The Soul Seen is a retrospective of features that appeared on ISPYSOUL during its acclaimed initial run. These features provide a snapshot in time of key moments in the careers, from fledgling to legendary, of several creative and talented artists. The projects featured are older now, but no less significant. The insights and perspectives they shared, speak to their success and as you will find still resonate today.
From the original monthly feature segment, WATCH CLOSELY on ISPYSOUL.COM 2003
HESTON MUSIC, SWEET MUSIC
The power of music has time and again proven itself to be an elixir for many things. We’ve all heard the phrase, “music soothes the savage beast” and storied tales of serene melodic passages calming ferocious sorts, both real and mythological, into harmless submission. For singer/songwriter, Heston, the “beast” was not of the growling or fire-breathing variety, but that of personal adversity – as a child moving from his native Dominica to less than cozy conditions with extended family in Philly. Recalling the period he notes, “There was a lot of time to kind of dig deep.” Already bitten by the music bug early on by the likes of Bob Marley and his usher into American music, Michael Jackson, songwriting evolved into an outlet and tapped into a talent he didn’t know he had. “I knew that I loved music”, says Heston, who now calls the hot music town Atlanta home. “Seven, eight years old I used to do the Michael Jackson moves. I used to cut my pants up and use my mom’s blouse to make a Billie Jean type outfit – Put thick grease in my hair and make Jheri curls. So I always knew I loved music. But I didn’t know that I could write. It’s only when I started writing”, he continues, “that I came to enjoy it and even at that point, I didn’t know that it was worth anything.” Ironically, Heston is now finding that his words not only mean a great deal to him, but to a burgeoning number of fans. With an affecting voice that exudes passion, sincerity and engaging warmth he is causing quite a stir on the soul scene. On his self-titled EP, Heston, a glimpse at his talent is revealed through a winning assortment of grooves that range from driving to laid-back and smooth that serve as canvas for a fervent delivery that’s refreshingly pure and packed with a kaleidoscope of emotions.
His manner, for many, evokes a quality reminiscent of past soul-bearing crooners, like Donny Hathaway or one of his favorites, Marvin Gaye. Fittingly, a warm tribute to him and others comes by way of the track, “Songbirds” on his debut release. It’s clear those who’ve been wooed by his CD or stirring live performances have identified the common strand between them – a genuineness and ardor that not only comes through in his music, but in conversation with Heston as well when the topic turns to the kind of music he’s committed to steering clear of. “If I was given a big [label] deal tomorrow that said give us some cookie cutter R&B in the vain of anybody that doesn’t move me, I’d give it up in a heartbeat.” insists Heston “Compromising what I love and the kind of music that influenced me is of no interest to me.”
Alas, Heston also believes he shares some other things in common with those he’s been likened to – Once again some personal adversity. Things in his life that he candidly admits commonly spell unrest – Hurdles that actually many can relate to a time in their own lives. This is undoubtedly the realness you can feel when he sings a phrase or what enables you to envision a scene through his lyrics. However, the irony is his sound is in no way down or dark, but alive and stimulating delivered with confidence and an almost optimistic air. As he explains, it’s how music still continues to soothe the “beast.” “When I’m on the stage, I don’t ever what to get off”, says Heston. “Not because I’m a stage hog, because I’m not attracted to the stage. I’m really not. I’m not one of those people that can’t wait to jump on a mike. But when I get there, it’s a totally different experience. I am a completely different person.” He continues, “My emotions are on my sleeves and nothing that I write or nothing that I sing is meaningless. Everything that I say out of my mouth and every word that I write is through experience. It’s heartfelt. It’s my life. It’s my release”, adding, “Music and performing or writing a song or recording a song is my drug. It’s my high!”
No doubt, if the buzz around Heston continues to swell and fortunes continue to unfold he’ll be on a constant high with plenty to be happy about –very much deserved.
Nothing like the power of music, sweet music.
© Bert Caldwell 2003