When Haley Heynderickx first played at Oberlin’s Finney Chapel in April of 2019, it was a religious experience. Her skilled fingerpicking on guitar and ethereal voice held the audience spellbound. Her wry remarks and slightly awkward demeanor was a hit with students, who felt they had stumbled upon a kindred spirit.
Like nearly all musicians, when the pandemic hit, the 29-year old singer-songwriter saw her in person engagements evaporate. Still, the Portland, Oregon native did return to Oberlin in 2021, albeit virtually on a huge screen overlooking Wilder Bowl. She remarked at the time that she felt like a giant, watching all of us dance and move around like ants under her watchful gaze.
Now, on her first solo tour since 2019 Heynderickx will return to Northeast Ohio on Friday, April 15 at Mahall’s in Lakewood. Matt Dorrien opens the 7:00 pm show. Tickets are available online.
Heynderickx’s music draws on an eclectic mix of 60s folk music, jazz radio, and indie music. In 2017 she entered NPR’s tiny desk contest in 2017 and was featured in their blog, which instantly attracted a large online community of adoring fans. The following year, she released her debut Album “I Need to Start A Garden,” to immediate critical acclaim.
Despite being on the road, Heynderickx graciously agreed to answer some questions by email. I began by asking her what she has in store for audiences at Friday’s show. (The interview is edited for length and clarity.)
Haley Heynderickx: I’d say nothing too crazy. Some heartfelt tunes and a dash of awkward banter. Is it true that the venue is also a bowling alley? If our music gets too boring, I’m glad there are other options for entertainment.
Nina Auslander-Padgham: You’re playing with a great group of musicians. How did you all come together?
HH: In the past, Lily Breshears, Denzel Mendoza, Matt Holmes, and Phillip Rogers have been wonderful supporters of my tunes. It was through the Portland music scene that I began meeting these magical creatures one by one, from house shows to concerts, and trusting the Pacific Northwest slow shyness of getting to know each other over the years. It is bittersweet to be on the road without them, but I must express how magical I find all of their individual projects as well!
Now that I am gently leaving my micro-bangs-telecaster-days, it has been a dream of mine to perform acoustically backed by an upright bass. I ran into Abbey Blackwell when she was playing a show in Portland (she’s from Seattle) with her original project called Rae. It was at a tiny bar called the Waypost and she absolutely shredded. Band crush ensued immediately.
NAP: I’ve heard you talk a lot about the tough parts of touring in past interviews. Which parts of touring do you enjoy?
HH: The sense of newness each day; and since touring with Abbey Blackwell (upright bass), now I’m noticing the different birds of the country that I don’t see out west. I also enjoy the subtle realization that people aren’t too different across the country and back, and we all get along better than what the media may make us out to believe.
NAP: Do you have a favorite venue on this tour?
HH: I don’t. I’m not kidding, each venue has its own flavor and delicious story and community associated with it. It would be cruel to choose a favorite because they’ve all been so different and each promoter and venue owner we’ve met so far on this round has been so kind to us.
NAP: You recently were part of the Punch Brothers national tour. What did you take away from that experience?
HH: I learned I could prioritize joy. It sounds very cheesy, but when I’m the headliner of a tour I’m often so stressed with organizing and logistics that I often forget to take care of myself. But this crew let me join their bus tour so I had all this time and freedom to read and work on songs and watch documentaries and take care of myself a little better.
I’m still not the best at prioritizing joy (until the actual show, which does give me great joy), but I think meeting them has sent me on a clearer path to try and achieve this more often. Also, they were all such a hoot to hang out with.
NAP: How did you get from playing in church and family karaoke parties to the career you have today, and how did that influence your musical style?
HH: Hmm… That one is simply a twist of fate. I stubbornly followed the threads of things that I loved––not karaoke though, that was forced upon me––and I feel like we all accidentally become a conglomeration of the things that we love over time.