Kiya Heartwood is an award-winning American singer-songwriter who writes smart, funny and poignant songs about the famous and not-so-famous legends of America. She is making her first appearance at the Fringe with her acoustic show, Short Stories: True Song Tales from the American Edge. Broadway Baby’s Dave House caught up with Kiya Heartwood to talk to the artist about her work.
The Fringe is a beautiful festival, mad and inspiring. Of course I hope to come back next year and many years to come.
What is “the American Edge”?
To me it's the underdogs and outsiders who aren't living on Wall Street bonuses. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The Handmaid's Tale, “We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”
What artists have inspired your writing and musical style?
My influences are a combination of folk rock artists like Neil Young, Jackson Browne, or Joni Mitchell, contemporary folk writers like Cheryl Wheeler and Patty Griffin, Americana artists like Steve Earle, Joe Ely and Buddy Miller, British folk revival artists like the Watersons, Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, and political singers like Holly Near and Dick Gaughan. Of course, Woody Guthrie. I hope to write story songs that are in the living tradition but I don't want to just imitate the old songs but actually keep adding new stories to the pile. There isn't as much of this going on in America as I might wish, but the stories I know best are American stories. As Woody Guthrie said, "Write what you know."
You've had a music career that's spanned nearly 30 years. What have been some of the highlights of your career?
Many beautiful moments… Getting signed to Arista in the late 80's with my Folk Rock band, Stealin Horses, being on MTV and playing Farm Aid in 1990. Playing the last gig in Cafe LMNOP in Lexington, KY, when the skaters and the punks left the bar singing the chorus to my song, ‘The Ballad of the Pralltown Cafe’ - "There'll be no rockin' in the Cafe tonight...", playing the Kennedy Center, the Philly Folk Festival and Kerrville Folk Festivals with Wishing Chair, and now as a solo artist, I'm making some amazing memories here in Edinburgh.
What do you think it is that makes these American tales so universally appealing?
These are the people who push the edges and change the center. I tend to write songs that keep my own spirits up. Many of these people are my compass points and sources of inspiration. I think people can identify with the uphill struggles of these characters.
How are you finding the Edinburgh Festival and will you come back again?
Performing regularly in Europe has been a dream of mine for many, many years and Edinburgh is amazing. Besides having many ancestors from Scotland, I love the layers of history and intellectual sparring carried in the very stones of the buildings. The Fringe is a beautiful festival, mad and inspiring. Of course I hope to come back next year and many years to come. I feel very at home here.