Monday, June 1, 2015

Heather Nova - The Way It Feels - Press shots

I was honoured to have been able to capture the images for Heather Nova's latest album, The Way it Feels. I was lucky enough to have also shot the art for the last two albums as well, but I have to say, I never take it for granted that I will photograph her again as Heather is constantly reinventing herself and a fresh perspective is always important. This time, I knew she was going with a very cool designer, Tarik Mikou, for the album cover and booklet art, and when he sent her his ideas for the type of photography he was looking for, we didn't know if my shooting style would fit the bill. He was looking for edgey, and I tend to lean more towards dreamy if I had to pigeon hole myself. So I asked Heather if we could do an experimental shoot first, to see if we could even get close to making Tarik's vision a reality. When we sent him the unedited shots from that shoot, he was thrilled so we did another session, this time with hair and make up. I love trying new things and Heather is so easy to work with that it was just a blast playing with shadows and light to get some cool shots. Heather is the perfect muse. And I am so honoured to have been given the chance once again to capture her in a way that can hopefully complement her music.

This photograph above is actually the image that Tarik used for his design on the album cover. But this is the original shot in its entirety. I love love love the halo, the way in which Heather is lit, and that there is darkness and shadows in the halo - very representative of her music.

I adore this photo of Heather. She told me she thinks she looks sad, but I think she looks soulful, and even if she does look sad, that is ok - there is much sadness in her new album, and in much of her music over the years - perhaps when she is sad is when she is most inspired to write beautiful music.

My son and I made her headpiece using old toys that we had lying around the house - I love how it works in conjunction with her song, "The Archaeologist", but I don't imagine these are the sorts of relics she envisioned being dug up in Pompeii when she wrote her beautiful song! All the same, we had fun with the props and imagery when thinking up the photos to be released in conjunction with the album.

When I first became interested in photography, back in the days of film, I used to shoot pregnant women using venetian blinds, for I adored how the lines magnified the contours of their bulbous bellies. It is a very graphic shooting style which was just what Tarik was looking for. I am thrilled with the way the stripes emphasise Heather's beautiful bone structure. Isn't the simplicity of just Heather's profile so exquisite? She is looking towards the light, surrounded by darkness, and things seem only black or white, but if you really look between the lines, there is plenty of grey too. And so it is in her music - so much darkness, but she looks for the light and articulates so beautifully the subtle nuances of the spaces in between. I like that she has her eyes closed too, as if she is feeling her way intuitively. She looks soft, but strong. And if you know her, that is what she is - soft, yet strong.

This photo is fun because although it is actually a broken mirror, it looks like it could be a spider web. I almost didn't want to share what it was, for is ruins the mystery by knowing. And it is like that with her music - it can be interpreted in so many more ways that I imagine she wrote the songs. And that is what makes her music so accessible, so personal and so very real for so many people around the world.

The photo above is not one of Heather's faves, but I like it. Perhaps it is maybe more dreamy and soft than Tarik's taste, but the lighting is still moody, and I love the metallic hair flower - a little unexpected edge contrasting the softness of her dress, hair and face.

The concept for this photo above came to me once again from listening to Heather's music. I wanted to portray her constant yearning for truth, wisdom and acceptance, and what tricky, elusive things they can be. Figuring life out is a puzzle, and not one where you can tell which pieces fit where - you have to blindly keep trying and occasionally, you catch a glimpse of that ephemeral perfection. It is so hard to hold on to, yet when you do, you feel like a queen.

This photo feels like so many of her songs as well. On the one side, she is caged, trapped in the unending struggle to come back from darkness. Yet on the other side, be it in reality or perhaps simply in her hopes and dreams, there is clarity, light and freedom. But despite the pain and sadness that she so often sings about, she always seems to say there is a beauty in life's struggles and so like her songs, on the caged side in this image, there is still beauty - a flower.

I took this image during our first session when we were just winging it. And although I don't even think it was selected to be released to the press at all, I adore it. Once again, I love the halo, but I also find the wispy shadow trees on the edges of the frame so mesmerising. I love Heather's messy hair and how her skin looks like she is made of bronze. And again, she is looking up, hopeful. There is that ever present shadow behind her, but it is hope and beauty that dominate.

I know nobody will see what I see in all these images when they are released to press. They will just be some pretty photos of Heather to accompany printed interviews and articles about her most recent album release. But I thought it might be fun to share some of what went into the making of the images - the thought process, and even my impressions when I look at them now when thinking of her music.

If you haven't already bought the new album, it is available on iTunes or Amazon - Go get it and get lost in the beauty the way I have. The more support we give artists like Heather, the more music she can keep making!

Also, check out the official Heather Nova site for goodies, and follow her on her Facebook page, as well as on Instagram as therealheathernova and on Twitter as Nova Says.

