The world of independent musicians is vast, and with an ever-changing world of music comes an ever-growing variety of genres and performers. Heather Brockell, otherwise known as Heather Rae, is one of these — bringing her unique style of alternative pop music to the county hotspots of Nashville and North Dakota.
Heather has previously appeared on our own Studio 701, performing her latest hit. But this is only one song from her discography. At the time of writing, she’s released 3 singles on streaming platforms, with more on the way. Heather was born in Minot but has since moved to Nashville to pursue her burgeoning music career. Earlier this year, however, she returned to North Dakota for a tour series in Fargo, Bottineau, Williston, Jamestown, and Minot.
An appearance on 701 isn’t complete, however, without a visit to the Green Room… and while we missed Ms. Rae on set, our digital correspondent managed to reach out to her before her final ND performance of the tour to answer a few questions.
Q: How has your tour through North Dakota been so far?
“It’s been incredible… I mean, I was born here! We’re conducting this interview from my childhood bedroom in my parent’s house — I’ve been staying with them this summer, so that’s super fun. I love spending time with them and seeing old friends and family again. It’s been a great experience.
These tours and singles may be new, but Heather’s journey with music — and finding her style — have been a long time coming. She’s been involved with music since the day she was born… quite literally.
Q: What first inspired your love of music?
“I don’t really have a specific point where it all started. Both of my parents were musicians, so I’ve been around music all my life. The point when I started doing it as a job was when I graduated from college and started singing and skating in ice shows. Things continued on from there until I decided to start making my own music.”
The knowledge of her Nashville experience may come as a slight shock to those who know both Heather’s music and the typical country sound expected of Tennessee’s capital.
Q: Can you describe your style of music? What exactly is ‘alternative pop’?
“Honestly, if you could tell me, I’d appreciate it! Genre is an interesting thing in that it’s hard to exactly place what qualifies as a certain style. Alternative pop, to me, is kind of like pop music, but a little more out of the box than typical pop sounds. It can be many things… Billie Eilish is considered alternative pop, for instance, or mixtures of rock and pop count. To me, the way I describe it, it’s like pop, but a little bit heavier. It’s a very broad section, and because I feel my music can be a bit broad too, I figured it fit perfectly as my genre.”
Q: On the subject of music genres, you’re currently based in Nashville, one of the biggest locations for country music in the US. Are there challenges that come with breaking away from the idea of Nashville country into alternative pop?
“I specifically went to Nashville knowing I’m not a country singer because it’s known for one other major thing in the music industry: songwriting. That’s one thing that country really does right… they really focus on the song, and that’s an aspect that I really do love, and it’s something I wanted to get better at. Also, there are just so many skilled people there… I’ve been able to meet so many who I’ve worked with on songs. Sometimes, it’s kind of nice to be in a country place and not be playing country. It helps you stand out a bit. And I think there’s a lot more pop in Nashville than people realize, too.”
Heather’s song library is much greater than the songs she does release over the internet. They often need to pass her own rigorous screening process before making it to the world wide web.
Q: How has the public response been to your singles? What is your process for choosing which songs to release?
“I usually don’t record a song and put it out on the platforms until I’ve performed for a while, and when I do record songs, they’re based on two major things. The first is how they’re received during shows. I pay attention to what people seem to be connecting with. The other part is what I want to say as an artist — the things that are important to me, that I want to say. The process seems to be working, though — I’ve been getting good responses from people who do listen to my music, and even better ones when I play it live.
Even when not focusing on public performances, Heather takes an active interest in music — specifically theory and education. On her website, Heather advertises her services as a piano teacher, whose lessons include vocal training, sheet music reading, and even the ability to play by ear. Taking a hand in teaching the next generation of musicians, she claims, is also a great way to keep her invested in music one way or another.
Q: How does teaching impact you?
“I think that one of the biggest ways that teaching impacts me as a performer would be being able to be around people who are new to music, and fresh in their excitement in it. It really helps, because it reminds me of how I felt when I started. It’s easy to get cynical and all caught up in the rat race, and teaching helps bring me back to the early days. I guess you could say it grounds me.”
Q: What is your favorite part about teaching? Does it help with your performances?
“When you get caught up in those silly things, being able to sit down and play through a C-scale with someone who’s brand new to it really does help bring perspective. “
While her North Dakota tour is over, this is hardly the end for Heather’s plans at the moment. She’s already got another project to announce, coming soon, and will be working on more songs and tours in the future.
Q: What is next for your musical career?
“I’m doing another single coming out on September 2nd, and throwing a release party in Nashville to celebrate. Not an album — those take a lot of time and money.”
We at the KX Newsroom wish Heather Rae the best for her new release, and can’t wait to see her during her next visit to North Dakota. For more information about Heather’s plans, visit her official website.