Some of you will laugh at this title because I am still only 24, but looking back to 7 years old - those are my early years. Music isn't my only love, but it was my first love. And, like most of you know, our first love never really goes away. At the little tiny age of 5 years I started kindergarten and that is where my love for music began to sprout (although I did not, I was 4'11 till I was a freshman in high school.) Upon entering kindergarten, I started music class. After my music teacher noticed a had an special interest in music, she asked my mom if she could keep me one day a week after school for an extra hour to teach me more. My mom said yes, and so I went. (My mom always jokes at this part of the story "She [the music teacher] asked me and I said yes, that just meant I could stay at work longer and I had no clue how to even clap to a beat.")
Music lessons turned into piano lessons, which turned into asking for a guitar and it all just snowballed from there. My dad started teaching me how to play guitar and how to write songs.
Let me set the scene for the next few paragraphs. Me, ages 8-13.
In my younger years, I was terrible at memorizing lyrics. More so, I didn't like practicing very much so I only memorized what I absolutely had to. This really came back to haunt me one evening at the 3rd grade school musical. My music teacher asked me to do an impromptu solo with another girl and for some unknown reason I said yes. I'm pretty sure I blacked out during the 3 minutes and 30 seconds because I didn't know a single word to the song and somehow people still clapped when it was over. I am so glad Facebook Live was not a thing back then. I also was caught by a teacher once who asked me "were you mouthing 'watermelon, watermelon' during one of the songs?" I said of course not and was mad about the false accusation, but earlier that day someone did in fact teach me the ' mouth watermelon trick if you don't know the lyrics' and I had really tried my best to make it work...
I still remember very clearly the worst performance I ever had. I was probably around 8 or 9 and I got asked to sing at a political fundraiser dinner. I happened to do a lot of these and the best part for me was always the delicious food. This particular night I made sure my plate was loaded up with this massive mound of Caesar salad. I scarfed it down minutes before it was time for me to sing "God Bless America" for a room full of people. From the moment I picked up the microphone I knew this performance was going south fast. Somewhere between Kermit the Frog and Clint Eastwood were my lovely vocals trying to bust out a steady tune. When "from the oceans / white with foam" came up, I was in trouble. Again, I think I blacked out and probably just started mouthing "watermelon, watermelon" with my eyes closed. Later, a kind man stopped me and said "you did fantastic!" and I just burst out laughing. To this day, I will absolutely NOT eat salad on show days - it scared me for life!
My second worst experience - I was probably 11 or 12. It was at the Evergreen State Fair and I had a 5 song slot on a side stage singing with karaoke tracks for $100 pay. I remember I was on my last song "RESPECT" by Aretha Franklin and the manager gave me this hand motion and look that said "wrap it up." I remember thinking to myself while I was belting out a version of Born to Fly, "wrap it up? Lady these are karaoke tracks, how in the WORLD do I wrap up a karaoke track!?" Well, I am a professional artist who wanted to do their job to it's full potential so I continued singing. I had about 16 bars left when she turned off the track. She didn't even do a fade out, I had to quite cold turkey. I did an impromptu long hold on the last note, trying to make it seamless. I took myself and my cowgirl boots home and I did not go back to the Evergreen State Fair.
Best performance I've ever had: Playing the Waldorf Astoria was truly one of the most memorable performances I have ever had. Back when I was 18 I became a national ambassador for Drug Free America. They kindly invited me to play their Winter Gala in New York City and flew my entire band and I in for the event. From the minute we arrived we were taken care of by the kindest people. The Waldorf was absolutely stunning. We had rehearsed so much to prepare for this show and we played our hearts out that night. I was with the greatest people, for a great cause, in a great place - it was unforgettable. (I will not include the story about the night I ended up accidentally taking the band to a restaurant that had a bill total of $1,200. I still owe my mother for that.)
Another very memorable performance I had was the honor of singing at The Ryman in honor of Tim Johnson. After his passing, all of his friends & fellow writers came together for a packed out night paying tribute to Tim's life and his music. The emotion was unreal. I can play back every single detail of that night like a movie.
I remember another event, I was probably 8 or 9, my mom and dad drove me all the way out to the middle of no where for some singing competition. Because the car ride was so long I hadn't done my hair before we left the house that morning. The only place we could find to stop was at the local book store. We snuck into the back bathroom, plugged in the curling iron and I started getting ready. I'd like to note here that my mom (thanks Liz) always made me wear lip liner like Kylie Jenner, Liz was way ahead of the times apparently, but I always protested with a whine and an eye roll. Once the horrible lip liner application was finished (and the bronzer that was put on with a decade old blush brush that felt like the coarse side of a dish-sponge) we went to grab the curling iron. Well, to our surprise, after we had plugged it in, we didn't realize we had sat it on a plastic table cover. The curling iron looked like it was being used to roast marshmallows, it was completely covered in white melted plastic. Needless to say, I did not win the competition and I am still convinced it was due to flat hair and hooker make up because I really sang "When will I be Loved" by Linda Ronstadt with all my heart.
I've had my name printed in papers as Heather multiple times, I've been quoted wrong, I've sung in front of people who didn't clap, in front of people who threw things at me, I've sung to 40,000 people crowds and I've sold out shows. It has been a wild, maddening, hilarious, frustrating, incredible journey - And these are only a few of the stories.
I have a few embarrassing stories too, I tried to sing the national anthem one day in the studio for 5 hours and never hit the high note once. I fell down in the airport once with my guitar. I've messed up countless speaking parts while on stage. I've had the front of my dress come unzipped, had jewelry go flying, and started a song in the wrong key with a full band. I used to play my guitar so hard that I'd get blood on my pick guard by the end of the night. And I went through a stage where I'd get different colored pieces of clip-in hair.
Looking back on my early years has made me realize something really important thought: Back then, I didn't give a f. Not in the way of "I don't care what people think" but in the way that I didn't NEED people to think of me a certain way. I didn't need anyones approval when I was younger. I just wrote my music and played my music and wore my outfits and did my thing. I didn't know what comparison was yet, or body image, or Likes on Instagram. I just played and performed and created with passion, without boundaries, without being jaded. It was beautiful. I really applaud my 14 years old self that did a wardrobe change for one song in a 2 hour set, because at 13 watching Gwen Stefani taught me that you can do that and that it matters.