Posted by Ryan Cornell / Tuesday, September 25th, 2012
Singer-songwriter Heather Mae is constantly searching in the darkest corners and the highest branches of the right half of her mind. She’s always devising new ways to lure out that elusive and slippery creature known as creativity. So when she attended a conference in New York City and heard the CEO of the soon-to-be-maybe-revived MySpace say: “Do something big. Wear leather. Be Lady GaGa. Write a song a day,” something inside her clicked. The crowd might have laughed off the bold statements and she might have thought the challenge sounded crazy, yet in October 2010, she started her “One Year of Songs” project.
“I wanted to dive into creativity,” she says. “It only came when it wanted to. I didn’t have a method; as long as I created a space, it was a matter of opening up and not passing any judgment.”
For the project’s last three months, Mae traveled the U.S. in a van, touring and writing songs. Sometimes the ideas floated on top of alcohol and she had to hammer (ha) out a song before the day ended to meet her 24-hour rule. Once, her van broke down visiting her second cousin in Fort Morgan, Colo., where her only forms of communication were through a landline phone and DSL internet. After waiting a week for the van to be repaired, Mae and her friend drove 30 hours nonstop, binging on coffee and 5 Hour Energy to make it to their next show in Vancouver.
Mae, who didn’t own a guitar until college, wrote poetry and a capella songs as a child. As the lead vocalist of the folk-pop group Heather Mae & The Make Believe, she describes her voice as low in timbre like Adele—she also likes to belt it out—and compares her music to Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. In addition to singing, Mae plays the ukulele, guitar, mandolin, piano and drums.
It’s no coincidence that the Old Dominion serves as an inspiration for many of her songs. Born and raised in Sterling, Mae knows how beautiful the state’s fall foliage can be and captured it in a song. In another called “Virginia Girl,” she translated the story of her runaway grandmother into an a capella bluegrass tune.
Mae says that her show at Ebenezers will include all 10 songs from her new “One Year of Songs” album (it’s her CD release concert) as well as other songs she fell in love with from the 365-track project. “It’s a night of storytelling,” she says. “Each song is a day. And each day is a story.”
Some of these days were packed full of muse-like material—Mae mentions the week of her breakup and times surrounding deaths in her family where “you could hear the heartbreak”—while others were affected by the stress of her tour. Some days led her to write verses from a beach house outside Astoria, Ore. (her favorite outpost on the journey) and others were spent at the Grand Canyon, where she recorded the project’s last song.
If there’s anything she’s gained from her experiment, it’s her own artistic process. “I learned how to brew creativity,” she says. “I learned how to open the door to it, even if it’s just for five minutes.”
Comedienne and ukulele-strumming singer-songwriter “Danielle Ate the Sandwich” is scheduled to open the show.
Tags: creativity, Danielle Ate the Sandwich, Ebenezers Coffeehouse, folk pop, Heather Mae, Music, Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Magazine, NoVA, One Year of Songs, Ryan Cornell, singer-songwriter, The Game Plan