breath, bow to the same Buddhas, wash the same dishes, walk down the same path through the same woods. It's quiet. The silence is everywhere, and eventually it grows inside of you too. It's a container, with just the right conditions to support this inner-stillness. 

When I stepped outside of that container to start my life as a touring musician, I stepped into a world that was the complete opposite in so many ways. Very little to no structure at all. No rhythms or patterns, eating and sleeping at different times in different time-zones on different pillows each and every night. It's not quiet. It's hand-shaking and restaurants and thin hotel walls and traffic and sound-check. It's constant sound and motion and stimulation. It's the opposite of a container, it's chaos. 

But when I left the meditation center I knew this. It's been my goal, since that day, to integrate that stillness into the unlikeliest of situations- to find and cultivate an inner stillness of the portable variety so I could take it with me wherever I go. I can't say it's been easy. I lose my way over and over. But I am relentlessly committed to returning to center. Sometimes it looks like stopping for just a few breaths. A trip to the bathroom just to breath 3 conscious breaths, a mantra when I'm behind the wheel, a pause before the show, chewing my damn food all the way. I look at the stage as my meditation cushion- the place I return to each night for 45 minutes to an hour of being fully present and connected. Often, it's the place and time I'm most aware and relaxed. My practice is a lot less structured and a lot more fluid than it used to be, but I'm getting better at surfing through it all each year with a bit more grace and equanimity. At least I like to think I am wink


Funniest on-the-road story?
I know there are better ones than this, but the first one that comes to mind is the time my bandmate Brennan was woken up at 4am by a huge, angry, fully-naked man knocking on his hotel room door at 4am in a Marriott in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Brennan tried to explain that it wasn't the right room but the guy was drunk enough that it a decent amount of negotiation before the guy ran away. You just never know what you're gonna see out there.