By Myki Angeline
London native Heather Findlay is known for her magic, evocative voice and an ability to project a range of styles with power and feeling. She’s performed guest vocals with Ritchie Blackmore, Jethro Tull, Fish and many others, and her eclectic style can be heard on new solo studio album, Wild White Horses (Black Sand Records). It was produced by Thunder’s Luke Morley, who also co-wrote some of the material with her. In collaboration with Secret Projects, Heather also co-founded the She Rocks Secret Sari Dress campaign for the prevention of Human Trafficking.
Below, she shares her personal and musical journey that led to where she is now, and shares some tips and benefits to finding one’s center and balancing life and work in an oftentimes busy world.
Learn more at heatherfindlay.co.uk.
WiMN: Wild White Horses is such an eclectic, diverse collection of songs that seem to outline your musical journey from the very beginning. Was this your plan all along?
HF: The plan for Wild White Horses was for me just to create a cohesive collection of songs that are an honest representation of me and where I am right now, so in a way I suppose there is a subtle sense of timeline there. Given that my tastes in music and the styles in which I sing and write are pretty diverse, the songs naturally cross over into multiple genres – from country and blues to folk and hard rock. Even hints of my love for India make an appearance, so I think you definitely get a feel for who I am by listening to this record.
My producer Luke Morley also had his own brief for the album, which was to form a body of work that, as well as a presenting me as a singer, would particularly highlight my abilities as a songwriter. Whilst we both enjoyed experimenting and breaking new ground with the likes of “Face In The Sun,” Luke also very much encouraged the inclusion of songs such as “The Island” and “I Remember.” These are the ones that felt very natural and closest to my earliest works or what would be perhaps most expected of me, so the project does have a full circle vibe. All in all, I think we both had an eye on the bigger picture whilst focusing on each song as they arrived. The process was never forced or contrived; just very organic and full of flow, which is how I feel it should be.
WiMN: Your artistic talent is so vast and well-rounded; from the arts, to music, writing, and teaching yoga, which you infuse Reiki healing…all of which can be heard and felt in your songs. How do you balance your time between everything?
HF: Balance is the key word here! To be honest, it’s a constant challenge to maintain it. I think I accepted long ago that I would have to be very flexible with my approach if I was to be in any way successful. Facing life with just the right amount of discipline, but without too much rigidity tends to keep me in the flow. I’m fortunate to have a great support network around me, which I’m super grateful to say has grown a lot this last year. I am also learning more and more to rely on my own inner strength. This I think I began to learn through my reiki practice, but things really changed when I met my SatGuru, Yogiraj SatGuruNath Siddhanath in 2014. Meeting SatGuruNath was a complete game changer and Kriya Yoga has become a priceless daily tool. It fills me up, keeps me grounded, focused and really brings the clarity and stability of mind required to be able to juggle multiple tasks. It has also helped me to relax and to see that I don’t have to try to do everything all at once. And that it’s ok to have a season of illustrating or teaching yoga workshops following a couple of seasons of music, because I can now see that all aspects of creative expression are just different frequencies of the same energy.
WiMN: Can you share with us how your She Rocks Sari Dress Campaign has impacted your life personally? Describe one stand out moment for you since the campaign began.
HF: The Secret Sari Dress campaign has been a wonderful highlight in my life. I personally feel that this campaign directly links to the rising and rebalancing of feminine energy globally. Not just in women, but also in that which is latent in men. We are all composed of both masculine and feminine energy and it is becoming more and more apparent that we are in need of regaining this balance for the good of humanity and our planet.
I have always been one to just crack on and get on with the job – ‘man’s world’ or not – and though always having had respect for it, I have never really understood feminism or particularly been inclined to study it. For me personally, and without really noticing it, I think this had over time, resulted in a slightly overly masculine perspective. Though I have always loved working with other women and really enjoyed and encouraged other females to join bands and projects I was involved with over the years, I realized for instance, that I had always had the feeling I need to prove I was physically as strong as any male colleague or in some cases even as emotionally resilient as other males. I am a very strong woman, both physically and mentally but, I am a woman and one who is particularly emotionally oriented, and spiritually inclined also, so of course, this was not going to last forever!
