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The Interviews: Genevieve Heyward

An Interview with...

Genevieve Heyward

In 2022, The Hometown Foundation is excited to bring various musical talents to stages around Washington County. We are looking forward to our Thursday night summer music series at Regner Park (West Bend), and Sandy Knoll Park, a Washington County Park (Town of Trenton) as well as our annual HomeGrown Music Festival on July 10. You will see many talented folks who call Wisconsin home. Joshua M. Miller interviewed Genevieve Heyward, who will be featured on July 9 at Regner Park

genevieve heyward, regner rocks

Getting Aquainted

How have you kept busy of late?

I’ve been playing a fair amount of shows lately, which is pretty nice, and then I also have a part-time job. But yeah, traveling a little bit, getting through the winter.

How would you describe your songwriting and sound?

I did classical piano for like 10 years, but I also play acoustic guitar. So, I would say it’s kind of more so heavy on the piano aspect. Probably some pop thrown in there, but it’s also got an edge. So probably just edgy piano singer-songwriter.

Who have been some of your biggest musical influences of late?

The Beatles are huge. The Beatles were really big for me when I was younger. Elton John, Billy Joel, the piano-heavy dudes, David Bowie, those played a really big part. Newer artists, Sia is a really big influence for me. Mitski, she’s really great. She’s blowing up right now. She’s pretty good. I was just talking to someone about this the other day, about my musical influences, and I always get kind of stumped on this because there’s a lot from different aspects of it. Amy Winehouse played a big part too, just in my singing, and a lot of classic jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, those gals.

Also, I have one more inspiration that came to me that I would be upset if I didn’t mention her that’s been like my top inspo is Fiona Apple. Fiona Apple is hands-down probably my top inspiration.

Genevieve Heyward performs at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas

About Influences

Who have been some of your biggest musical influences of late?

The Beatles are huge. The Beatles were really big for me when I was younger. Elton John, Billy Joel, the piano-heavy dudes, David Bowie, those played a really big part. Newer artists, Sia is a really big influence for me. Mitski, she’s really great. She’s blowing up right now. She’s pretty good. I was just talking to someone about this the other day, about my musical influences, and I always get kind of stumped on this because there’s a lot from different aspects of it. Amy Winehouse played a big part too, just in my singing, and a lot of classic jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, those gals.

Also, I have one more inspiration that came to me that I would be upset if I didn’t mention her that’s been like my top inspo is Fiona Apple. Fiona Apple is hands-down probably my top inspiration.

Travel Inspired Songwriting

You've grew up in Lake Geneva and spent a lot of time at Washington Island. How have those places influenced you musically?

I grew up in Lake Geneva and that’s where I went to school…All lessons growing up, all that stuff was down there. So, guitar lessons, piano lessons, vocal lessons. I did a thing called School of Rock for a while down there. I was in choir at school, band, that kind of thing. So, I would say Lake Geneva shaped me into who I am, my younger age of life, but I would say that as far as now, I don’t really go back there too often.

But Washington Island was huge for me, and I still go up there frequently. I grew up going there in the summers as a kid. My parents have a place there, and then I eventually lived up there a little bit after I was out of high school. And that’s a really inspiring place, because you’re essentially as isolated as you want to be up there. You can just sit in the woods. My parents have a little cabin deep in the woods, so we had a little setup, and you just stare out at the lake there and write. Even just going in my car and driving around up there, you just get ideas doing that.

Going along with that idea of traveling to inspiring places, your EP, The Norway EP, was recorded in Norway. What was that experience like?

Really amazing. I went and toured there in 2019 with a band I was with at the time. And it was cool because we recorded in this little a barn essentially, way up on the mountain and really magical for sure. Kind of even looked like Wisconsin a little bit just with the trees. Obviously not the mountains because Wisconsin is super flat, but it was very magical. Yeah, it was beautiful.

How did that opportunity come about?

Well, the drummer I was playing with at the time is from Norway. He grew up there. So, he’s the one that hooked it up. He knew all the people out there, but he was able to book it and have the connections that I wouldn’t have had by myself.

Listen to The Norway EP by Genevieve Heyward on Spotify

How else do you think the Norway EP is unique compared to your past releases?

