With wondrous vocals and a charismatic personality that could warm the coldest of hearts, Heather Russell is the 18-year old musical prodigy you need to know. An accomplished singer, songwriter, and pianist, Heather is already a musical pro with the ability to belt out some serious vocals — yes, whistle notes and all. Her multi-octave vocal range isn’t the only thing that’s profound. Heather’s story is one of fearlessness, faith and perseverance. Signed to music mogul Simon Cowell’s record label at just 10 years old, Heather has been making music for nearly half of her life with the industry’s biggest names. Yet, it was in 2018 that Heather Russell solidified herself as more than just a stellar voice backed by a co-sign, and instead as a highly inventive, introspective master at what she does best: making music that pulls at listeners’ hearts.
Closing off a breakthrough year, Heather is ringing in the season with the soulfully radiant “No Christmas Blues”, a robust holiday original which we are very proud to premiere. We had a chance to chat with Heather Russell about her new single and the trials and rewards of growing up in the spotlight.
It isn’t every day that you meet a teenager with such a profound grasp of their destiny, so when I came across Heather Russell, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I was impressed to learn that at just eight years old, Heather was already writing her own music and uploading videos of her performing them onto her YouTube channel. Garnering the attention of hundreds of thousands online, the young singer piqued the attention of the renowned music legends Rob Fusari and Simon Cowell. Heather and her family took a leap of faith and flew out to Los Angeles under a major record deal with Cowell's Syco Records. Speaking about the serendipitous experience, Heather recalls, “It was a journey that constitutes as one of my favourite adventures in life that I’ll never be able to forget even if I wanted to. I love adventures, and moving to LA was a HUGE one. Thanks to Simon Cowell, I was able to experience life in LA for five years. He taught me so much about the business at such a young age. For that, I’ll forever be grateful.” Not many can say they have what it takes to impress one of the world’s toughest music critics. The fact Heather was able to accomplish this while barely scratching the double digits is a compelling testament to the young musician’s remarkable artistic abilities.
Living up to the expectations of Grammy-award winning producers and writers is a hard pill to swallow, especially as a kid, but Heather’s experience in LA put her light years ahead of the game. “At the time I don’t think I really took in what was happening to me. But the experiences stuck with me, and now I feel like I appreciate everything on a whole new level," she details. "Getting the opportunity to work with so many established professionals in the music industry opened my eyes to many different aspects of the business. I was able to learn – on a personal and professional level – the different paths everyone chose to create music. I also learned how important artistic integrity is.” In the company of the music industry’s veterans, Heather was subsequently placed on a pedestal where she was expected to fit into a mold that she simply didn’t fit in.
Being surrounded by the industry’s biggest names came with the pressure to conform, and over the course of several years, Heather realized that she had lost her say in regards to her creative expression. For Heather, she longed to be more than a pop singer echoing the words of others, and when it came time to choose her career path, she knew she had to stick to her heart’s calling. She tells us, “I never really wanted to be a ‘pop star’ in the first place. I just wanted to be an artist that shares her creations with people who like or relate to it. I wanted to share and to create with as many people as possible. When I moved to LA, that’s where I was exposed to all the boxes that artists are put into, and quite coincidentally, where I fell into as well. When I was being pressured to make music that didn’t resonate with who I was or who I wanted to be, I knew that something wasn’t right.” After living in Los Angeles for five years and touring the United States on the High School Nation Tour (all while balancing schoolwork), Heather made the tough decision to leave Syco Records and move back home to Toronto.
