She grew up treading the waters of a traditional upbringing while singing in her father’s church and has learned to master a voice of romantic reason. This week’s COREnered takes flight with sultry jazz songbird, Heather Rigdon, who has the ability to seduce you into a hypnotic state of enamored listening. Fly with her below to uncover a little more of her songbook’s influences and intimations.
- What is your first musical memory?
Falling asleep under the pew of my father’s church to the whir of a hammond b3 punctuated by clapping on the off-beat. My father was a Pentecostal minister and much of my early musical memories where spent in church. Sacred songs, hymns, choir and congregation songs were the main part of my musical exposure. We were not allowed to watch PG rated movies so most of my secular musical exposure was through Walt Disney and black and white musicals (some technicolor). My father was a fan of Ray Charles, and my first experience with ‘secular’ music was through this very 8 track.
- What was the first concert you ever went to? I grew up with the best musicians. Most had never been to school or had a lesson in order to learn their instrument… most learned and played ‘by ear’. There were no chord charts or sheet music in our churches and there were no harmony lines for the choir to learn. We felt it… and heard it more than “learned” it. The Lanny Wolfe Trio was my first United Pentecostal concert. They were from JCM College of Ministries–one of our many sanctioned Bible Colleges. My first official ‘secular’ concert was U2 at 25. I was amazed at the energy. It was very similar to the energy I had been raised on and had experienced in church. We had full bands and our drummer had to be contained in plexiglass as a general rule because they loved to play as hard as John Bonham.
- What or whom do you go to for musical inspiration? Anyone that has something to say whether it be through the lyrics, melody or groove. The magical ones have two out of the three. Nina Simone is one of the rarities. She has soul, songs, and melody. Leonard Cohen is a wordsmith and always engages your mind and your body in his songs. Annie Lennox for her raw emotion. David Bowie for his showmanship. Tom Waits for his love of the dark and obscurities of life. The Muppets and heroes/heroines in any of the Walt Disney cartoons whose songs are as relevant to children as they are to adults.
- Without using the words “alternative,” “pop,” or “rock,” describe your sound. Straightforward jazz three piece with seductive, soulful vocals. I grew up singing soprano, although I was really an alto whenever the choir director needed another soprano. I stripped my voice a bit, which gave me an interesting texture. Not being allowed to experience current pop culture growing up–my voice matured inside a vacuum–insulated from the current sound, making it unique. As far as pitch goes, I truly believe you either hear pitch or you don’t. It’s almost impossible to teach or learn. Songs are simply communications, and each time I sing, I try to make sure I am open and sincere–then the song transmits more than words and communicates the heart of the song.
- Stones or Beatles?The Beatles. Melody masters who captured the innocence of the human existence in the simplicity of their lyrics and their bravery to record the life they were living out. It is hard to say though… the Stones appeal to the raw animalistic side of me where the Beatles romanced my mind and wanted to “hold my hand”. But I’d have to say Beatles…it’s time for the 50’s to come around again–and why not, I’m the new Doris Day–whatever will be, will be.
- What’s your dream collaboration? Jeff Cohen and Nina Simone–either one or both. Leon Russell would be a close second. I would love to simply be in on a writing session with any of them and watch how that process went. I benefit by watching the masters. Each one has their own method and in seeing all their different methods I am more apt to be open to my own; however it comes.
- Do you find the song or does the song find you? The song always finds you, but the muse is a gentleman. Music will not ask of you something you are not ready to give. Sometimes I wake with a melody, sometimes I have chorus and melody then trust Cliff Goldmacher (my co-writer and producer) will know how to work it out. Second verses are the hardest to write and sometimes knowing when to write a bridge or leave it out is harder. It always comes to me. It may come through different forms or avenues…but it does come to me as long as I’m listening. My only responsibility is to be open to it.
- How do you discover new music Living aware, surrounding yourself with people who are chasing their passions, and staying open to the lessons they can teach. Music is in everything. Listening to what people say and try to turn it different ways till you’re able to see it in a new light. There is nothing new under the sun, but each person brings a new perspective which makes for infinite possibilities. It can be like that or as easy as a friend says, “hey, come check out this band.”