We’ve loved seeing Heather on the small screen in shows like ‘Waterloo Road’, ‘London’s Burning’ and ‘Lip Service’. In 2014 she released her latest album, The Thin Line. We catch up with Heather as she’s about to hit the road with her ‘Little Bird’ tour.
You’re hitting the road from March with your ‘Little Bird Tour’. Where does the name for the tour come from and how do you go about deciding what to name a tour, or album?
The “Little Bird” tour is a stripped back acoustic tour with myself on guitar and piano, Michael Clancy on guitar and vocals and Charlotte Ridley on keys, vocals and violin. I’ve named it after a song myself and Michael penned leading up to “The Thin Line” album recording and it narrowly missed out on being included on the record. It didn’t make it because it didn’t quite fit into the sound of the album, but as a song I really liked it, as did a lot of the fans. I wanted to let those fans know it was still in development and hadn’t been forgotten and the title, to me, suited the smaller, more intimate feeling of this tour. There’s no rhyme or reason to how I name an album, it just happens and you kind of know when it’s right. “The Thin Line” was the obvious title track for me for my second album and it was the last track I wrote for the record, weirdly “Fairytales” was the last track I wrote for my first studio album and that too became the title track. Maybe that’s just how I’m always going to decide?!
What can we expect from the upcoming tour? Any special cover versions?
It’s a more intimate, acoustic tour. I’ve also got a grand piano at every venue which is always special and adds warmth to the sound. The covers, I usually do a couple, are top secret. They’re not, I’m just not totally sure yet! I have a few in mind.
How did you settle on the venues for the tour?
I wanted to play in venues where the acoustics are almost an extra musician and churches seemed like the best option for that. They’re all churches apart from London but The Jazz Cafe in Camden is just a really special venue and I’d play there every night of the week if I could. We may very well add some more cities to this mini tour later in the year. I would very much like to take this tour to Scotland, Ireland and Wales and maybe a venue further South in Devon or Cornwall.
You released ‘The Thin Line’ album last year. For anyone who hasn’t listened to it yet. How would you describe the album?
It’s essentially a collection of self penned songs with themes ranging from love and loss to equality and social conscience. The production of the album is warm and organic. It was all recorded on tape with the main band parts recorded together in the same room at the same time, as a band, which I think gives it an energy and vibe not possible with single track recording. I’m a lover of big vocal arrangements, and they are all over the record. It’s a big sounding album with pauses for quieter, more stripped songs. I thought about the album as a whole listening experience and so I think it flows well. The order of tracks was important to me, so don’t press “shuffle”!
“We are now supported by the law, but prejudice is still rife.”
Is there a track on the album that means more to you than the others?
“I Pick Flowers” means a lot to me. It’s the last track on the album and was recorded at about 1am after a very long recording session, and I was very ill. James Lewis, the producer, wanted me to record it when I was exhausted, hopefully to catch a vulnerability in the vocal. He hung a mic between myself and Michael’s guitars and we just played it. And that was it. The lyrics mean a lot to me, I think they are the most honest and the song was written for my wife, Ellie.
You were immortalised as a lego figure for the special collectors edition of the album. That must feel pretty cool?
A lovely lady on twitter, Bev Bratton, sent me one as a present. I took it to Australia and sent various pics back on twitter and people thought it was fun. So we had one made up to go with “The Thin Line” collectors edition. Everyone loves lego right?
“I was a huge fan of Doris Day though as a kid and ‘Calamity Jane’ was possibly my favourite film EVER. Maybe I recognised my tomboy self in the character.”
It’s International Women’s Day on 8 March. Is there a female that has played a big part in your life, been a big influence on your career path or inspiration?
