- Heather Lingle is a Montana-based, Texas-born singer/songwriter who uses her voice to till deep into the stony soil of the human heart with songs that examine conflict, triumph, and ever maddening love. Her voice and writing will take you on a melodic journey through the sunbaked back roads of American roots music. Heather grew up in a musical family in Texas and is cousin to the late Cowboy Slim Rinehart, one of the first “Singing Cowboys” of the 1930s and ‘40s. Rinehart had his own radio show that was broadcast from the Southwest and whose signal reached as far north as Michigan. He was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996 “in recognition of his being a pioneer of the Texas music scene.”
In addition, Heather’s dad, Floyd Luker, plays the upright bass and sings harmony in her band. Heather’s mother, Peggy Lingle Luker, helped pen “Last Call on Love” from her first album, Coyote Beauty. And, her grandmother, Dorothy Rinehart Lester, has been coaching her in voice since she was a small child, and even today advises her on songwriting. Although Heather has been performing since she was a young child, she has only been playing guitar and writing her own music since 2009, both of which came naturally. Heather is delighted about the recent release of Welcome to Blue Town, her second album. In anticipation of several upcoming performances throughout the area, the Rolling Zone had the pleasure of sitting down with the woman herself to talk music, inspiration, and making that lyrical connection.
RZ: How are you doing this afternoon? HL: I’m doing great. How about you?
RZ: Very well, thanks. So tell me, how do you describe the Heather Lingle sound? HL: The first word that comes to my mind is alt-country, with some definite Texas roots. You know, it’s fresh. It’s original. Sometimes we’re rockin’, sometimes we’re bluesin’, but it’s always danceable and always has a little bit of that country thing going.
RZ: And keep everyone on their feet and having a good time. HL: Yeah, for sure.
RZ: You’ve got quite the slate of shows coming up. Do you have anything specific planned for those performances? HL: [When] we start our set, we just hit the ground running. We blaze through four solid sets and we keep people on the dance floor. I think we provide–consistently–a really great, top-notch kind of show. People are saying that anyway, and I feel that also.
RZ: You perform as a solo act as well as with your band. How do those shows differ? HL: They’re very different. The venues are usually different, given the nature of singer/songwriter shows. My solo shows are…[pauses] That’s such a tough one. I don’t want to make it sound like they aren’t as good. They’re not as dynamic, but what they are is more intimate. I sing a different variety of songs, a different selection. [It’s] more of a heart-to-heart kind of show.
RZ: Speaking of venues, do you have a preference of where you play? Are you a festival person, a tavern person, a concert hall person? HL: I like them all, but honestly, I like outdoor family events the best. I just love seeing the best in people and those usually [provide] those kind of moments. Bringing something to make it a little better is really fun.
RZ: Love the outdoor shows. HL: It’s a celebration of life in a way. I know they all have their themes, but we’re all just out celebrating life.
RZ: Well stated. So you’ve got a couple albums out, Coyote Beauty and Welcome to Blue Town. Can you tell us a little bit about the process of making those and how they might be distinct from one another? HL: You know, I got really lucky with my first album. I ended up spending a few days down in Texas at Willie Nelson’s studio called Pedernales Studio. When I was down there, I got to learn from Lloyd Maines, who’s a Grammy-winning producer, Steve Fishell, another Grammy-winning producer, and some other folks just to learn that process. What is it like to make a CD–the pre-production process, the recording process, the engineering and the mix and all that. During that time down there, I learned a great deal. It was Robert Earl Keen, Jr., who’s a Texas songwriter hero of mine who was working on two songs, so I was observing that process. Out of that, I happened to meet another producer and we exchanged information. I had told him I was writing songs and really trying to promote myself, get myself recorded and out there. Several months later, he gives me a call and offers to make the CD. I flew to San Antonio for four days and hung out in this makeshift studio in a living room, threw together this band and we made the CD in four days. That was just one of those gifts from the sky.
RZ: And the follow-up? HL: The second one was more like four months’ worth of work and process, doing it in the hometown of Butte rather than San Antonio, and knowing who I was working with really well. I was also a co-producer on my second album, so having more of a say on the final product was good. RZ: You had a bit of the process down and sort of knew what to expect the second time around. HL: Right. But having that first producer believe in me was huge. It gave me that foundation of music. That “see what I can do?” I actually had a product then. My best-selling tool at that point.
RZ: The last album came out in 2015, but are you already writing and thinking about the next one? HL: Definitely. Absolutely. In fact, [I’ve] already met with Mark Iwaniak, who produced my last one. Fingers crossed, I think we’re going to start recording this summer.
