Most AfterEllen readers know Heather Reid (formerly Grody) as one half of the infectious pop/folk duo The Murmurs. Since those halcyon days of the late-’90s, Reid has been making music her own way. The accomplished singer/songwriter has recently released the full-length album Cross Words, and took a few moments to chat with AfterEllen about her life and career today.
AfterEllen: Heather, your new album Cross Words is terrific. I love all the colors and nods to different genres of music. There are flavors of Motown/Dusty Springfield, alt country, indie pop, even some ’60s Brazilian. What inspired this album?
Heather Reid: This album is inspired by my own life experience. The content is about love, relationships, transitions and without being too cliché, heart break. The music has my usual stamp of singer-songwriter/pop.
AE: What are some of your influences today? Who do you just really love to listen to?
HR: I’m still stuck on the classic legends such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King and James Taylor, to name a few. Over the last few years I’ve been enjoying a broad collective of music: Coldplay, The Weepies, The Decemberists, Adele, etc. I enjoy The Lumineers, Lorde, Pink. It’s hard to be exhaustive. I’m a music lover and really enjoy almost every genre. Did I mention I also love musicals?! I’m kind of obsessed with the Frozen soundtrack. What brilliant song-writers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are.
AE: You mention that this is a “record about heartbreak without the sap”. Was that a conscious decision or was that just how the music came to you?
HR: Musically and lyrically, this album came from my heart but I think it deals with pretty universal themes. Hopefully it will touch and inspire people. It was very healing for me to write it.
AE: Do you find the upbeat nature of the album to be as cathartic?
HR: I have always been described as an optimist. And I am. I am hopeful. I’m always looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s what gets me through any fear I might face in dark times. This album is about resilience and though lyrically I may be crying at times, I think that melodically you can feel and hear my expression of the hope and light that I’m reaching for.
AE: Many of our readers know you from your days as one half of the duo The Murmurs. You and Leisha Hailey were out musicians at a time when there were very few artists taking that step. Was that always important to you?
HR: Yes. Our music was always very personal, even a little confessional, and it was very important to both of us to be out and honest with our fans. At the time, there were very few out musicians and we were almost always described as the “gay band” or “lesbian singers”. Today, because of all of the talented openly gay artists, the label tends to fall away and it’s no longer the primary focus.
AE: You are the mom to two little ones. Has motherhood influenced your music? Are your kids music lovers?
HR: Motherhood has inspired me to be more present in every area of my life. My kids love music. We recently started a family band called “The Snuggle Monkeys” (my boys are 4 1/2) and I have to say we run into very similar issues that I had in some of my old bands (e.g. staying focused during rehearsals). We’re still in the writing process. Our first song is called “I Love Rainbows” (seriously).
AE: In addition to being a singer/songwriter, you’ve also written a musical called Dear Bernard. Is the world of musical theatre near and dear to your heart? Do you have plans to write any other shows?
HR: Yes. I actually have a new musical that I’m planning on workshopping in the near future called The Show Must Go On.
AE: This is just a silly little story, but many years ago when I was still in college I saw The Murmurs play at Michfest, and for some reason I bought you both popsicles. I’m pretty sure it was a really hot day and I was just super nerdy. I just remember you being so kind and gracious about it. You had a really lovely rapport with fans. What have your fans meant to you over the years, throughout the different facets of your career?
HR: I am always appreciative of anyone who is kind enough to take the time to listen to my music. I love performing live and sharing a musical experience with an audience. It can be very moving and magical. Every show is different and meaningful to me. I soak it in with gratitude.
Cross Roads is available now.