Betting on herself, Heather refocused her energy within and took the time to craft her own unique sound and identity. Looking back at her decision to leave Syco Records, Heather has no regrets. The freedom that comes with being able to create the music that truly reflects her character is something Heather could never give up. "Being able to make music that I want is something new and has helped me find who I am, and learn who I am to its full extent," she tells us. Heather’s debut album, “My Metropolis” is the perfect showcase of the twists and turns of her life experiences. Speaking about the project, Heather elaborates on its meaning to her: “It’s the first time I’ve released something that is a 100% true representation of who I am and where I’m at artistically and just as a human being. This album is almost a sweet hello to the Toronto arts scene, and a reminder that I’m back and only have more to offer!” As a Toronto born and bred creator, Heather’s hometown continues to play an immense role in her artistry. Speaking about being part of the underground arts scene in Toronto, Heather details, “I feel that Toronto supports the underground arts scene heavily. The underground arts scene here plays a huge part of what has shaped my musical direction and inspiration. Being exposed to new sounds here has really affected my art, to say the least. I’d say the music community in Toronto is full of artists who all continue to support each other throughout our journeys, and it’s a beautiful thing.” Finding deep-rooted support in her hometown, Heather subsequently signed to the Ontario-based Indie record label, Gladiator Records, owned by multiplatinum artists, 80Empire.
Going against the odds, Heather carved her own lane by channelling her emotions into empowerment and creating the music that told her story with sincerity. For Heather, being an artist has always been more than just making hits; music is an extension of her very being. Heather’s reflections on life are the force behind her artistry. She tells us, “The message I try to convey throughout my music is a sense of honesty. Every song I write is another piece of me that I’m choosing to share with listeners. I only want to be real and that’s what I do with my music. Singing really helped me to find my sound. When I say that I mean, when I started singing, I felt that I’d finally found the voice inside that would allow me to open up in a way I never had before. Singing is my portal to self-expression.” Exemplifying precocious acuity, Heather possesses the ability to see beyond the flashy lights and uncover something deeper in her music.
“No Christmas Blues” is one of the songs that give listeners a transparent look into the heart behind Heather’s music. The ballad starts with Heather’s voice gently easing listeners in before gingerly building into a crescendo enveloped in the trill of organs and Christmas bells. With tender affection, Heather Russell’s voice rings with contagious salience. Heather sings of finding fulfilment in being in the arms of a loved one this Christmas. Speaking about the inspiration behind the track, Heather details, “Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. Like ever! And music is my favourite thing in general. Like ever! So why not take my two of my favourite things and create something special? I got into the studio, and my two producers wrote this Christmas song with me. The cool thing about “No Christmas Blues” is that I wanted the song to have a deeper meaning that goes beyond the meaning of Christmas itself. I wanted to share the potential feelings that others may have around Christmas, which is why each verse is meant to emulate different perspectives.” The anthemic single is destined to go down as a holiday classic. The artistic maturity Heather has exemplified over the years, from her first EP, Phases, to “No Christmas Blues” is evident in her controlled, but free-flowing, polished vocal styling and her ability to effortlessly blend R&B, soul, pop and hip hop.
Just like any teenager, Heather does have one Christmas wish, which she gives us the scoop on: “It’s weird because I’d obviously wish to tour and perform in front of millions, but then there’s something in the back of my head that stops me haha. I don’t know. Like it would be amazing if that could all just happen right now, but a part of me knows that I want to work up to that level through time and let it flourish organically on this journey. So if I were to wish for anything, it would be for something simple. I’d wish for lots of minty mentos. They’re my favourite!” It’s this same playful authenticity that makes Heather able to take the hurdles thrown her way with stride. With the often harsh circumstances of the music industry, a healthy dose of lightheartedness is essential to stay afloat.
At 18 years old, Heather has maintained the ability to stick to her vision and manifest dreams into reality. Utterly in love with making music, Heather is on a mission to uplift and inspire as she goes through life. Ready to leap fully into her career as a recording artist, Heather is also wise enough to recognize that the best way to reach her predestined stardom is organically. She tells us, “I try to focus on what I’m doing right now and not stress about what’s to come, to be honest.” Speaking about her future plans, she details: I’m SUPPERRR excited for all of the performances I’ll be doing. I’m excited to promote this album. I’m excited to work even harder. I’m excited to make more music. I’m excited for LIFE.”
Born into a family of musicians, music runs deep in Heather’s blood and fits her being like the perfect glove. Establishing herself as a vital, multifaceted Canadian talent for 2019 and beyond, Heather is inevitably bound for success. Keep this brilliant prodigy on your radar, and listen to the cozy “No Christmas Blues” above.
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