Kevin Heider on Balcony TV

At the end of September, Kevin spent a beautifully sunny autumn morning on a rooftop in downtown Cincinnati with several other local artists for the inaugural video shoot for Cincinnati’s own Balcony TV channel. (check out a few photos from the shoot below)

Sponsored by the good folks at Cincinnati’s Downtowne Listening Room, Balcony TV offers “music with a view.” It’s a cool project. And it’s a great way to discover new artists from all over the world.

Kevin’s live/acoustic performance will give you a good taste of Balcony TV’s mission and format. If you like, share it. Cheers!

I Don’t Want Your Love: A Retro Vibe

I don’t want your love. It’s not a statement directed towards anyone in particular — I’m generally not a mean guy. It’s a metaphor, my attempt at a classic lyrical blues hook.

Materialism. Excessive demands and expectations. Mistrust and dishonesty. In any relationship, these distort and distract from authentic love.

Conceived while meditating on Martin Scorsese’s 3+ hour documentary on Bob Dylan while imprisoned in my Baltimore townhouse as hurricane Irene pounded the east coast back in 2011, this was my second attempt at writing a blues song. It was fun to write, a blast to record and produce, and it remains a favorite to play, especially when The Honest Stand (my band) is fighting alongside me on stage.

I’ve now attempted to give this “bluesy garage-rock tune with a retro vibe” a properly retro lyric video. That was the goal, anyway. And I really hope you enjoy it. Because, honestly…I do want your love.

Arti Valorem

Arti valorem. It’s a directive, a suggestion, an ideal, something we should all encourage. It’s Latin (according to Google translate) for value art.

Two recent bits of pop culture that struck this chord in me this year were the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! and the….uh….SAG Awards acceptance speech delivered by the cast of Stranger Things. (I know, right?) Let’s start with Hail, Caesar!, a film that I thought was subtly brilliant in its cultural commentary and hilarious in its subtleties.

In the scene featured below, George Clooney’s character — a bona fide movie star named Baird Whitlock (think Charlton Heston in Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments) — has become disillusioned with the motion picture business. Here he scoffs at the suggestion that the movies he’s been making for years actually have any “artistic value.” He’s promptly put in his place [and repeatedly, hilariously slapped in the face] by Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix, who tells him, adamantly:

“Just like the director does what he does – and the writer and the script girl and the guy who claps the slate – you’re gonna do it because the picture has worth and you have worth if you serve the picture. And you’re never gonna forget that again.”

The film revolves around Eddie Mannix (played by Josh Brolin) trying to clean up other people’s ridiculous messes, all while being courted for a job that would have him making bombs and airplanes instead of movies, a job that would make him a lot more money. But in the end, Eddie chooses to go on serving, in his own way, the inherent value he sees in the art of motion pictures, despite the disheveled and chaotic lives of all the folks involved in making them.

The picture has worth, and you have worth if you serve the picture. It was a message I didn’t quite see coming. And it came, as I said above, in a subtly brilliant way. Also, this scene is so. freaking. funny.

While much of what comes out of Hollywood these days seems to fit snuggly in the category of escapism, even something that feels purely escapist at first glance can have a lot of substance simmering beneath the surface. This was the case, I found, with Netflix’s surprise hit Stranger Things.

The show was a fantastic throwback to everything 1980s. When it won the award for Outstanding Performance in an Ensemble in a Drama Series at the 23rd Annual SAG Awards back in January, one of the show’s lead actors delivered an acceptance speech that gave me chills and moved me to view the show in a whole new light, to think more deeply about the ideas at the heart of the entertainment. The speech is a rousing, impassioned battle cry insisting that art has value and that artists have a purpose: to cultivate a more empathetic and understanding society.

Read this excerpt and then watch + listen to it below:

“This award from you, who take your craft seriously and earnestly believe, like me, that great acting can change the world, is a call to arms from our fellow craftsmen and women to go deeper and, through our art, to battle against fear, self-centeredness, and exclusivity of our predominantly narcissistic culture and, through our craft, to cultivate a more empathetic and understanding society by revealing intimate truths that serve as a forceful reminder to folks that when they feel broken and afraid and tired, they are not alone. We are united in that we are all human beings and we are all together on this horrible, painful, joyous, exciting, and mysterious ride that is being alive. Now, as we act in the continuing narrative of Stranger Things, we 1983 mid-westerners will repel bullies. We will shelter freaks and outcasts, those who have no homes. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters. And when we are at a loss amidst the hypocrisy and the casual violence of certain individuals and institutions, we will, as per Chief Jim Hopper, punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the meek and the disenfranchised and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy. We thank you for this responsibility. Thank you.”


Art has value. Value it.

What’s a “listening room”?

Back in February I got to play my second show at the Downtowne Listening Room in Cincinnati. A community space located inside an old department-store-turned-apartment-complex, the DTLR is an ideal venue where local + nationally-touring artists come to play and the audience comes prepared to listen. “Prepared to listen” means that there is no talking permitted inside the venue once the show starts. It’s a rule well-followed by now: if you talk [or even whisper] during the performance, you’ll kindly be asked to step outside. It’s a true listening room.

Scott & Diana SkeabeckThe hosts are an extremely kind and generous husband-and-wife duo prone, as lovebirds often are, to finishing each others sentences. Scott and Diana have created a truly unique listening room environment in the heart of downtown Cincy. After my over-sold-out show back in February, I sat down to ask them a few questions about their mission. Here’s part of our conversation:

ME: What inspired this?

