Crys Matthews is nothing if not ambitious. In August 2017, she simultaneously released both a new full-length album, The Imagineers and an EP, Battle Hymn For An Army Of Lovers. These collections showcase two sides of Matthews’ dynamic songwriting; The Imagineers is a selection of thoughtful songs about love and life while Battle Hymn For An Army Of Lovers tackles social justice themes. Songs from both projects have already won her recognition and awards. She was one of ten finalists (from a pool of 5,000) in this year’s NewSong Music Competition and, after performing at Lincoln Center on November 30th, she was named grand-prize winner. Matthews also won the People Music Network’s Social Justice Songs contest at the 2017 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance.
A southeastern North Carolina native who now calls Herndon, Virginia home, Matthews blends Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk into a bold, complex performance steeped in traditional melodies and punctuated by honest, original lyrics. Having been compared to everyone from Toshi Reagon to Tracy Chapman to Ruthie Foster, Matthews’ eclectic infusion of genres has won her honorable mentions at the 2017, 2013 and 2014 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest and extensive radio play from Woman of Substance radio to WTJU-Charlottesville and WMRA-Harrisonburg to KBOO-Portland.
Equally at home in an acoustic listening room as she is on stage at large music festivals, Matthews has quickly gathered a loyal following on the east coast playing such prestigious venues as the Sundance Film Festival, The Birchmere, The Hamilton, and Jammin’ Java. Matthews’ festival and showcase roster has included BMI’s Island Hopper Songwriter Festival, the 40th Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, Folk Alliance International, 30A Songwriters Festival, Northeast Regional Folk Alliance and many more.
A prolific lyricist and composer, Matthews has found inspiration in her surroundings; from driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the compelling and heart-breaking love story of Richard and Mildred Loving. Thoughtful, realistic and emotional, Matthews’ songs speak to the voice of our generation and remind us why music indeed soothes the soul.
It is rare to find an artist who startles your senses on many levels, engaging the part of your brain that makes you shake your hips, but also raise your fist in solidarity.
Heather Mae does just that.
An imaginative lyricist with a powerhouse voice, Heather Mae is forging new ground with her newest album. Entitled “I AM ENOUGH”, the collection was dubbed a KickStarter Staff Pick within it’s first week, smashing through its $15,000 fundraising goal and on it’s official release date – June 10th, 2016 – peaked at #58 on the iTunes Pop Charts. All of this without the support of a label.
With producer Mark Williams (Sucker Punch Recording Co.) at the wheel, the collection of five songs is a bold breakout from her former years as a folk singer-songwriter strumming a ukulele. Mae breaks ground in “I AM ENOUGH” not only for her interesting indie-pop sound, but also for her musical take on touchy subjects ranging from LGBTQ discrimination, gender stereotypes, body image, and mental health issues. This is what sets Mae apart—she seeks to write music for those that need an anthem and doesn’t shy away from tackling topics not often heard in pop music.
“I see this record as a platform for change. Pop music with a mission.” says Heather. “I am inspired by artists who are able to combine both.”
The title track to her new album, ‘I Am Enough’ is an ode to body positivity and breaking away from self-imposed affliction to fit into what society defines as beautiful. ‘Wanderer’ and ‘No Poor Soul’ are reflections of Mae’s own experience of publicly coming out and the relief associated with finding love that accepts you just as you are—externally and internally. ‘Stand Up’ wraps up the entire record with its challenge to listeners to fight against intolerances that so many of us face, such as racism, sexism and other prejudices.
In the music video for ‘Stand Up’, which won Best Music Video in the Cinema Syster’s Film Festival, Mae references the Black Lives Matter movement and the June 2015 SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage which destroyed DOMA.
After graduating in 2008 from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, directly afterwards she embarked on her first project entitled “One Year of Songs.” The collection was an ambitious project which involved writing and recording one song every day for a year. The record received local and national attention (Washington Post dubbed her songs “charming”) as she toured the country in support of the project.
As her star began to rise, Mae was diagnosed with nodules on her vocal chords. With her future suddenly in limbo, she was forced to re-evaluate her career and life.
“I was told I would never sing again and I went through an introspective time. It was having to sit in silence that changed me. I hadn’t ever used my voice for good and that became my mantra as I recovered,” Mae says.
Heather realized she had never really written about the issues that meant the most to her.
“I had been too afraid to put myself out there and be exposed. It’s one thing to write about love, it’s another thing to write about loving your partner – who is a woman. To sing about what life is like as a plus size woman, the self acceptance and right to feel great about myself, and social issues that meant the most to me. Before I went through this health challenge, and almost lost it all, fear held me back. It wasn’t worth the risk but I got the message that it can be taken away in a second, and I knew it was time to step up.”
She vowed that her new music would not only be different, but sincere and significant. In spite of some of her darkest days, Mae relearned how to sing. She took a step away from her previous folk-heavy style and her new sound is a unique fusion of indie-pop Tegan and Sara meets dynamic vocalist Etta James.
“When people listen to my new music, my mission is that they feel they’re not alone and that they’re moved to rediscover the best versions of themselves,” Mae says. “Two years ago, I was told that the definition of who I was no longer existed. The thing that kept me going was believing that I wasn’t alone in my brokenness. We all fail at times and it is so much easier if we have more hands to help us up, rather than to point out our flaws. That is what this record is. A humble hand to help you get off your a**.”
In 2017, Mae was dubbed the winner of Songwriter Showcase at the prestigious Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in Lyons, CO. She will be returning in 2018 to play a full set on the main stage. Mae won 2nd place in the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, CO, was named the People’s Choice Award winner of the Wildflower Festival’s Singer-Songwriter Showcase in Richardson, TX, and landed an Official Showcase at the International Folk Alliance Conference in Kansas City. Last year, in 2016, Mae was selected as a finalist in the Kerrville New Folk Competition, International Songwriting Contest, and Falcon Ridge Songwriter Showcase. Mae has been lucky enough to perform, work, open for, and study one-on-one with diverse talents such as Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls), Holly Near, Tom Paxton, Tom Goss (YouTube Performer/Musician), Danielle Ate the Sandwich (Youtube Comedian/Musician), Paul Pfau (The Voice S8), Rebecca Loebe (The Voice S1), Amy Speace, Daphne Willis, Paul Reisler, and Ron Browning (Carrie Underwood, Wynonna Judd).