SYJ: What is the main message of your work and what is it classified to the rest of the world as?
HEATHER: My music name is Cheraki, pronounced /SHer-ə-kē/. (Share-a-key.) It stands for the inspiration to create your own inner reality. My message is: Share YOUR key. What it is that inspires you: cultivate it. However culture, art, heritage, and nature combine to create the unique YOU that you are: express it. Inquire into the place where ‘the world’s greatest hunger meets your greatest joy.’
For me, the simple rhythms of nature and the vulnerability of human emotions are what I aim to express through my music. My music can be classified by a unique blend of genres; I call it ‘neo-soultronica’. It is described by fans as ’a sensual sound oozing with feminine strength’, and ‘gifted, uplifting music for the new world order’.
SYJ: Give three of the important landmarks along your path that led you to where you are now. What challenges did you face? Did you have moments of doubt? What happened? How did you overcome it? What did you learn?
HEATHER: As a kid, I attended a lot of music festivals. When I was 13, I’ll never forget a festival where I heard one woman sing. Her name was Grace Potter. She sang with such soul! I came running across the festival to hear her. Her voice was like water that reached into the caverns of my soul, into places I did not know existed. It sent shivers down my spine and tingles in my bones. I thought, ‘THAT’S what I want to do. I must share my soul through my voice.’ It was so raw, so pure, so complete a knowing, I affirmed in that moment that singing would be a big part of my life forever. I wrote my very first song just after that.
I lived in India for three months when I was in college. I taught dance to Indian school-children. The experience taught me that there is a whole other way of being on this planet, and it is important to meet in the middle with cultures who are deeply rooted in tradition, yet see the West as a living standard. I committed myself to a future of a simplified material existence. I decided to dedicate my life to the one thing that makes the MOST sense: pursuing my dreams. The challenge was staying consistent with a way of living less rooted in material expansion and, rather, one built upon sharing, trading, and using inspiration and music to guide life forward. I learned through the past few years from being a ‘gypsy’ on the road that there is a lot of balance to be had: using the right resources in the right ways—Both in my music and in my lifestyle, as they greatly affect each other.
A year and a half ago, I separated from a long-term partner and musical collaborator. I immediately got pneumonia after the break up and was bedridden for weeks. During that time, I decided to pull myself through by creating my first EP as a solo artist. I had learned a bit of music production by looking over shoulders, and I decided to do the whole album on my own from scratch. I recorded each layer of my vocals and instruments, and I created every beat for the EP. It was a challenge to go into the studio to record final vocal tracks when I had pneumonia, but the level of self-reliance I learned was priceless. It was like sewing my own pair of shoes. I learned exactly what I wanted, how to make it fit and what I liked. Now, I can apply those lessons by communicating with producers and audio engineers in their language. It greatly expedites the collaborative process, and helps me to be innovate with the music I am creating.
SYJ: What movements are you passionate about? Enlighten the reader on why these are important how one can be proactive about these issues.
HEATHER: I am passionate about women’s empowerment. As a young woman, I suffered from an eating disorder for many years. Anorexia and bulimia stopped me from living fully. I, like many girls around the world, was inflicted with a cultural message that our value comes from our looks, and that we must rise to the cultural standard of physical attraction to be acceptable and loved. I am on a mission to help raise awareness that instead of this mindset, true beauty and self-love come from within. They come from how we FEEL, and in pursuing what we are most passionate about, we feel most alive. The light in our eyes becomes brighter, and we have more to offer. A woman fully alive is a true gift to the world. I have hosted a few benefit concerts in my hometown, Santa Cruz, for organizations that support young women on their journeys through the struggles of self-acceptance & healing:
May the world be full of women who feed their souls.
SYJ: What was the biggest mental obstacle (if any) along the way or in the beginning? Perhaps there has been a recurring thought that creates limitation? How do you work with that?
HEATHER: My biggest mental obstacle has been self-doubt. Amidst the vast sea of current music, there is no guarantee of my own success. I have had to redefine what success means. The Latin root word for fame means ‘to walk alongside one’s destiny’. I’ve become process-oriented, rather than seeking a final destination like I used to. I break down the challenge of doubt and uncertainty by recommitting daily to my craft. I make it my daily yoga practice. If I can do the work that needs to be done everyday in a good way, it is dedication to these little steps that will bring me ‘success’ – which now means to me a rich tapestry of life, community, and art, as well as financial and emotional support from my music. It also helps to reorient my approach to a place of service. Ultimately, I am guided by the calling to give the greatest gift that I can. It is bigger than me.
SYJ: Who were your biggest inspirations? Were there any quotes or books that helped you?
One of my childhood best friends and biggest inspirations (also a singer) frequently recounted this simple quote growing up: ‘Dance to the beat of your own drum.’ It has helped me countless times to remember that I am the creator of my own path. There is no blueprint or rule book. I get to choose. My intention is to be a respected artist in today’s music industry, and to do it in a way that lets integrity and health lead.
The singer Patti Smith is also a big inspiration for me. She gained success through her art, and has experienced longevity in her music career. She still tours and has a solid home and family. I am inspired by people who manage to have both.
“The artist seeks contact with his intuitive sense of the gods, but in order to create his work, he cannot stay in this seductive and incorporeal realm. He must return to the material world in order to do his work. It’s the artist’s responsibility to balance mystical communication and the labor of creation.”