SCOTT: The Downtowne Listening Room was created because we lived in the northeast corridor, the Philadelphia area, and these kind of places were all over the place. And when we moved to Cincinnati — and no disrespect to Cincinnati — there really wasn’t a place you could go to listen to music and hear a pin drop. And it drives us crazy when we are listening to music we love and people are talking and not listening, not paying attention. You wouldn’t go to the movies and ignore the screen. You don’t go to the art museum and ignore the paintings on the wall. But people go out to bars and restaurants and places and they ignore the music, and it drives us crazy. And we’re not even the performers! So that’s why we created it.

ME: When did you start it? And how has it grown?

DIANA: We started it in June of 2015. We’ll be celebrating our 3rd-year anniversary this June. When we first started, it was hard to get people in the door. But Scott did a lot of promotion — sending out newsletters and flyers, contacting radio stations and what not — and over time we’ve gotten a following from people that have come here, told their friends about it, you know, brought new people in with them…

SCOTT: …so bugging the heck out of people works. That’s what we find. (laughs) And I think the hardest thing is they don’t understand what a listening room is. They say, “Well, why would I pay $10-$15 to see Matt or Kevin or whoever play music when I can go to the bar and get music for free?” It’s like, well, you’re getting music but you’re not listening to music. This is where you listen and you get the stories and you get the background. We had a CD from pretty much all of you guys, and we listen to the CD, but then when we hear you tell the stories behind it, we listen to the CD again and we get almost a different experience out of it. It’s like, “Oh, that’s why that line’s in there!” You don’t get that by just passively listening. It’s active listening which is so important. We’re pretty passionate about it. (laughs)

ME: And you don’t a make a dime?

DIANA: No.

SCOTT: No. All the money goes to the artists.

DIANA: This is our hobby. We don’t golf. We don’t collect art. We don’t collect wine.

SCOTT: And it’s cheaper than a what?

DIANA: Corvette.

SCOTT: It’s cheaper than a Corvette. But only by a little bit. (laughs)

DIANA: Plus, we get to listen to great shows.

SCOTT: Right, and we listen to them in the environment we want to listen to them in. And we listen to the people we like. So…we like you. We really, really like you, as Sally Field would say. (laughs)

ME: Well, I like you guys. So, thank you very much. Anything else you want to say?

SCOTT: Everybody come out to Cincinnati! Downtown! Come to the DownTowne Listening Room! Boom! (laughs)

ME: The lady doth concur?

DIANA: I concur, yes. Come see us!

Louisiana Tour | March 2017

We’ve played some fun shows so far in 2017 + more are being scheduled every week. We’ll be hitting up Louisiana this weekend for a quick tour with our good friend Chris Cole, and we’ve got a full weekend scheduled — four shows in three days! Here’s the breakdown:

3/24 — LAFAYETTE
A concert in the Library @ John Paul the Great Academy. It’s open to the public + will be family friendly. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.

3/25 — JENNINGS
Private House Concert

3/26 — ST. FRANCISVILLE (2 shows)
An evening concert @ the historic Temple Sinai Synagogue. It starts at 7:00 p.m. + tickets are available here.

The Blessing of a Broken Dishwasher: Mike Mangione’s “Time & the Mystery”

Our dishwasher broke right before Christmas. It wasn’t anything disastrous, but we did have to wait about two weeks for new parts to arrive. This meant two weeks of having to clean the dishes by hand, something I came to see, unexpectedly, as a blessing.

When we lived in an apartment, we didn’t have a dishwasher. The dishes were always done by hand, often while blasting music, streaming podcasts, or listening to NPR or lectures on YouTube. Once we moved into a house with a dishwasher, that experience — the experience of actively participating in an essential task — was no longer required. It honestly didn’t even feel like an option anymore. We had a dishwasher, after all, so it seemed ridiculous to not use it.

But in those two weeks of reverting to doing the dishes by hand, I re-discovered something: the joy of slowing down.

There’s freedom in resolving to put everything else on hold and do something that [may seem trivial or inefficient but ultimately] needs to be done. (Please, don’t tell my wife I wrote that.) I found myself thoroughly enjoying the break from all the other “stuff” I had to do. I pulled up a playlist of lectures on YouTube to listen to while I scrubbed and rinsed. A few days in, I seized the opportunity to finally start listening to Mike Mangione‘s new podcast Time & the Mystery.

Mike is a fellow musician, an internationally touring singer-songwriter, performer, and recording artist based in Milwaukee. While I really don’t know him all that well, personally, our paths have crossed many times over the last seven years. We’ve shared a few concert bills and I’ve had the privilege of hearing him perform (both solo + with a full band) several times outside of my own tour schedule. He’s a talented songwriter who expresses interesting ideas in his music. And he’s got a great stage presence. For those reasons alone, I’ve been a fan. But what I really appreciate about his new podcast is how personal it is.

In each episode, Mike sits down with someone and has a conversation. It’s as simple as that. He’s had conversations with comedians (Jim & Jeannie Gaffigan and Tom Shillhue), authors, professional athletes, bishops, and a plethora of musicians and producers (Matisyahu, Duane Lundy, Ben Sollee, and more). There’s no political agenda. Each episode simply provides an opportunity for the listener to sit in and listen as two people discuss life, love, family, inspirations, purpose, art, the creative process, community, and more. As Mike describes it:

“It’s not about sound bytes. It’s about sitting with people and taking time, slowing down.”

Our dishwasher has been fully functional for over three weeks now, yet I’ve still washed the dishes by hand over half the time. It gives my hands a chance to work and my ears a chance to listen. It gives my mind a chance to open, absorb, digest, and reflect.

Perhaps this goes without saying at this point, but if you’re unfamiliar with Mike Mangione’s music or his new podcast, I recommend them both.