Enjoy xxx

Heather Nova - The Way it Feels - Music Review

Listening to Heather Nova's new album is such a rich experience - I feel so many emotions all at once. I feel my heart fill with bitter sorrow, yet lift to unexpected heights at the same time. She has an ethereally haunting voice which sings such raw truths about love, loss and life that it hurts to hear sometimes. Her lyrics are achingly honest, and yet her wisdom and acceptance of such universal lessons in life are inspiring and make me want to listen to the album over and over and over again. Which I have done - in the car, in the house, all the time. I feel like she is singing about me, about herself, about everyone at some point, and guiding us with spiritually enlightened gems. Gems you can tell she herself only touches on when living her own life, knowing she yearns to follow that path and live that wisdom all the time. As we all do. You have to listen to the album in its entirety, for it has a story and evolution that is important to be heard in one sitting. You also want to listen to it many times, to feel it grow on you. Heather's music is not the sort of catchy pop that sticks in your head after hearing it once. It is complex and multi layered, and the more often you hear it, the more you love it. I prefer this sort of music, for the enjoyment stays with you forever and you never tire of listening to her music.

If you haven't already bought the new album, it is available on iTunes or Amazon - go get it and get lost in the beauty the way I have. The more support we give artists like Heather, the more music she can keep making!

Also, check out the official Heather Nova site for goodies, and follow her on her Facebook page, as well as on Instagram as therealheathernova and on Twitter as Nova Says.

In the meantime, here are my interpretations of the songs - I have never written any sort of musical "review" before, so please forgive my clumsiness un un-music-biz lingo, but I love her new album so much, I had to share my personal impressions. In my view, the first and the last songs are about her son, and the middle ones are about struggle and longing, fighting for love, questioning and inevitably, and probably, most prominently, of letting go.

Tree House

This song paints such a vivid picture in my head from the very first line - the atmosphere of the afternoon breeze bringing in the scents of the garden. She is watching her son in his treehouse where he plays in his imaginary world. But the bigger feeling of the song seems to be about his childhood slipping through her fingers, and the anticipation of how hard it will be when he grows up and these precious moments are gone for good. The song builds up from a sweet lullaby to a musical maelstrom, reminiscent of a storm rolling in. It feels as if the winds are building up and are going to blow the tree house away, and all the while, there is a storm in her heart at the prospect of losing her son to adulthood. And then, as quickly as the storm rolled in, there is calm at the end of the song, as if she is finally accepting what is inevitable, and is just asking herself to accept this truth and let go. I find it so powerful that she writes about motherhood in a way most other singer-song writers don't ever touch upon. As a mama bear myself, this song rings only too close to home and touches a chord in me that makes me realise I am not ready to face either.

Sea Glass

Such a great first couple of lines in this song - "I wasn't sure what to say, big ocean wave came rolling in that day". I love this song. It is so me. That is why song writers share their music. So others know they are not alone in the way they feel. I always make a huge mess in my desire to live truthfully too. But here, Heather makes it all sound so pretty talking about the sea glass in her hands. Such a gorgeous metaphor for the search for truth. When she speaks of standing on the shores of the Atlantic, under the majestic skies, it all sounds so huge and I feel small thinking about it, and I picture tiny Heather as almost a spec in the dramatic landscape. And then her questions are so big too. "Why do I still wonder why?" I can't get over how simple, yet true that is. Why do we all still wonder why? We spend our entire lives searching for our truth. And questioning if what we are doing is right. And we never stop questioning. Or at least I still do.

Click here to hear Heather singing Sea Glass live, and click here to hear the recorded version.

The Archaeologist

This song is one of my absolute favourites, not just of this album, but ever. I can't get over the metaphors she uses comparing the work needed to rekindle the remnants of what once was in a failing relationship to the unearthing work an archeologist does when searching for remnants of what once was in a lost civilisation. Ever since I was a child, I have always been so madly and heart breakingly in love with the story of Pompeii, so that is also perhaps why I love the song. And the instrumentals are just insanely great in this piece too. The imagery Heather uses of holding up the light to see just breaks my heart. This whole album offers such hope to come back from a dark place in a relationship. She is ever a fighter, so fiercely loyal, and refuses to give up or stop believing things will get better. Such an inspiration.

Girl On The Mountain

The instrumentals on this song are just awesome. My daughter adores the almost cricket sounding rim shot (had to ask a musician what the sound was) and Indigo grabs me and looks me in they eyes as she shakes her hand at me three times in succession in time to the snare drum rhythm. Such a song of hope that, when things are bad, no matter what, things will be better one day. This is the kind of song you save to listen to on a rainy day. When you think there is no light at the end of the tunnel, it is so up lifting.

Lie Down In The Bed You've Made

Such a beautiful way of singing about trying again, not giving up on a commitment, and believing there is always hope that things can turn around. I love how Heather's very wise and nobel parents' voices and advice come up in so many of her songs. "To keep your word is a beautiful thing" - isn't that the most amazing advice and I love how she is still listening to and trusting her mum at this stage in her life. Speaks of how strong the bond of her family is as well. As always, her songs are so deeply rooted in the outdoors and she uses that nature to see life in a new way.

