At first glance, Heather Pierson appears to be the girl next door – youthful, friendly, a little bit shy. At the seat of a piano or brandishing an acoustic guitar, however, she transforms into a world-class performer, baring her soul in a manner that leaves her listeners breathless and aching for more.
Heather Pierson is an award-winning pianist, multi-genre singer/songwriter, arranger, bandleader, and performer. From New Orleans-style jazz and blues to rousing Americana and poignant folk narratives, Heather’s live performances move seamlessly and effortlessly from one style to the next, and a growing catalog of wildly divergent CD releases reflects her boundless creativity. She has just released her eighth studio recording, Motherless Child, a collection of inspired originals and renditions of blues and jazz standards that promises to be her best release to date.
Born to a Scottish émigré mother and Navy veteran machinist father just west of the Ozark Plateau in Joplin, Missouri, Heather began in life in the single-traffic-light town of Galena, Kansas. Music was constantly spilling out of the speakers of her parents’ stereo – a diverse playlist that included The Allman Brothers, Kansas, Cream, The Beatles, KISS, Cat Stevens, Mario Lanza, Jose Feliciano and Anne Murray. This diversity served to open Heather’s young mind to the rich and varied language of music and to lay the foundation for her future endeavors and experimentations.
There was also another source of music and inspiration in Heather’s childhood home – her father’s old Selmer clarinet. There were many nights when Heather would find herself sitting Indian-style on the floor in front of her father as he played along, note for note, with his cherished Pete Fountain and Woody Herman records. Though he never played professionally (but certainly could have), his was a love of the music itself, for its own sake – a deep, undying love that he passed down to his only child.
After Heather relocated with her parents to rural Maine at the age of five, her father dug out his old John Thompson piano books and began teaching her how to read music, how to hold her fingers just so on the piano. “I’ll never forget it,” she recalls. “The very first time I played the piano – a real piano – I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to do, every moment that I had the chance to do it.” Thus began a lifelong marriage.
However, as easily as music has always seemed to flow from Heather’s voice and fingers, life has often been difficult. A deeply depressed alcoholic mother, an emotionally distant father, the sudden deaths of both of her parents, a years-long relationship with an abusive older man – all of these and many more traumas and tragedies left Heather feeling caught between wanting to express her truest self and fearful of the consequences for doing so. It would be years before she would find the courage to distill these hardships into the beautiful songs that she would eventually write, to find her voice and break free of the old dark path and to emerge ready to share her rare and precious gifts with the world – and now, her time has arrived.
In October 2010, Heather released Make It Mine, recorded in rural Maine and mastered by Grammy winner Bob Ludwig. It was her fifth studio recording but, to Heather, it felt like her first. It was her newest album in over seven years and was the first true songwriter’s record she had ever released. Songs like “Did I Mention”, “Little Bluebird” and “Fix” are glimpses into her deeply personal – and universal – struggles, while the crowd-favorite title track is a folk-pop anthem celebrating the miraculous life cycle of the Earth.
Once Heather had taken back her life and released Make It Mine, there was no stopping her. Just one year later, she released The Open Road, a critically acclaimed collection of fourteen of her evocative instrumental piano works, including a six song suite called “The Heartland Songs”, a musical homage to her birthplace.
Heather’s seventh CD, The Hard Work of Living, is the culmination of her explorations with the acoustic guitar – a delicately crafted collection of songs that have already been winning her entry into songwriting contests and listeners’ hearts all over the United States. From the gospel-infused “Let It Roll Off Your Back” to the heart stopping “I’ll Never Know Freedom Again” to the achingly beautiful title track, lovers of the honesty and passion of Americana and roots music will find a new emotional home in this album.
In 2014, Heather sought to return to her roots - blues, jazz soul - and to set down a record of the impression these American art forms have made on her life and her work. Her eighth CD, Motherless Child was released in November 2014. In bringing a Dr.-John-meets-Dave-Brubeck sensibility to songs like “The Gumbo’s Too Hot” and embodying the very meaning of heartache in her Nina Simone-infused renditions of classics like “I Loves You, Porgy” and the stunning title track, Heather’s formidable talents as a vocalist, pianist, songwriter, arranger, and bandleader are on full display.
Throughout her colorful career, her eclectic skill set continues to propel her onto concert hall stages and into barrooms, coffeehouses, resort hotels, living rooms and churches. Her nearly non-stop performance schedule (with over 200 shows a year in venues all over the United States) speaks of her tireless work ethic and endless devotion to her craft. Defying genre and classification and yet fully embracing all musical styles, Heather is an artist who speaks the language of music in as many dialects as her abilities will allow. Her life’s work, she says, is to share her love of music and of life with others – one song, one heart, one mind at a time.