HALEY HEYNDERICKX – ” I Need To Start A Garden ” Best Albums Of 2018

Posted: December 25, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The troubadour originated in the Middle Ages but the folk singers of the ‘60s – Nick Drake, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan  were the carriers of the torch. Now there’s a new generation of artists taking up the baton and in Haley Heynderickx we have a new master of the art.

Haley Heynderickx’s debut album “I Need To Start A Garden” mixes folk, doo wop, atmospheric guitars with beautiful instrumentation sitting next to stark rawer moments. We already shared the stunning Untitled God Song, and now we have the equally good Worth It, which over the course of nearly eight minutes undulates from soft-hums into moments of crashing catharsis all led by her incredible, arresting voice and distinctive song structure.

Like the true troubadour, Haley Heynderickx is travelling light. For her current European tour she’s got a guitar, a car and the proverbial suitcase of songs. Heynderickx balances playing shows with the hours of solitude that touring alone brings. “It’s weird double-dipping, there’s many different roles to fulfil but this is the dreamiest 9 to 5 I could have ever imagined for my life, which is more like nine pm to two in the morning. It makes people really happy, but sometimes there are moments where I know I can’t give anymore, like in the ‘merch’ moments, but other than that I can’t complain too much about this lifestyle, it fascinates me.”

A conversation with Heynderickx is filled with poetry from the most unexpected of sources. The Oregon-born musician laughs about her fascination with digestive biscuits, which she can’t get in the US. “I’m obsessed with them, but they make no sense. They don’t help my digestion at all, but psychologically I love eating them. They’re like a cookie that makes you feel better, I’ve no idea why they’re so good.”

Her fascination with music also grew through “dating the right people at the right time: introduced me to musical genres that influenced me intensely and changed my life. That’s the secret I don’t tell people.” She discovered ‘60s and ‘70s folk and laughs at the memory of being “forced to watch all these music documentaries about Led Zeppelin, Robert Johnson, Bob Dylan and The Beatles, I watched the whole of Anthology, it’s a lot, but it’s fun.”

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Another life-changing moment was meeting two Portland musicians through open mic sessions. The first was Megan McGeorge who she met after supporting “a random band at a jazz club who were very high and didn’t consider how weird it was to have an 18 year old folk singer open for them” which led to meeting Luz Elena Mendoza of Y La Bamba. “She’s a powerhouse in Portland. She’s very spiritual in her music and taught me a lot about being grounded. So I started having this ocean of women influences who helped me to gain the confidence in myself to do this, but I didn’t think it would go this far.”

We met Heynderickx, when she played Green Man Festival . “I only got to experience one day of it and I slept in my car. I got to see Grizzly Bear, Stella Donnelly, Frankie Cosmos and Lucy Dacus, so I pretty much only got to see four concerts.”

Such competition is a world away from the world she inhabits. Lucy Dacus recently claimed she’d “very much like to work with Haley Heynderickx, what a sweet person and wonderful singer.”The new generation of songwriters have instead found a level of mutual admiration and humility.

Heynderickx’s reaction to how people have embraced her songs. “I’m amazed, it’s just me and a nine-string guitar. I’ve always loved playing shows and I got used to three years of just having my friends come, with the rest of the people sitting on the fence. I’m still not used to playing a concert and people saying ‘We came to see you’, it’s a very weird feeling. I’m still shocked the music isn’t enough, oddly, of people wanting to feel even closer to you, to get to know your story and who you are. I’m finding this balance, everyone wants to indulge in music in different ways and if I’m willing to be as vulnerable in sharing these songs then I can give a tiny bit more in saying who I am if that interests them.”

Heynderickx’s initial connection with music was with songs rather than the artists who wrote them. “I just fell in love with the songs, I didn’t think twice about who the musicians were, I didn’t even process you could know about musicians.” She laughs that the music documentaries were a turning point. “I thought we were going to break up if I didn’t watch this damn Robert Johnson documentary! Then I started refining that appreciation to ‘Oh yeah, you can get to know the person.’

