It’s no secret that marking your mark in today’s music industry is no easy task. In addition to talent, it takes hard work, determination, unrelenting drive and the ability of overcome the obstacles that come your way. Lisa Heller is a shining example of what is obtainable when you aren’t afraid to invest your heart and soul to make your dreams a reality. Her latest single, “Hope,” introduces her inspirational new song to the world. Born out of struggle, “Hope” is a spiritual transformation that allowed her to break down barriers, and move her life forward.
Several years ago, Heller had a medical condition color her world as she woke up at an emergency care center with a diagnosis of Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD). Fortuitously, the doctor told her that singing would help treat the VCD because the act itself would relax her vocal cords. Embracing the advice, music became a therapeutic stress reliever, a creative outlet and her saving grace. With a newfound confidence, Lisa developed her inner voice, harnessing her intuition to effectively craft 4-minute vessels of the existential. Early songs such as “Close Your Eyes” and “Life on the Run,” which featured drummer Aaron Sterling (John Mayer, Taylor Swift, The Band Perry) and special guest guitarist Steve Fekete (musical director for Avril Lavigne), were her first forays in songwriting and ones which ended up being recognized with various accolades including being chosen as a Top Five Finalist in the “Performance Category” for the American Songwriting Awards, reaching the semi-finals of the International Songwriting Contest, and receiving a “Pop High Honorable Mention” by the faculty of the Songdoor Songwriting Contest.
These achievements caught the attention of producer Jim McGorman, known for his work with Sabrina Carpenter, Avril Lavigne, Cassadee Pope and Kate Voegele, and in January 2015, Heller went into the studio with McGorman to record 4-songs; “Hope,” “Firewall,” “Midnight,” and “Things You Never Said”. Jim warmly recalls the sessions, “I work with a lot of new artists, and Lisa sees things that others don’t. She is an incredibly insightful lyricist, making her songs unique and powerful. She has so many dimensions to her voice and, as a producer, it’s exciting to see where she takes each song.”
In conjunction with the release of the single, Heller has erected a virtual “Wall of Hope”, the foundation of a social community designed to foster faith and encourage hope by sharing inspirational stories. One such story is that of 4-year old Nicholas Higham. Lisa elaborates, “I wanted to connect with a few extraordinary kids who have overcome, and continue to fight through challenges, to help spread their stories of courage and bravery. Nicholas is a cute little boy who happens to have down syndrome. He doesn’t allow this to keep him from doing much, his smile and confidence is ever-present.”
In addition to the release of the single, Lisa continues to build her fan base with emotionally-electrifying performances. Fresh off an Acoustic Cafe radio show with songstress Rachel Platten, which reprised her inclusion on a similar invitation-only American Authors event at the Hartford HOT AC station, Lisa is gearing up for a four-month songwriting journey, traveling and performing throughout Australia from July through November, before returning to the studio in the new year.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently did a Q&A with Lisa Heller to get a glimpse inside her world, her songwriting process and what the future may hold for this star on the rise!
What are you first memories of music in your life?
My very first memories of music were listening to Dave Matthews and Five For Fighting on long family road trips.
Going all the way back to the beginning, how did you first start getting involved with the arts?
Everyone at school was required to take chorus. Singing came naturally and I fell in love with it right from the beginning.
What can you tell us about the process of finding your creative voice?
The process of finding my creative voice was a long time in the making. In high school I battled VCD (Vocal Cord Dysfunction) and it made it extremely hard to breathe while I ran track. The doctor recommended that I sing while I run because he said it would relax my airways. I started writing and was drawn towards singing sad songs; but learned that this didn’t make me feel any better and that the empowering songs were what gave me strength. By the time I wrote and recorded these new four songs for the EP this last winter, I was ready to empower others through my music.
Who were some of the performers and people behind the scenes who helped to shape the artist we see today?
One of the artists that I really looked up to is Christina Perri because her songwriting is so incredible and you can tell how carefully crafted each of her songs are. I’m also a huge fan of Demi Lovato and her extremely passionate voice and the honesty she demonstrates with her audience. I’ve also looked up to Rachel Platten and how she was able to give people strength through her “Fight Song”. It was such a thrill to get to meet and open for her.
