Folk Artist Heather Styka Brings Heartbreaking Songs and Lighthearted Banter to East Lansing
It would not be far off to say singer-songwriter Heather Styka followed the yellow brick road towards her career in music. The budding musician was cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in the first grade, and never looked back.
Styka will perform at the Orchard Street Pump House February 24 at 7:00 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Contemporary folk, brooding-blues artist Campbell Woods will open the show.
“I was a super shy kid, but I realized I was more comfortable being on stage than person-to-person.” Styka says. “So, I started writing songs young, around thirteen, as a way to deal with teen angst and heartbreak. Right around that same time I started going to an open mic at a folk club called the Two-Way Street, and also going to shows at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. I stumbled into the folk community at precisely the right time as I was starting to dig into writing. Folk music taught me about community building, about personal and intimate show experiences, and about narrative, descriptive, and intentional lyrics.”
The Midwest native has four full-length albums and one EP to her credit, with the most recent being ‘The Bittersweet Tapes.’ Her latest album, ‘North,’ is recorded and is set to be released sometime this spring.
According to Styka, songwriting for the musician comes in all forms. Of course, drawing inspiration from a legend helps, too.
“I write a lot on the road,” she says. “When I’m driving, or going for a walk. The moment I allow myself time to write something, I’m going to write something. It’s always been easy and natural for me. Of course, the hard part is editing and improving those songs. Lately, I’ve taken the approach of writing often, without self-censorship. Woody Guthrie wrote a song every day, and only some were really good ones. I write a song a week, and that feels like plenty!”
All of the songwriting has paid off, as Styka is a two-time Kerrville New Folk Finalist, and is fresh off an appearance at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City, where a bevy of folk musicians in the world gathered for a week full of performances and panels.
“The Folk Alliance was an incredible experience,” she says. “I’ve been attending these conferences for almost a decade, and it has utterly changed my life. You don’t know who you’re going to meet. You perform some songs with them, and they end up becoming your best friend. It’s very much about ‘networking,’ but in the world of folk music.”
Performance is everything to Styka, and she leaves it all out on the stage.
“Performing is completely about connecting with people,” she says. “I want to hold up a mirror to people. To put into words a thought, or experience, that they understand but have never heard phrased that way. My favorite songs feel sort of inevitable, as if they had to happen. When performing, I’m just a conduit for that connection. There are some fun songs, up-tempo, good time stuff, but also some tearjerker. People cry at my shows pretty often, and I’m grateful to be making that sort of impression and connection. My in-between banter is pretty light and funny, which balances things out. I don’t want people to leave my shows feeling worse than when they came in. But, when you sing something real, and sometimes sad, there’s a release that comes from that too. It feels good to feel. That’s the power of music for me, especially live performance.”
More information on concerts at the Pump House, is available here.
The Pump House is located at 368 Orchard Street. Doors at 6:30, Music at 7pm, and there’s a suggested donation $15, with all money going to the artist
Styka and Campbell will also appear at The MSU Broad's Acoustic Lunch on January 27th at 12:30. Admission is free.