Following her 'Calling'
Local musician in statewide 'American Idol'-type competition
BY CHRISTINA CUPO
RECORD STAFF WRITER
Sunday, December 14, 2003
HICKORY - A 12-string guitar changed Heidi Sidelinker's life.
The Hickory native fell in love with an Alvarez 12-string guitar in college, and she decided to make her passion for music a career.
"I'd sit in class, and all I could think about were songs. I couldn't study because there were so many words and ideas in my head," she said. "When you have a passion like that, you can't keep it away. I couldn't deny it. I had to pursue it."
With only one year left to go toward an art degree at Appalachian State University, the 22-year-old chose to take time off to focus on her career.
On Wednesday, Sidelinker will perform on "Carolina Calling" in Charlotte, a statewide version of "American Idol." She's competing with about 20 singers from all over North Carolina for a possible record deal, studio time, cash and exposure.
Sidelinker began performing as a little girl. At age 5, she won the national title of Baby Miss America. Her talent was singing.
Her musical roots run deep. Sidelinker's father, Terry, was a keyboardist for The Barracudas, a folk band from Bangor, Maine.
The Barracudas made a 1967 gold record, "No Matter What You Do." A former band teacher, Terry is a computer engineer for Catawba County Schools.
Sidelinker's mother, Debi, played guitar in a coffee shop duo at the University of Miami. Debi left her fiber optics job to be a full-time manager and booker for her daughter.
In the last two years, Sidelinker recorded two CDs, "dreamtime" and "poetry, essence & romance."
At that time, she wrote about 40 songs. She estimates there are now more than 200 songs in her repertoire.
Sidelinker gets song ideas from day-to-day living, she said. Musicians like Jewel, Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco inspire her, as does her older sister Noelle, a Los Angeles fashion designer.
Her gigs paid for the costs of recording and her PA system.
Sidelinker plays at Hickory's Atlanta Bread Co., Drips Coffeehouse and McGuire's Pub. She works part time at Drips and also performs in Statesville, Morganton, Boone and Carrboro.
"Every time I play, it's different faces," she said. "No gig is ever exactly alike."
Brian Ramsey, owner of Drips, books Sidelinker because her songs remind him of Sarah McLachlan's, he said.
Last year, she sent her demo and promotional package to the New York International Music Festival.
In January, the festival called and asked her to perform in front of representatives from Sony, RCA and DreamWorks in Los Angeles, where she won the award for Best Alternative/Acoustic Female.
The festival also paid for her to attend the next conference in New York, where she played at Madison Square Garden for talent executives last month.
"It was good exposure. I met people who are keeping me in mind for movie soundtracks," Sidelinker said.
Despite earning exposure, it's still all about the music, she said.
"People ask me if I want to be famous. It's not about that at all. I want to just play music and affect people," Sidelinker said.
She's already affected people.
Two years ago, Sidelinker was playing an original song during one of her first gigs in Banner Elk. She noticed an older man in the audience crying as she sang "The Waltz."
He and his wife came up to her after the show and explained how the song moved them because it reminded them of a granddaughter who died.
"The first line is: 'May I have just one last dance before I go?' When I wrote that song, I was just waltzing through life, dabbling," she said. "But from his point of view, it was about death. That's what I want people to do, draw their own feelings."
Whether Sidelinker plays to an audience of 10 or 10,000, she's happy, she said.
"Even if I stayed at the point I am now, I'm satisfied, but I'm going to take it as far as I can."
On the Net: www.heidismusic.net.