Boston transplant Anne Heaton is a welcome addition to the Chicago music scene. Astute and sometimes wry, her songs unfold like tiny maps of the human condition. She spoke with Our Town about her writing process, influences and what it was like to open for Jewel.
Our Town What's your writing process like?
Anne Heaton Often I write in the morning before anyone else wakes up. Occasionally I’ll want to write to someone so my morning writing might end up being an email to a friend. I’ll save the email and come back to it later to see if I might want to further mine it for a song. Sometimes I’ll write a song while taking a walk, singing and making up words at the same time. One time this year, I was overcome with the desire to write something down while I was on a road trip, so I pulled over at a rest stop, wrote for ten minutes into my phone, and then drove on. I went back to it later and it turned into a short essay.
OT Where do you find inspiration?
AH I find inspiration in my life experiences, particularly ones that are humorous or serendipitous. Right now, I’m working on two songs, one about how uncomfortable and nervous I feel when everything is going well. It sounds like a jazz standard but has a humorous tone. I’m also writing a more contemplative/yearning tune about how the future calls to us and how we must surrender to it. I also love telling other peoples’ stories. Sometimes I find inspiration reading poems by Rumi.
OT Who are your influences?
AH When I was growing up my main influences were Peter Gabriel, The Indigo Girls, Tori Amos, The Rolling Stones and Debussy (to name a few). Now my influences are often my peers, other songwriters I perform with such as Meg Hutchinson, Natalia Zukerman and Antje Duvekot. Anything that is funny influences me, even if it’s a movie like “Bottlerocket.” I love the way writers dole out information, the choices they make.
OT What's been your most fulfilling performance experience?
AH Probably singing in Paris and London with jazz drummer Max Roach. I sang in a small group…gospel, jazz and original tunes written by Max. The band was stellar and the audiences so enthusiastic. I’m not sure what my most fulfilling experience has been performing my own songs. I’ve enjoyed some of the bigger gigs like Lilith Fair and opening up for Jewel because it's fun playing on those bigger stages, but I’m not sure that means they were the most fulfilling. I think probably my favorite gigs have been in yoga studios or meditation centers. I don’t have a specific show in mind, but in general, the audiences that show up in those places are really present, kind, and hooked into the show in a way that’s rewarding for me as a performer.
OT Do you believe in writers block?
AH I believe in seasons.
OT What's next for you?
AH I’m releasing a collaborative album of poems-turned-songs with late poet Claire Clube on Valentine’s Day of this year. It was a pleasure to set her words to music since I usually write all of my own lyrics. Claire was a dear friend and a very inspiring person whose tragic death over the summer was very shocking. I’m hoping her amazing joyful and fiery spirit will live on through this album.
Catch Anne Heaton January 25th at Princeton Coffeehouse at 7 p.m.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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