The former Mostly Autumn singer talks new releases and future plans.
With Heather Findlay’s new solo album expected sometime next year, fans are having to wait just that little bit longer for new material. However, Findlay is in one of the most productive periods of her career so far, and she’s just released a new solo DVD, filmed at an intimate London location. Prog finds out more…
“Perseverance is my middle name!” laughs Heather Findlay down the phone from her home studio in York. The UK is in the middle of a heatwave and the singersongwriter is camped out in her hottest room with the vintage floral curtains firmly closed. She’s been signing limited edition copies of her first live DVD as the Heather Findlay Trio for The Merch Desk, entitled Aces And Eights – A Night In The Saloon Bar, and is now taking a break to chat to Prog about the intimate show.
“A friend showed me pictures of this amazing place with a red lamp at the back of the stage and a gramophone, and I thought, ‘Wow! It looks like the coolest little hang-out in LA.’ I never dreamed it would come out so well on DVD: the atmosphere of that night is completely captured.”
Filmed in London last year, the DVD is advertised with the slogan “barefoot, brave and boho”. The brave part refers to the challenges of rearranging a full band set for a trio and hints at technical issues that emerged during the production process.
She admits, “It was a more complicated project than I was hoping it would be and [harpist] Sarah Dean said to me afterwards, ‘Well done you for persevering.’ I like to take on ridiculously challenging tasks and see if I can not die by the end of it!”
Findlay is currently enjoying one of the most productive periods of her career so far, and by her own admission, she’s spent the last few years “juggling and plate spinning”. There have been live albums and solo EPs, including 2016’s festive I Am Snow, the Mantra Vega side project with
Dave Kerzner, and a role in Arjen Lucassen’s live rock opera The Theater Equation. It was this latter adventure that inspired her debut solo album, which is due out next spring.
“There was some lovely camaraderie between us girls – Anneke van Giersbergen, Irene Jansen [sister of Nightwish singer Floor] and Marcela Bovio – we got on really well,” says Findlay with an audible smile. “On the last night, I was saying goodbye to Irene and Floor and we were joking about working together again. The two of them, with our voices, the sort of cocktail that we would end up coming up with would definitely be harder rock/metal. I said, ‘I love the idea of it. Let’s do a metal Abba project!’”
She stayed in touch with Irene
Jansen and also invited songwriter
Luke Morley to help out. She’d been itching to work with the Thunder guitarist since they first met during the recording sessions for Mostly Autumn’s Storms Over Still Water and he was the perfect fit for the project. Ideas were exchanged and Jansen even contributed vocals to Mantra Vega, but the “metal Abba” project fell apart when the Dutch singer announced she was pregnant. The news forced a rethink, and Findlay and Morley decided to work towards a different endgame.
“I thought it was high time
I recorded a solo album and, two years later, we have a complete album. About half are songs I’ve written and half are collaborations with Luke,” she says, adding that Morley has also produced the album. “We get on brilliantly so it was almost a no-brainer for us to say, ‘Yes, let’s do that.’ On the outside, people must be thinking, ‘Really?!’ but I think when they hear it, it’ll make perfect sense. I can’t say too much about it at this stage but it’s not quite the metal Abba that was first intended!”
The pair recorded the album at Wales’ legendary Rockfield Studios in May while Findlay was putting the finishing touches to her live DVD. Although she remains tight-lipped over the details, she does let slip that she played a few notes on the grand piano Queen used on Bohemian Rhapsody.
Findlay’s uncompromising creativity extends to the vibrant snapshots of her life on social media. Alongside photos of her on stage and in the studio are inspirational images of her boho chic home, reflecting the spirituality that’s carried through her folk-tinged music.
This seemingly relaxed environment contrasts with what she describes as “a stressful time” in the past which led to her visiting a Reiki healer and eventually becoming a practitioner herself. Four years ago she went one step further and took up Kriya Yoga – a more spiritual approach to the discipline also explored by George Harrison and Jon Anderson.
“I can see how much more focused I’ve become since yoga has become a bigger part of my life. I probably sweat the small stuff a lot less,” she admits. “Quietening the mind helps to remove some of the weird, self-sabotage blockages that can stop you creatively. It’s been quite a learning curve of getting to know myself and as a result it seems there’s a stockpile of stuff to come out in the next year or two. It feels like exciting times.”
That stockpile includes the second Odin Dragonfly album with long-term collaborator Angela Gordon.
Heather Findlay’s creative journey so far has pursued many paths. From her beautiful artwork and elegant debut solo EP The Phoenix Suite in 2011, to performing guest vocals on albums as diverse as Lonely Robot’s Please Come Home and Thunder’s Rip It Up, she believes in taking different and often unexpected routes. Yet as she embraces her fourth decade, it feels like she’s only just beginning her self-discovery and she’s looking forward to what the future brings. She’s open to more recordings with Mantra Vega and there are further live shows on the horizon too, but the artist-singer-healer is now more mindful of not saying yes to everything at once.
“I often take on too much and I’m starting to notice my limitations of what I can’t do, which is a great thing,” she admits. “The Aces And Eights… DVD documents everything I’ve done so far and it feels like a new chapter is about to begin.”
LADY OF THE CANYON: HEATHER FINDLAY.