I’m going to say what so many people say; my Mum. She always made me believe I could do anything I wanted to do if I worked hard enough. I wasn’t really aware of gender being an issue that held you back because it wasn’t part of my family. It was me, not my brother, who played football, for example, and my parents came to support me. We were both supported in whatever we wanted to do. I grew up surrounded by mostly boys, playing games on the street through the Summers and I just never saw myself as being in anyway slower, weaker, less than and I just always competed to the best of my ability. My Grandmother was also a formidably strong woman in every way, including physically. She got on with things, always worked hard, nothing was too much trouble and she was the backbone of our family.
Did you have any role models in the world of showbiz and entertainment growing up?
Not really. No “role models”, just actors and musicians that I loved. I was a huge fan of Doris Day though as a kid and ‘Calamity Jane’ was possibly my favourite film EVER. Maybe I recognised my tomboy self in the character. I totally understood why she would prefer to wear her shirt and slacks and have her gun in her holster. As I got older though, I’d say that KD Lang was a massively important visible figure for the LGBT community. At that time there was so much homophobia, everywhere, it was a normal part of everyday life in the press and on tv and yet there she was breaking into mainstream and performing shows where half of the audience were straight couples who didn’t care about her sexuality, they were just there because of her amazing voice and music.
How important do you think positive and diverse role models are to encouraging kids of all backgrounds to aim high and follow their dreams?
For young people without good role models in their family I would say it’s really important. The best case scenario though would be that their nearest and dearest tell them they can be whatever they want to be and their gender, sexuality, race need not hold them back.
“’I Pick Flowers’ – The lyrics mean a lot to me, I think they are the most honest and the song was written for my wife, Ellie. ”
How does it make you feel to be considered a role model by many people?
I’m kind of ok with it now. I’m glad it’s happened later in my adult life. I was a complete prat in my 20’s! It used to make me feel quite pressured, I was scared of putting a foot wrong but I know myself so much better now and am happy with my life and I’m settled. So bring it on!
Have you ever experienced or witnessed any sexism or homophobia in the industry (or outside)?
Yes, of course. Many times. Sexism and homophobia. Too much to write down and get into really, which is sad. But it’s changing, and it’s changing at a pace now. People are so much more aware of what’s right and wrong now. If you look back just 20 years, so many people would be racist, sexist, homophobic all of the time without always being aware that that was what they were being. That’s what’s changed so much. I think the vast majority of people know now when they choose to be sexist/racist/homophobic and that’s why it can change. It can change when people become aware of it. Things like the “No more Page 3” have done wonders for explaining every day sexism for example, and they’ve made people aware of the subversive shit we are dealing with on a daily basis. Our eyes have been opened and so we can make changes. We can speak up and maybe gently explain when homophobic language is used, ‘that’s so gay’ and the like.
What role do you think LGBT Pride events have in 2015 when we have equal marriage and equal rights in most areas of life in the UK?
Homophobia still exists. We are now supported by the law, but prejudice is still rife. I was in a bar in Peterborough when I was recording the album and I heard the most disgusting barrage of language about gay people and how they were ‘disgusting’ and should be ‘put against a wall and shot’ from a group of four men and women who were having a drunken conversation. James, my producer, had to hold onto me so I didn’t go and tackle their conversation. I’m glad he did, I don’t think I would have come off too well. People get bullied, and worse than that, are still being targeted with violence because of their sexuality.
LGBT Pride events are so important to so many people, especially in smaller towns and cities, as it gives LGBT people a chance to not feel like a minority. It’s always such a happy and exciting day. They also raise a heck of a lot of money for charities. They are a celebration of our culture and history, let’s not forget, we have been a persecuted minority for too long. It’s so wonderful to celebrate together with our straight friends and family too.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing. A lot. So another album is a definite. As for TV work. We shall see. I don’t really want to be away from home at the moment. If the right role came along then obviously I’d change my mind in a heartbeat. That’s not to say I want to be in ‘Heartbeat’. I don’t. I think it’s finished anyway. Hasn’t it?
The Thin Line :
Heather’s album, ‘The Thin Line’, is out now.