On My Radar

I cried when I first listened to this. It is raw - deeply raw. I can't even imagine how Heather must feel in the weeks after her album releases and so much hurt has been shared with the world. This song is so vulnerable, so exposed, and so very very sad. I couldn't bear it when she sang that the signal was getting weaker, the she is being looked through, and then she says the unthinkable - "I will never be the one you want... never gonna light the fire in your heart" When she asked if it is down to beauty, or time, I think my heart officially broke. Heather is not only one of the most beautiful women I have ever met, but aside from her physical beauty, it is her inner beauty that so overwhelms me. The idea that anyone could ever look through her is utterly impossible to imagine. Yet as she admits, this is the feeling she gets.

Sleeping Dogs

There is a cute banjo in the background which makes this song sound playful, but to me, it is darkly asking to know the truth that may not be easy to hear. I don't know if I am reading too much into this one, but adore how she speaks of winter, and you feel it is just that, with the fire in the hearth, but is she perhaps also speaking of winter in life? And therefore a very fair question about whether or not, at this stage in life, she will be "safe and warm" with someone who would want her. Nobody wants to be entering winter and not have someone to grow old with. And wanting to be wanted the way a "river wants the sea" is what everyone yearns for. The search for a true, deep, passionate love is everyone's life quest. The need is as real and as powerful as rushing water. Love that she wants to find out if what she has is actually that - wake up the dogs and see if there actually is something real there.

Listen to a live recording of Sleeping Dogs.

Sea Change

"I live for the golden days between the winds and the driving rain. I live for the times you smile between the grey and lonely miles". Such yearning for those moments of happiness in between so much pain - so sweetly sung, so sad to live for days when they "can close the distance". Life is so complicated sometimes. Singing of sea change is, to me, another song of longing to find acceptance in letting go, the way the oceans and tides come and go - you accept it and see beauty in all of the phases, from the grey days to the sunny ones. I guess we all want to just learn to let go of the pain and not dwell. Just focus on the good. Not always easy, but what we all strive for.

This Humaness

I like her songs which start off almost a cappella. It is funny, for I really am not a fan of the word human, and humaness is even more clunky, yet somehow, the way Heather sings it, it makes me only appreciate the meaning of the word and the struggle we all face, and I forget the inelegance of the word itself. She is so forgiving of all our flaws, our vulnerabilities, and is so raw in her accepting these weaknesses by finding beauty in the pain and the madness of unending difficult relationships, and the mistakes we as humans make.

I'm Air

I don't know what it is about this song. I didn't even notice it that much on first listen of the album. But now, I think it is my favourite out of all of them. When I listen to it, I have a combination of near weeping, but then also a feeling of wanting to lift my arms out and something will simply lift me up and away. I genuinely feel it will happen - I will float up. Her voice is in multiples, or that is how it sounds to me, as if she recorded her singing on her voice singing with her voice. I am sure there is a term for that. Again, here is her theme of letting go, and how the act of letting go actually frees her from the pain, whereas holding on was making it worse. It is counter intuitive to let go of something you think you need to hold on to, but so very wise, so very true. Even though I have only ever experienced glimpses of this sort of enlightenment, I know in my heart it is real and pure and a spiritual space where I myself aspire to reach one day.

Women's Hands

This song reminded me of two songs from previous albums - Virus of the Mind and Do Something That Scares You. In all three, she goes into this trance like spoken word. In this one, Heather's dreamy singing voice tells the story of what she is experiences, but then it is as if she is in a dream and her voice becomes trance like she is in a meditative state. It feels almost like a Doors song and I imagine I am in a scene from the Doors film with Val Kilmer! The repetitive guitar like a kirtan chant, and then her repeating the words "Grace, Truth, Beauty, Love" - things that are deeply important.

Moon River Days

I feel like it is summer the moment I hear the strumming of the banjo. Heather's voice just accompanied by this sweet little rustic instrument, singing of the joys that motherhood has brought her, and of the sadness of her son growing up. But she is more accepting in this last song than she was in the first one on the album, which was also about her son. She knows he is growing up, but nothing can take away her memories, the love, and the fact that he will always be her darling boy (my daughter LOVES that line). She loves seeing who he is becoming and so has come to terms with the fact that he will one day travel many roads and leave her behind, for she will always know that he was her baby. My nose prickles and tears well when I hear this song - I am happy of course to have the memories of my own kids' childhoods, but it sure hurts thinking that it does all come to an end. I guess I have my photographs of my children and Heather has her songs to solidify the memories. We are lucky that way. 

There are two bonus tracks which I would love to mention, but perhaps not here, as this album is a story in itself and they are not part of this particular story. Not to mention this is already a book - I have written so much!

Dont forget - it is available on iTunes or Amazon 

And her see her official Heather Nova site for goodies, Also, like her her Facebook page, as well as follow her on Instagram as therealheathernova and on Twitter as Nova Says.