September 2005 Guitarist of the Month


Interview by Robert Urban for GAY GUITARISTS WORLDWIDE

With her solid guitar technique, commanding stage presence and trademark Robert Plant golden locks, KIYA HEARTWOOD is one half of America's beloved and enduring musical partnership - the folk/roots duo WISHING CHAIR. Together with soul partner Miriam Davidson, they are "A songwriting, accordion playing, harmony singing, storytelling, hand drumming, banjo strumming, soul stirring, two woman tour-de-force. Wishing Chair never fails to create that exhilarating sense one gets when great melodies, strong harmonies, and superb execution come together,” - Performing Songwriter Magazine. 

Their 6th CD and latest offering from the duo,produced by Grammy nominated producer Mark Hallman, Underdog is “folk to the core,” (Lexington Herald-Leader) delivering a rich collection of stories and clear-eyed diatribes, outlaw weddings, love songs, and an anti-Bush circus for good measure. Since 1995, the folk and soul partnership of multi-instrumentalist Miriam Davidson and songwriter Kiya Heartwood has become well regarded for their engaging performances, passionate activism, stirring harmonies and award winning songs. With any subject being fair game, they have earned high honors from Kerrville (Political Songwriting Finalist 2003), Falcon Ridge (Emerging Artist Finalist 2002), Outmusic (double Winner 2003, Finalist 2004) to The South Florida Folk Festival (double Winner 2003). Throughout the U.S and Canada, they have won over audiences and presenters alike performing in venues ranging from The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville to The Ark in Ann Arbor, Uncle Calvin's in Dallas and Club Passim in Cambridge, and at festivals including the National Women's Music Festival, the Kerrville Folk Festival, the Clearwater Folk Festival, the South Florida Folk Festival and the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

DISCOGRAPHY: Underdog 2005 Dishpan Brigade 2003 (Wishing Chair and Kara Barnard) Crow 2002 The Ghost of Will Harbut 2000 Undisputed Country 1998 Singing with the Red Wolves 1995

HONORS INCLUDE: Winner, OutMusic Best Recording Duo/Band 2003, Best Songwriter 2003 Finalist Kerrville Public Domain Foundation Contest, 2003 Winner Best Overall Song/Best Mellow Song South, Florida Folk Festival 2003 Runner Up Best Folk Song, Northern California Songwriters Association 2003 Finalist Falcon Ridge, Emerging Artist 2002 Best of 2002, This Way Out, OutWords, Best of 2002 New Folk Song Winner, JP Folks, 2001/Best Folk Album Runner Up 2001

- What brand/model/year instrument(s) do you record and play out with?

I play an F series Santa Cruz acoustic in open tunings and a 05 Larivee in standard. I play a bit of mexican Fender tele in the studio.

- What brand/model/year amps & effects do u use?

When I use amps, its usually my Peavey Classic. I use a Boomerang phrase sampler in our live show and a Boss Chorus pedal.
I use a Baggs DI that helps the sound come across as a real acoustic even on big stages.

- Who are your main influences as an instrumentalist? Which artists? Which bands? Instrumentalist?

Which artists? Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy and Dick Gaughan

Which bands? Solas, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span

Which artists/bands were your favorites in your youth?

Fairport, Led Zepplin , Beatles, Patti Smith, Buddy Holly, Dan Fogelberg, Jackson Brown, Tom Petty, Neil Young, CSNY , Joni Mitchell, Pretenders, TRB, Joan Armatrading, Holly Near and Bonnie R.

- How many different kinds of stringed/fretted instruments do u play? (e.g. - guitars, banjos, madolins, basses, etc) Do you play any other instruments?

I play a Johnson Octave mandolin live and some Bouzouki as well. I'm working on the fiddle. I 'm a drummer.

- Do you play/compose/record only your own original music?

I am primarily a songwriter, I do some co-writing and cover trad tunes occasionally.

Do you do any other work in music - e.g. teaching, recording session work, hired gun, producing, etc?

YES to all the above. I teach at National Guitar Summer Workshop ( songwriting, sound, guitar for the singer, Rock 101), do some work in the artist in the schools programs, teach workshops at festivals etc.

Does your playing appear on recordings of any other artists?

I produce and engineer a select number of 4-5 projects a year. I write for choirs. I sing and play on other peoples projects.

- Is there a particular favorite solo or part you played on a recording, or a certain piece of composed music you wrote, that you feel represents your finest work?

I am very excited about our latest project underdog - released in April. I'm very proud of the songs and the playing.

- Can you relate any special feelings or experiences about being a glbt player in the mostly straight music world... especially regarding your formative/learning years on your instrument?

I think it was a major image problem when i was on the major label in the late 80's. It is somewhat better but still horrible for country, Americana and Bluegrass. We still get excluded or put in the "other" category. The fights are many and we have a very long way to go before its not an issue for any artist.

- Any special thoughts on your instrument, and what it's meant to you in your life?

I can't imagine living without it

- For a glbt player - how does the overall music scene differ today from years ago? How have trans players/performers/singers evolved in recent years?

Live music is difficult in the DVD, cable age, period.

- Any advice for young glbt players?

Practice more, trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, you're right. Be yourself and treat everyone well.

- What are your current and future musical projects?

Wishing Chair released a new 6th CD April 2nd called Underdog. Its produced by Mark Hallman, Congress House Studios in Austin. We are starting our tenth year as a band. This Spring we performed on an Olivia Cruise to Alaska.


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