Although I knew as a single parent, I had to be strong for my two young boys, I realized that I had been denying myself the freedom to be soft and to flow…
The energy was completely different working on the Secret Sari Campaign. I could literally feel the transformation happening. So much flow seemed to run through the whole thing, so few obstacles and such alignment! I could often feel the ‘Shakti,’ or female energy, itself rising in me whilst working on the campaign. My cousin Fritha Vincent, CEO and founder of Secret Projects, and I would sit there totally exhilarated whilst brainstorming, and whilst we worked, the hours and hours would literally fly by. The project really took on its own energy, and before long I had been largely responsible for creating a global Sisterhood willing to rise together on a project created to empower women in India. It was pretty magical and I was constantly amazed.
Sister to sister, the campaign quickened like lightning! Men across the industry were also very generous with their support. This was happening and I can honestly say I have never worked on a project that evoked such a global ‘YES’ from whomever we approached!
For me personally, I was shown that despite having felt inadequate in this area before, I discovered I had the ability to lead, and to sell, and to do so with confidence. This is something in which I have always been more inclined to either share the role of rather than fly solo, or in some cases would even shy away from completely by relinquishing it to another.
I could feel a lot of grace working through this project. Creating the Secret Sari Dress Campaign with Fritha was a form of Seva, or devotional service, to our fellow sisters, both in India and globally, but the secret of working with Secret Projects for me is that once we begin to work for the empowerment of another, we actually become more personally empowered, and in such unexpected and beautiful ways. That’s the grace that happens through Seva. That is the beauty of India.
WiMN: What did you find particularly challenging when it came to balancing your music career with raising a family?
HF: Everything! Ha ha. Like any parent, I guess. I have always been pretty determined. Pretty stubborn, you could say! I always thought I’d be able to juggle both my musical career and raise my boys seamlessly and simultaneously. But, I was wrong, and at times I hit complete exhaustion and even depression as a result, and looking back. this all stands to reason. By late 2011, things began to shift, relationships crumbled and I had to learn fast about letting go of certain things. I found myself a single parent by January 2012 and as the year progressed, I realized I could not do it all. I was constantly trying to show the world I could do it, and show my kids that hard work was the key, but trying to inspire them in this and spend quality time with them at the same time grew harder and harder.
You can see from the timeline of my career that there are some gaps around 2012-2015. This is where spirituality really started to happen for me and if I’m honest, actually grabbed me by the scruff of my neck! It all seemed so out of the blue at the time. On reflection, I had always been curious about the ‘unknown,’ but at this time, I was increasingly magnetized to gathering knowledge and towards self-healing. This is where Reiki (Pranic healing) became a big part of my life, which after a couple of years had developed my awareness to a point, and I feel that is really what lead me to become open enough to ‘see’ my SatGuru.
Ultimately, the challenges I once faced are still there, but since 2014, my sadhana or Kriya yoga practice has changed everything. I notice if I skip it even for a day or two that I am no longer grounded or operating from my center. It has become a complete way of life and in fact, when it comes to maintaining balance, it is my life line. Even though publicly quiet at times, behind the scenes I was still avidly documenting everything through journaling and demoing song ideas.
In 2015, my boys and I travelled to India together for the first time. We came home refreshed and inspired anew after an intense and magical journey. Shortly after our return, I wrote many songs for the forthcoming Mantra Vega project album The Illusion’s Reckoning, which were largely derivative of our experiences there. The song “In A Dream” describes our time at the Siddhanath Forest Ashram together. This was also an attempt to document it all for my youngest, Drayke, in case he forgot any of it, as he was only just four at the time. The kids both sang on the record too, and this was the first time that I could see a complete balance and alignment between motherhood and music.
WiMN: What advice and insight would you like to share with women who are looking to embark on a career in music today?
HF: Be bold. Be You and keep going! Be ready for ‘No’. Be ready for ‘Yes’. Despite either, believe you can! Manage your expectations and say no to bullies! Be sure to rest. We all get tired, but rest, dust yourself off and get going again. Form a network of like minded women. Encourage one another, but don’t follow your contemporaries. You may just follow them down a rabbit hole that wasn’t yours! Be kind to yourself. Listen to yourself. Nurture yourself. How? Learn how to access a centred space within. Use that as your compass. If you know exactly where your centre is, you’ll know through practicing when you’re ‘off’ and therefore not quite firing on all cylinders or from your truest self. This could manifest in being too vulnerable and attracting bullies, or those who would walk over you, this could also manifest in your being overly confident too… This doesn’t just apply to music related careers of course, but I wish I knew about being centred when I began at 19… Being centred is the best we can do in knowing where we are coming from at any time. We all make mistakes, but arming yourself in advance in such a way reduces the risk, but also helps you brush off from the inevitable bumps on the road and keep going.