Heather Find­lay____

Prog - - Contents - Words: Natasha Scharf Portrait: Ja­son Joyce Aces And Eights – A Night In The Sa­loon Bar is out now via Black Sand. For more, see www.heatherfind­lay.co.uk.

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.”


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