RZ: That’s awesome! Good luck with that. HL: Thank you. RZ:
You’ve been a part of the music scene in Texas, Arizona, and elsewhere. How does your time there compare to what you’re seeing in the greater Bozeman area? HL: What a great question. Well, people’s music tastes are different regionally. Up here, there tends to be more of a pull towards the bluegrass side of things. In the country area, I feel like there’s more of an acoustic push. Whereas in other places, but especially Texas [because] that’s what I’m most familiar with– Texas has its own brand of country. Texas has its own brand of bluegrass. I almost think it’s a little bit more of a critical audience in Texas. Audiences up here, I think, are a little more forgiving and have a little more fun with it. It’s more casual a little bit.
RZ: People love their live music around here. It’s something lively. HL: Exactly. It’s a great outlet for people. RZ: You’ll have participated in the Record Store Day festivities at Cactus by the time this interview goes to print. Why did you want to get involved with this particular event and what do you expect from it? HL: I’m involved because I cherish a store like Cactus Records that provides something totally unique. They choose their own music that they sell, they provide the different formats. You walk in, the place is just cool. They sell my music, so obviously I highly value that, too. I was a big fan of that store before I ever had my first CD out. The owner, Mike Bueno Good, is great. I hope [the event] raises awareness of that store and what it really does. It’s totally set apart from any other retail experience around.
RZ: It should be really cool. We hope it goes well. Like vinyl and this very newspaper, it’s nice to have something to hold. HL: There is something more compelling about that physical representation. RZ: What would your fans and our readers be surprised to hear to play and/or listen to? HL: You know what, I don’t listen to country or much Americana or anything like that. When I’m at home, I usually have classical music on. Independent classical, especially. I love indie classical. The whole genre open[s] my mind, as an independent artist anyway. I was just on Pandora and thought, what about people like me who don’t have record contracts but play and compose classically? So yeah, that’s what I like.
RZ: Interesting. Does listening to classical music inspire your own artistry? HL: I think what it does, honestly for me, it opens my mind enough to receive whatever’s coming–whether it’s a new lyric or a new melody. It opens that creative tunnel. RZ: Great. Do you have any outstanding memories from your career thus far that you’d like to share with us? HL: When my first producer decided to do the radio campaign for Coyote Beauty and we chose “Last Call on Love,” really the standout song on that album. He did a national radio campaign and the feedback was really good and I started getting attention from, basically, all over the world [through] its distribution. Putting that out there and having it received well in all regions of this country, I was really kind of skeptical about that, and making some charts–that’s been the best.
RZ: I’m sure. Any other instances that really stand out? HL: Another thing that was an accomplishment for me last year was getting to play at Music Ranch Montana. Getting the opportunity to play in front of different people and knowing how many great artists get to play there. That was cool also.
RZ: Other than the next album, do you have anything else on the horizon for your music? HL: I do have something coming out this year. There’s an independent film, The Tinderbox, written and directed by Elizabeth Cox [that] my band and I filmed a scene [featuring] “Man of Mine.” The scene is in the bar and we’re in the background as the two main characters fall in love. We’re actually still filming. This next scene [will] be a line dance scene with choreography to one of my songs, which is a silly little song called “The Kitchen.” I can’t wait for that. It’s going to be great. To have that out, it’s a very Montana film, especially very Butte. To be a part of that is very exciting.
RZ: A little piece of Montana you can share with everyone. HL: Yeah. Absolutely.
RZ: Is there some sort of message you’d like to convey to those who listen to your music and come out to your shows? HL: I want to share a moment with a listener. When there’s that connection and I see someone respond in some emotional way, whatever it happens to be, that’s my thing. I think you get that in a lot of different ways, but doing my very best every single song, delivering that, helps achieve that [response] for the listener. If I deliver the best I can, I feel like that magic happens. Experience the magic yourself at one of Heather’s many upcoming performances throughout the area.
She’ll take the stage at the Murray of Livingston, Friday, May 6th at 9pm. Then on Saturday, May 14th, Heather will serenade the crowd at Desert Rose in Belgrade beginning at 7pm. The songstress and her band will get you off your feet with two performances at the Eagles of Bozeman, Friday, May 20th and Saturday the 21st at 9pm both evenings. Finally, she’ll kick off summer with a poolside acoustic show at Norris Hot Springs, Saturday, June 4th beginning at 7pm. Be sure to check out this talented lady at one of these shows! To listen to Heather’s music or for more information, please visit HeatherLingle.com/. •