Known for her magical, evocative voice and an ability to interpret and inhabit a range of styles with a mix of power and feeling, Heather Findlay is one of the finest vocalists working in music today. Prog magazine lauded her, “Deliciously sultry vocals”, whilst Maverick magazine hailed her, “Pure, crystalline voice. She grabs your heart in an almost vice-like grip”. With her latest project, the eagerly awaited ‘Wild White Horses’ album, due in May 2019, her career continues to gather speed. She has earned her stripes and honed her craft over recent years, turning a natural love of music into a stock in trade, with never a dull moment along the way.
Heather Findlay was born in Doncaster. Brought up in a very musical household, where the radio was never off unless the turntable was spinning, from an early age the foundations for Heather’s future career were laid. At the age of 13, as a result of her evident and growing passion for playing music, her beloved grandfather bought Heather her first guitar. Heather remembers, “It was a Tanglewood acoustic guitar, that I still have, and is affectionately known as ‘Woody’. It was bought from ‘Rose Morris’ music shop in York, where I had lived from the age of 9. I remember feeling sick with excitement and that it felt like the guitar would be almost like a portal to a whole new universe! With the change I had, I bought pitch pipes to tune the guitar with... pitch pipes! I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but somehow it didn’t matter. Woody was coming home with me...”
There was no stopping her now and Heather sang and played whenever and wherever she could, appearing in many school productions and shows, and constantly listening to new music, fuelled her passion further. At home, the soundtrack included everything from The Beatles to Motown, Kate Bush to Fleetwood Mac; whilst her school common room bounced to pop, rock, grunge and metal. This diverse grounding gave Heather an appreciation of music of all forms, and a love of - and an ability to perform - a wide spectrum of styles.
At the age of 19, Heather was studying Art at college and, as well as spending increasing amounts of time experimenting in recording studios, took the plunge and started performing her own small gigs around York. Following one such gig, having seriously impressed founder member Bryan Josh, Heather was asked to join up and coming rock band Mostly Autumn. She was delighted to accept and, during the 13 extraordinary years that followed, Bryan and Heather went on to share much creative success, writing and recording many albums together. The band toured internationally throughout that time. In January 2010, however, Heather made the tough decision to part company with Mostly Autumn and to launch a solo career.
Heather recalls, “In 2010, I really felt ready to break out in a solo capacity and experiment with different styles and work with different people. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to establish a solo career whilst continuing to fulfil my role in Mostly Autumn as I had also given birth to my first child in October 2008. Something had to give and my growing passion to explore other avenues won. My first task was to write and sing for an experimental dubstep project called Maidu, with ‘Above & Beyond’ producer Bob Bradley. I distinctly remember opening that email. It was so refreshing and exhilarating to work on something so wildly different. Even from this short session, I had learned so much. I knew this wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but I knew I was on the right path.”
She was indeed and, over the subsequent years, Heather has continued to learn and to develop. The boundless depth and dynamism of her stage presence, coupled with the richness, power and beauty of that instantly identifiable voice continues to captivate listeners. Classic Rock magazine love her, “Warm yet powerful vocals”. Heather has worked hard and now enjoys a reputation as one of the finest female vocalists of her time. Trebuchet magazine called her, “A charismatic performer and a class act as a vocalist”, but Heather has also pushed herself musically and mastered instruments such as acoustic guitar, lo whistle and alto recorder. Her love of Art has never left her and she has contributed work that has featured as album covers, notably for Mostly Autumn’s ‘The Last Bright Light’, but Ritchie Blackmore also used one of her creations on the Blackmore’s Night album ‘Fires At Midnight’.
Heather’s appreciation for all forms of music has never left her, and Heather has relished the chance to team up with a huge range of contemporary artists. She has performed guest vocals with Ritchie Blackmore, Jethro Tull, Fish, John Wetton, Uriah Heep, Shed Seven, Iona, Troy Donockley, and with Marillion’s Steve Hogarth as a guest singer on Lonely Robot. With Ayreon, Heather has sung live and in the studio alongside James LaBrie of Dream Theater; Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt, Irene Jansen and Anneke Van Giersbergen of VUUR. Most recently, Heather has been singing with UK rock band Thunder, both live and as featured on the ‘Rip It Up’ studio album.
Following on from The Phoenix Suite and Live At The Cafe 68, Heather released Songs From The Old Kitchen with bandmates Chris Johnson, David Kilminster, Steve Vantsis & Alex Cromarty and in 2015, Heather teamed up with some old friends, including guitarist David Kilminster to whom she often turns, to form Mantra Vega with Dave Kerzner and release ‘The Illusion’s Reckoning’ album. The following year she released the Winter-themed anthology album ‘I Am Snow’ with her own band and in 2017 Heather released her first live album / DVD with her semi-acoustic Heather Findlay Trio project entitled ‘Aces & Eights - A Night In The Saloon Bar’.
