Fraser / Live Music: ‘Doing what I was created to do’
Known for her soul-searching lyrics, J.J. Heller’s musical career started out at open-mic nights, just like the one she’ll play tonight in Fraser.
Musician friend Nate Allman, former Grand County resident, connected the couple with Java Mic Night organizer Ali Grayson a couple years ago. When she first heard J.J. sing, Grayson said her jaw actually dropped. Grayson invited her to the Roastery for a show and this will be Heller’s third musical visit to the area.
Heller said becoming a musician was a gradual process. She started writing songs her sophomore year in college (majoring in music and Bible/theology). Later, she played with a band that featured Dave Heller, who was to become her husband.
The group started out at open-mic nights before landing their first big performance. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter said she was “a nervous wreck” leading up to that first “real gig.” The more they played, the more she fell in love with it.
“I realized that when I’m sharing my heart and my thoughts through songs, I’m doing exactly what I was created to do,” she said. “I feel so at home doing what I love.”
Heller now tours the country with her husband, who accompanies her on acoustic guitar. They play almost 100 shows a year and make an effort to expand their musical horizons. Their sound is described as “acoustic, lyrically-driven, folk-ish music.”
Heller estimates she has probably written more than 100 original songs. Her approach to songwriting, she said, has been greatly influenced by one of her favorite songwriters, Patty Griffin. Heller also loves being exposed to the independent artists. Many of them she and Dave met in Nashville, Tenn. after a move there from Phoenix, Ariz.
The duo wrote a collaborative single this past November called “My Savior’s Love Endures” and put out a free download of “Painted Red” as a boost for listeners. Another celebratory event included the birth of their daughter Lucy, Dec. 6. Lullaby-like song “Keep You Safe” off the newest album was written with her in mind.
Theme of “Painted Red,” Dave said, is finding hope in the face of adversity. “A lot of it is coming to terms with different circumstances and fear, and finding hope in spite of that.” Dave said he and J.J. will most likely play many of the songs from it during their Friday show. Afterward, the duo plans to “hit the road hard.”
Every Friday night through the winter season, the Roastery is hosting diverse talent from throughout the Grand County area and Colorado region for family friendly shows. Future performances for the event’s fifth year include Christopher Williams March 13, Diane French March 20, Haas ‘n’ Friends March 27, and the Grayson Experiment April 3.
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