Is there a similarity for her own songs, where word of mouth is a key part of the story? “A lot of people approach me and say ‘My brother, or my partner shared this with me.’ To me that signifies human connection and that feels really good but a lot of media and press? That’s freaky.” Heynderickx laughs about the fact she’s started to have what she calls media dreams. “A big article got posted whilst I was sleeping and in my sleep I could feel this static all around me. I felt like I woke up with this noise and I thought of everyone in that moment reading with their fingernails against the glass. It’s mind-blowing, it’s so strange. That’s not how it was 40 years ago, this is a whole new generation of music sharing and experiencing that hasn’t been studied yet, we’re just doing it and full-fledging it. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, we’re indulging right now and its fun.”

Seeing Heynderickx play her songs live evoked the idea of the troubadour, where everything relies on the power of the voice, playing and songs, which in a world of multi-sensory live experiences is a brilliantly brave but risky approach. “Risky is a good word, I agree. I’m honoured if you’re comparing me to a troubadour in that sense, but psychologically I’ve had to get over that.” She says with acoustic music the risk is maintaining the audience’s attention, which she thinks can waver after forty five minutes “so anything after that I kind of feel guilty and indulging and that’s why I feel awkward with encores, it’s ‘Wow, we’re way past the forty five minute mark and you’re just being nice.’ Our attention spans can be really short, so with just guitar and a voice it’s very intimidating to hold that space for that long.” She reconsiders for a moment and adds “but then again, we can talk to the people we love for six hours straight, so maybe it doesn’t matter what elements we choose, as long as we feel like we’re communicating with each other.”

Heynderickx’s between song chat is equal parts hilarious and heart-warming but her guitar playing does a lot of her onstage talking. For a devout finger-picker ironically she took lessons from a bluegrass guitarist: “I think that rebellion grew in me, the more I learned how much I disliked picks the more I got lost in songs like “Blackbird” and old blues and ragtime tunes that required a lot the bass with the thumb. That was so much more fun than this picky motion, I love to use the whole landscape and the older I got the more artists I found that did that, like John Fahey, Leo Kottke and Nick Drake, there’s a lot of weirdos out there that like to play with their hand!”

She adds that another downside of life on the road is finding the right environment to write new songs. What does that mean for her next batch of songs? “I wish I could tell you right now, it’s this weird baby that we all created. We never knew how much it would grow and what it would grow into. I’ve learned that I just can’t write on the road, when I’m recording and when I’m living with people, but I can’t afford to live on my own yet.” Heynderickx describes it as a ‘fun paradox’ where she’s doing what she loves “but there’s this really creepy, little voice on my shoulder saying ‘Ha, ha! What if you never to get write again?’ And I’m like ‘Oh, you’re right, little voice on my shoulder.” So I’m going to enjoy each day, writing is very sacred, it can’t just be A+B=C and cranked out. It has to be of the soul and a moment that’s been poured into, it’s not something that can be casual.”

Heynderickx has tried venturing into the woods to write, armed with a backpack and two guitars. “I think ‘I’m going to do the thing, I’ve got Justin Vernon ringing in my head and I’ve got all these ideas’, but for some reason, even with that intent of ‘I’m going to be in silence and be around no one’ I haven’t been able to write then either.” The songs on I Need to Start a Garden where written whilst Heynderickx was balancing day jobs in a school and a bakery and “playing a ton of shows, being in weird relationships, feeling lonely, stressed, sad and confused, and somehow through all of that I crammed song-writing through each of my days, but now my days can be dedicated to song-writing but it’s like my little song-writing fellow is turning up their nose and saying “Hmm, why are you staring at me so intensely? I’m not going to give you anything, I sneak into your life whenever I want.”

The idea of a troubadour as the minstrel, who can summon a song from nowhere isn’t Heynderickx’s method, instead she takes her time and not just with writing, I Need to Start a Garden was recorded three times before she was happy with the finished product. “I’m going to be a very slow recording artist. I was reading about Mitski’s Be The Cowboy and how she tapped into a character, using fiction to let her mind go free and get away from the personal, that’s pretty neat. There’s plenty of ways to write, maybe I’ll experiment with leaving the first person, but I love writing from the first person, so who knows?”.

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