Well, The Norway EP is very folk-heavy. Same with The River, it’s definitely got more of an Americana folk vibe to it. Currently what I’m working on now is going to lean more towards my original album I released when I was 18, which is very piano-heavy. So, I would say that one’s different. I never really intended to be an Americana artist, I guess. It was more like what my songwriting was sounding like at the time, who I was listening to. I think I was listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell at the time, so it’s kind of based off of, I feel like, what phase of voice I’m going through, who inspires me. So that one’s different just because it’s got that folk heaviness to it. Whereas right now what I’m doing is very, like I said, piano-heavy, more along, I guess Queen’s a good reference. Queen’s another really good influence for me. Queen’s huge.

Are you hoping to release another EP or album at some point in the near future?

Yeah. The goal is right now, I’ve been working. I have some stuff in the works right now. It’s been a while. The past couple years have obviously been weird for everyone, but I feel like I’m finally starting to get back into my groove. Yeah, a new album hopefully will be in the works soon here.

Collaborating with Other Musicians

You co-wrote “The River” with veteran songwriter Pat McDonald. What did you learn through that experience?

I’ve known Pat for a while. I met Pat when I was like 13 or 14 at an open mic here in Sturgeon Bay. So, Pat and I go way back. I joke and say he is my biological dad, which he’s obviously not. I mean, I have a biological dad that I love very much, but Pat has kind of been like a song dad to me growing up. He’s been there when… Like “The River,” I was stumped on that one, and I brought that to Pat. I’m like, can you help me write this? And he was able to sprinkle his magic on that and help me push through it.

And he’s always there for me in that aspect of, “can I get your advice on this? Can you listen to this? Will you direct me a little bit on that?” So, it’s always great writing with him. It’s a very natural experience just because I feel like I’ve known him since I was pretty young, and he has been a huge, huge inspiration for me when it comes to music, like a guarding figure a little bit, I guess. Or guidance, he has given me a lot of guidance.

You’re opening for Brett Newski. Have you played with him before, or is this the first time?

No, I’ve never played with Brett. I’ve done some songwriting with him. We met at a festival up in Sturgeon Bay called Steel Bridge Songfest, which is actually run by Pat and MJ, Melanie Jane, his girlfriend. I met Brett there, and then we’ve been talking about doing stuff for a really long time, and then finally it’s kind of like, “oh, all right. Perfect. I’ve got a show now.” So yeah, it’ll be my first time opening for him. Brett’s a friend of mine, so I’m excited.

Editor’s Note: As of this publishing, the pair have been touring across Wisconsin along with Kill Aniston

Life Outside of Music

Besides music, what do you think is your most surprising or interesting hobby?

I actually really enjoy going to the gym. I go to the gym almost every day, and I enjoy exercising. That’s been a new thing the past couple years because when I couldn’t play shows, I was going crazy and wanted to better myself. So going to the gym is really big. I also really enjoy cooking, cooking food, figuring out new stuff to make. I dabble in embroidery. I was doing some embroidery there for a while and stuff with string, like crocheting and stuff. I don’t really do that anymore though. That was a COVID hobby, I guess. I really like pottery, too. Pottery is fun. Thrifting is probably the most consistent one I’ve had in my life. I love, love, love secondhand shopping.

Connecting with The HomeTown Foundation

Why do you feel it's important to support an organization like the Hometown Foundation and its mission to help local artists?

Because local music is really important, and not even just local, but indie artists that are trying to make a better name for their self and find a community. It’s really, really important to remember, outside of all the big names you hear on the radio, indie artists are some of the most raw music you’ll hear, the most authentic stuff you’re going to hear. Because all the stuff, not all of it, but a lot of stuff you see or hear for big-time famous people, it’s usually got a huge team behind it, or it’s not even necessarily that person. But with an indie artist, I feel like you can really take in all of the rawness to it.

And also, I think it’s huge to support someone that’s pushing their passion like that. It is not an easy task. I mean, I’ve been doing music since I can remember. I don’t know a time in my life where music wasn’t a thing. But I have so much respect for other artists that feel so passionate about their craft, music in this case, that they’re willing to be super vulnerable and share themselves to people. So, I think it’s important with the Hometown setup that there is that support for indie artists.

Listen to Genevieve Heyward

More Interviews

Josh also interviewed these artists for the HomeTown Foundation’s 2022 concert series season. 

About Joshua M. Miller

Joshua M. Miller is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, Guitar World, and the Shepherd Express, among others, He has interviewed the likes of Brian Wilson, Steve Martin, U2 guitarist The Edge, Kiefer Sutherland, and William Shatner. He resides in Kewaskum, is an avid music fan, and is a supporter of the Hometown Foundation. You can follow his writing on twitter and facebook.  

Check Joshua’s features in Rolling Stone, Guitar World, SPIN, the Chicago Sun-Times and more at his website.

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