In 2019, true to her love of India & global humanitarian causes, Heather co-lead the She Rocks Secret Sari Dress Campaign with her cousin Fritha Vincent, founder of Secret Projects. The campaign was launched on International Women’s Day for the prevention of Human Trafficking in West Bengal, whereby profits from each dress sold, directly fund training and employment for young vulnerable women at risk, keeping them safe from the complicated web of Human Trafficking. The movement saw the cousins rally a network of women across the music industry who modelled the saris and posted pics of themselves in them across social media on the day, urging their fans to buy the dresses. Huge Rock and Metal stars from Nightwish singer, Floor Jansen, German 'Queen of Metal', Doro Pesch and Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy, to Nik West - bass player for Prince & Quincy Jones, along with many others have signed up to show their support for the cause. Some have since launched their own collection on pre-order. Many sponsors have come in to push the campaign along with their support from Clarins, to Gibson Guitars, to most recently, YouTube, who have got behind the project to show its support through new soon to be revealed collaborations with Secret Sari Dress! All info here: www.secretprojects.org.
The much-anticipated solo studio album entitled ‘Wild White Horses' was recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios in summer 2018 and released in July 2019. The album was produced by Thunder’s Luke Morley, who also co-wrote some of the material with Heather. Jerry Ewing of Prog magazine said of the album, “Rooted in her more traditional folk and prog background, connecting with a talent like Luke Morley sees Findlay blossom as a contemporary artist, adding gritty classic rock and even a dash of country to her palette. She does it all remarkably well too.”
Heather herself says of the record, “I’m so very happy with ‘Wild White Horses’! Although I have worked on a lot of albums and different projects over the past few years, this will actually be my first full solo album. It’s quite an eclectic album, but that’s very me. I’m known as a bit of a chameleon and shapeshifter when it comes to styles and the way I use my voice, from the sultry rock chick, to the emotional balladeer, and I feel this album has really created the perfect platform to express the various sides of my personality, songwriting and voice. As ever, I have allowed myself to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, and there has been a lot of development and progression involved. I’m very proud of this album and cannot wait to see it being unleashed!”
The release saw Heather beginning live proceedings in Nashville, TN in the summer of 2019 and continuing on through the year, throughout Europe and on into 2020 with a UK tour which lead to the recording of the Live album 'Live White Horses' and it's release in the Autumn of 2020.
Through using the downtime the pandemic offered to deepen her affinity with nature and combining this with the introspection and soul connection her Yoga and meditation practice offers, Heather began creating new art in 2020. She has coupled this with her love of expression using words in a new art & poetry collection called 'e l e m e n t s', which launches on Monday 29/03/21.
"I have always loved painting and illustrating and feel very grateful to have been able slow down enough to get back into the flow of creating again. I had no idea where it would lead, but it was high time I think and I have found the process deeply healing and rejuvenating. After releasing Wild White Horses, the touring followed by the Love For Sale campaign and the Live White Horses album release, the plan was to power on straight into recording the Odin Dragonfly album, which as all written and ready to go, but I think my soul had other ideas! This has been a beautiful flow based project that I think re-sets everything and puts me in a really good place to embark on the new album with Angela and I hope that because it is taking that bit longer to begin the recording part, we might also be in a position to record in person in the same room, which certainly with the two of us, that's where the magic happens...!
In early 2021 Heather began the recording of Odin Dragonfly Sirens, which did indeed offer many in person sessions with Angela Gordon. The production continued across the summer and the album was mixed by Nick Brine towards Autumn that year and by the end of 2021, Odin Dragonfly Offerings' follow up album Sirens was winging its way across the globe to loving homes waiting in anticipation. January 2022 saw the vinyl and general release of the album which, celebrated by the release of its lead single 'Driving', was by now gathering much acclaim amongst fans and press alike.
The band also offered super limited edition copies of the vinyl LP's illustrated by Heather. Each one unique, this gave her further opportunities to put to use her artistic abilities.
Gathering artistic momentum, Heather decided to participate in the 'Inktober' Challenge of 2022, whereby a piece of art is created each day throughout October, following on from this in November 2022, Folktale Week saw Heather creating the first draft of Raising Violet, a story illustrated and told live on social media day by day throughout the challenge.
Met by requests from onlooking fans to turn the story into an actual book, Heather rose to the challenge and got about creating
Raising Violet ~ The Storybook ~ A Therapeutic Tale, a now 44 page, full colour, hard cover book.
Interwoven with themes from her music, though not a children's book per se, Heather dubs this offering, A Book For Every Inner Child.
Limited edition copies of the book which included Magic Key Bookmarks handmade and personalised by Heather are now sold out, however, first edition copies of the book, signed by Heather, along with original artworks and prints from the book are available to order now at www.blacksandrecords.com/shop
To learn more about how Heather came to write her first book, read an interview here by Charles Hutchinson.