Learning to Rest
by Jan Vanderhorst
At folk singer college, they don't tell you the number one rule is "take holidays"! It's a lesson Heather Bishop learned the hard way. After 22 years on the road without a holiday, she "hit the wall" while on tour in Australia last year.
"It happens to a lot of us," she said recently, "You just work, work, work...'oh there's a gig, I gotta go,' until the years really pile up on you. Then you get to a place where you think 'I can't do this anymore'. So my manager took me off the road for four months, which was my first holiday in 22 years."
But taking time away from performing can be a scary venture for a folk performer such as Heather. Over the past 23 years she has released 7 adult albums and 3 albums of children's music on her own Mother Of Pearl label. Being self-employed means if you don't work, you don't get paid.
"When the work comes, you feel grateful and you jump out and do it." But, Heather adds, "It takes years to develop that trust in the Universe that, 'If I turn down this gig because I really need a rest, another one will come'. For most of us that's a really hard thing to do! That's why it's a good thing to have a good manager who'll say 'Look you're been working way too hard, you're not going to do this string of gigs'."
Still, picking a time to take a holiday is not as easy for a folk performer as it is for the rest of us. "Summertime is folk festival time," she says, "so that's not when you're going to take a holiday. Christmas time things slow down, maybe that's a good time to take a couple of weeks."
Besides finding time to let you rest and relax, a folk singer's manager is essential in prolonging their career. This means finding new venues to perform in.
"What I'm trying to do is keep it really interesting for myself. My manager and I (sit down to ask) 'where would you like to work, what kind of work would you like to do?'. We've branched out a lot, I've played with symphonies, which has really been fun and all kinds of festivals."
The last number of years have been very busy for Heather's children's' work, taking up about half of her time. Her last kids' album "Chickee's On The Run!" was released in 1997. This year Heather filmed some live performances and is now in the process of marketing a video version of "Chickee."
"My children's' work is now probably close to half of the music that I do." Of course having a career, which includes performing for kids, spanning 23 years creates some interesting meetings with fans. "This one really hit home with me," Heather said about a recent festival. "(One woman) had brought up her children on my music, her children were now grown and (at the festival) with their children. They were raising their children on my music and they had come to see my adult stuff because they didn't realized I performed for adults! Your life really flashes before your eyes in situations like that. You meet someone holding a 3-year old, who listened to your music when they were in Grade 2!"
What's up next for Heather Bishop is another adult recording. "I really feel like I want to do a spiritual album," she says, "What I mean by that is perhaps generic spiritual. The thing I find most of us looking for as the millennium approaches is that connection to spirit, that journey home to ourselves. That's what I've been writing about, that's what my own journey is about. In my career I've always found if I stick to what my own truth is and share that with audiences, you're pretty much on the money, that's also what other people are seeking and having trouble with and struggling through."
The spirituality of the individual is a subject Heather has dealt with in some of her past recordings, in songs she has written herself, such as "Dream Line Special" and in songs by other writers like "Spirit Healer." "I'm almost tempted to pull a couple (of songs) from other albums. I'm still trying to pull it all together in my mind how I can do this."
"I've written this song 'Aging Grace', about how at this age we need glasses to read, we forget things and we don't remember people, which people are constantly asking me for. And I'm thinking 'Can I fit that into a spiritual theme?'. So when those questions are answered the project will come together."
So whenever Heather Bishop comes your way to perform, check her out. You'll either find the kid inside you, or the spirituality that resides there.
You can e-mail Heather Bishop at HeatherBis@aol.com
Jan Vanderhorst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org