You are clearly very driven when it comes to your career. What has kept you inspired throughout the years as an artist and fueled your creative fire?
My inspiration and strength come from the obstacles that I have had to overcome in my life such VCD, self-image issues and bullying. I have turned these negatives into positives and used the energy to fuel my creative fire.
You recently released a new single titled “Hope.” What inspired this song and what does it mean to you?
When I was writing this song with Jimmy (McGorman), I told him how I wanted to write a song that could apply to the majority of people without being too vague, and this is how we came up with “Hope”! The main line in the chorus “Hope, Hope for the best/ hope for the rest of our life/till the day that we die” came surprisingly quick and then we built the entire song around this passion of being hopeful when there seemingly might not be a lot to hope for. This really applied to my life when I was dealing with VCD and it felt like there were no solutions, so as we were writing this song, that was all I could think about.
You worked alongside producer Jim McGorman for this track. How did the two of you cross paths?
I have had a long-time mentor from CT, who actually directed my video (Kurt J Zendzian, now in Tampa) and he advised me that I work with a big-time producer and recommended Jimmy.
What did he bring out of you creatively?
Jim really help me find my “creative voice” and helped me figure out who I wanted to be as an artist. I remember standing in the recording studio after having laid down a new track, and Jim responds “You just found your voice”. It was such a defining moment. Jim is an expert in helping people define, develop and then refine their artistic voice.
In conjunction with the release of the single you created a “Wall of Hope.” What can you tell us about it and how the idea came about?
After my team and I decided that Hope would be the first single, I started hinting to my fans that “Hope” was the name of the first single off of my new EP. After seeing people’s responses on how excited they were to hear an inspirational song, especially with all of the current events going on in the world, I realized I had something more than just a song here. Then I randomly ended up on a link to Go Fund Me and started reaching out to people in CT to see if they would want to be part of this “Hope Wall” and no one turned me down!!!
It has received a tremendous response. How has that impacted you personally and in a creative sense?
It’s pretty incredible because now people are reaching out to me, asking to join the movement, and I never expected this to develop into such a community with a positive message. It’s amazing how music can bring people together. I have been able to meet some of these people- especially kids with life-threatening diseases and it has definitely touched me personally. Now when I sing in public, I think about these kids and how they might not get to live another year, or even another month. I have gotten really attached to some of the kids I have met, and I sing the song for them.
What can you tell us about the songwriting process for your music?
The songwriting process for my music definitely varies from song to song. I have had times where I’m driving on the highway and have to pull over to scribble lyrics on my iced coffee because that was all I had. There is something about writing versus typing that definitely helps a lot in the creative process because it allows me to write down my thoughts without committing to them. By contrast, sometimes I purposefully sit down at a piano and mess around with chords and riffs until I find one that feels right. Next I start humming along until I find a melody. Then I find one line that really sticks out to me–sometimes that’s the easiest part but other times is the hardest– and build the song around that.
When might we hear more music from you in the form of another single, EP or full length release?
I have three more songs I am ready to release when the time is right. I have one song in mind that could work as my next single, but I would like to see where “Hope” takes us first before planning another release!
You did a cover of Demi Lovato’s “Stone Cold,” which is fantastic. What spoke to you about the song?
Demi Lovato is such an incredible artist. Her passion is incomparable. This song in particular and the fact that it is a simple ballad with such a powerful voice really spoke to me.
You are about to embark on a four-month songwriting journey traveling and performing throughout Australia. What has you most excited and how have you gone about prepping for the adventure?
I have always wanted to travel to Australia, learn the culture and meet people. I am actually extremely excited about performing in Australia. I’ve read that the music fans out there are very passionate and can’t wait to play for them. To be honest with you I’ve been so busy with this release that I haven’t had a chance to prep for the trip.
Lisa Heller’s single, “Hope,” is available on iTunes. Be sure to roller her continuing adventures online at these locations:
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.