Haley Heynderickx–real name–opened for Ani DiFranco at the Summer Festival and is the subject of all kinds of buzz. All of it is merited. Sometimes her music is mannered; sometimes her lyrics are opaque. But if you’ve been looking for the next real original, you’ve found her.
Heynderickx grew up in a religious Filipino American family in California’s Central Valley. She moved to Portland, made it in that city’s vibrant songwriting scene, and now says her faith is “not overt” in her music. Several years ago she put out an EP, and with her debut album, I Need to Start a Garden, she pushed every part of her musical language a step further, and things started to happen.
Comparisons with other artists are hard to draw here, but Joni Mitchell may come to mind–and one exciting thing about Heynderickx is that of all the sensitive young singer-songwriters out there right now, she may be the one with the most appeal to listeners of all ages. There’s an improvisatory freedom in her music, a broad flexibility in the relationship between the vocal line and Heynderickx’s guitar, and her lines expand as she gets hold of them and wrestles with them. Often she’ll repeat a line and then add to it:
I am letting you go
I am letting you go
I am letting you go awry
And the larger structure of a song may replicate this device, with a harmonically static line being blown up into a realm of deeper feeling.
The voice, too, may remind you of Joni Mitchell in the way it flutters up into a falsetto, but really it’s one of a kind. Nor is jazz the basis for her music the way it was for Mitchell: her songs are straight folk, accompanied by her own simple, elegant fingerpicking, with a bit of country and a bit of the punk rock she grew up with, slowed way, way down. The improvisatory shapes seem to be forged from the basic material of the song in an extremely unusual way.
You may find her music a bit extravagant, but it has a mixture of simplicity and distinctiveness that doesn’t come along often. Her songs of loneliness and decaying relationships are delicate yet seem born of inner compulsion.
Haley Heynderickx comes to the Ark on Friday, July 13, and I’m betting it’s going to be a hot ticket.