With a captivating ring of truth and clarity, Heather Bond’s voice bears witness to the power of honest reflection. She coaxes us through the looking glass, into a new, more challenging vision of ourselves. Her songs manage to strike emotionally without falling into sentimentality. Each evinces a strength that is hard-won, and draws the listener in ever deeper.
Her new album, So Long, spans an array of human emotion that many artists wouldn’t dare to broach. From the upbeat, charming “The New You,” to the hauntingly melancholic “More Than I Ever Did,” her music is neither trite nor morose. Instead, she manages to transport us time and again, keeping So Long forever on repeat.
NYMM: How did you know it was time to make this album?
HB: I’ve known for about four years. I was looking for the right producer, someone I could connect with and trust to bring the songs to life. I had met with quite a few people during that time.
Then my friend Matt (Nelson), who was touring with Jars of Clay at the time, mentioned Matt Odmark and recommended that I talk to him. I met with him and had the feeling right away that he was the person I had been looking for. Meeting him really forced me to start working on it.
NYMM: Finding the right producer is almost like dating.
HB: Exactly [laughs]. I think it also helped that Matt (Nelson), who plays guitar and cello for me, already had a synergy going with him. I knew that we would already work well together in the studio. You basically live with those people when you’re making an album together.
NYMM: What would you say has changed for you since your previous release?
HB: Everything [laughs]. I released that EP back in 2009. Since then, I’ve been surrounded by so many amazing and talented people. I think that can either intimidate you or push you to become a better writer and performer.
After that EP, I really started to focus more on improving my writing. On that one, most of the players were studio musicians, and not people I knew very well. On this one, I worked with Matt (Nelson) and we have been playing together for several years now. He knows my music inside and out.
NYMM: Has your writing style changed much since then?
HB: I think it’s starting to change more. “So Long,” for example, doesn’t have as much of the piano-pop sound that I’ve had in the past. I’m starting to write more like that.
I used to write melodies before lyrics and concentrate more on the melodies. Now I think a lot more about the lyrics. I’m working harder to paint a picture. If you’re listening to a song about heartbreak, you should be able to feel that.
NYMM: Is there one song that stands out as particularly personal to you?
HB: “So Long,” for sure. I wrote that sitting on my mom’s porch in Louisville with an acoustic guitar, and I was crying while I wrote it. It was one of those songs that just came out. I had just gone through the really heartbreaking end of a relationship and so that one is very personal. Music has always been the outlet for me, whether through listening to someone else’s music or writing my own.
NYMM: Tell me about the last song, “Till the End.”
HB: That song is very personal to me as well. I did a project on Facebook that we called “Songs Before Bedtime.” I would write a song before going to bed, and then post it immediately, which was terrifying. That was one of the songs in the series.
I had just learned that a guy I went to high school with died in a motorcycle accident, and I was thinking about how easy it is to take people for granted. It also happened during a time in my relationship that was difficult, and I wanted to write a song about living in the moment.
NYMM: What happens when you have trouble writing?
HB: I never force it. If I’m working on something and I can’t figure it out, I stop and ask myself if the song even has a purpose. Maybe there’s a good reason that it’s not coming to me.
NYMM: Then how do you know when it’s done?
HB: It’s never done [laughs]. It was so hard to put this album to rest because there’s always something you can change. After we worked on it for so long, I just finally had to let it go.
NYMM: When you were recording these songs, did you put much thought into how they would translate in a live performance?
HB: Definitely. I don’t like to sing over a full band because I don’t have one of those belting voices. I cut it down to a trio, so when we went into the studio, I knew that whatever we came up with, I needed to be able to perform live with a trio.
NYMM: I guess that keeps you close to the people you tour with.
HB: Exactly, and you have to go on the road with people who are easy to work with like that. You don’t want to find yourself on the road with someone who just kind of disappears around loading time. I’ve been there — they’re off drinking while you’re loading everything. It’s a lot of work.
One of my dreams is play a big enough theater where I walk out on stage and the piano is already sitting there [laughs]. That would be success for me.
NYMM: So touring isn’t as glamorous as some people think?
NYMM: The first apartment I had in Nashville was on the bottom floor, but you still had to go up five steps to get to it. To get to the very first gig I had there, I had to carry my piano out all by myself. It’s an 88-key Roland, so it’s heavy. There weren’t any neighbors around to help me.
I was going backwards down the stairs, and I lost it. I fell backwards and the piano fell on top of me. I laid there on the concrete crying with my Roland on top of me, and no one was there to help [laughs]. It was so sad. So I started exercising after that.
Watch the video for “So Long”:
Images by Jon Karr