James Heather’s “Stories From Far Away From Piano”: London Live Launch
As a child growing up in Southampton, James Heather’s Grandad on one side of the family taught him composition and how to manipulate the tuning of piano strings, whilst his Granny on the other used to dabble with dreamy improvisations on the instrument. His own early compositions came soon after around the age of 11, also inspired by a love of Beethoven and Debussy and his older neighbours pirate radio station and have steadily evolved ever since with his Grandparent’s spirit somewhere within.
Recently James Heather has started to release music via Ahead Of Our Time – Coldcut’s recently resurrected first label and playground for free expression/experimentation. First came “Modulations: EP1”, seven tracks which were written and recorded at different times and in various headspaces. Next came his debut album “Stories From Far Away On Piano”, a more unified conceptual piece of work. The album concept centres on Heather’s interpretations of real world news stories. The pieces ebb and flow, slowly enveloping the listener in a subtly subliminal fashion.
“The album is an appeal to emotion, a way of bringing the listener in, to evoke an empathetic response, this is my interpretation of stories I discovered. The stories themselves are not the focus, but the piano assimilation is, as the album is about viewpoint, opinion and perspective.”
Perspective is something Heather has in abundance; he nearly died in a traumatic road traffic accident, leaving him in a coma in intensive care and then off work for an extended time. One permanent injury was his finger, which became skewed in the crash. He was initially unsure if he’d ever be able to play to the same standard again. “When I eventually started to recover I began taking my musical sketches more seriously. I found solitude channeling my feelings into compositions.”
His communications job since 2003 at Ninja Tune may have cut in to his own composition time, but has also proved a positive formative effect on his mindset, exposing him to successful campaigns for talent like Wiley, Kamasi Washington, Actress, Cinematic Orchestra, Thundercat, Young Fathers, Kate Tempest, The Bug and Bonobo, which have become a grounding anchor. “I’ve always liked to step out of myself and to become immersed in and help other people’s artistic visions, I’m blessed to be able to do that as a job. I can then meditate in my own music in periods of downtime away from the noise of the industry. This push and pull has worked for me.” he explains.
James Heather is one of the new school set of ‘post classical’ artists flourishing in the wake of the long, steady but recently accelerated success of figureheads like Max Richter and Nils Frahm, and the wider public’s overdue but now burgeoning relationship with this varied genre.
Heather’s music has featured on Spotify playlists like Peaceful Piano and Most Beautiful Songs In The World and the EP tracks racked up over a million plays in a couple of months, They have also featured on label playlists from Domino, Bronwswood, Secretly Canadian, Ninja Tune, Anjuna Deep and many more,. Whilst on Apple, Heather has been featured on playlists such as Headspace and Mediative Moments and reached number 2 on the UK classical charts. Coverage in the media has included interviews at Quietus State Born Optimistic Cross-Eyed Pianist premieres at XLR8R Clash Self-Titled Loud & Quiet, Inverted Audio and glowing reviews at Arts Desk, Line Of Best Fit, Mojo, DJ and many more. Heather has also completed DJ mixes of his influences influences on Solid Steel & Konbini . His first ever live performance was at Glastonbury 2017.
“Stories from Far Away on Piano is a fragile, beautiful album – reminiscent of modern composers such as Nils Frahm and Max Richter” – Line Of Best Fit
“This classical masterwork seems like it has simply come out of nowhere” – Bandcamp
“Heather joins a growing group of pianist-composers who have learned their lessons from the classical masters and invented a new language for our own time“ – iTunes
“The likes of Ludovico Einardi, Max Richter, Joep Beving, Nils Frahm and Jóhann Jóhannsson, often with connections to cinema, are offering rich, mostly keyboard-led sounds, carefully, unobtrusively painted with 21st-century electronic technology.James Heather’s debut album quietly announces him as a new contender in this world, a possible future heavyweight” – Arts Desk (Album of Day)
“Shimmers on the cusp of emotive melody and ambience” – Mojo
“Incredibly emotive pieces. A tender, touching album” – Loud and Quiet