If there’s a constant theme running through Heather Kropf’s music, it’s the search for real and lasting freedom. You can hear it in early compositions like “Kite” and recent songs like “Dream of Dreams” and “Keep on Walking.” From the start, there’s been a sense of possibility in her work, of risks to be taken and longings to be fulfilled. She’s struggled, surrendered and gained strength and along the way, with each twist in the road captured in her words and music. “One thing’s certain…I’m certain to change,” Heather sang on her debut CD Sky. Those changes have taken her beyond genre boundaries and into fresh creative territory ever since.
Fans of the Pittsburgh-based singer-songwriter have come to know her over the course of five album releases and innumerable live shows across the East Coast and Midwest. Listeners have been drawn to her fine-woven blend of folk, jazz and pop as well as the bittersweet reflections and painterly imagery in her lyrics. Her music creates an intimacy that reveals hidden vignettes of everyday experience and sudden flashes of insight. Over the years, she’s forged her own path while remaining remarkably timeless. If anything, her latest work has achieved a greater clarity even as she’s embraced conflicting polarities and paradoxes in both her life and art.
Heather’s latest CD Lights renders her evocative language and well-sculpted melodies with a richer, more luminous sonic pallet. For this album, she enlisted producer/multi-instrumentalist Lex Price (Mindy Smith, Neko Case) and cut tracks in Nashville with a hand-picked roster of musicians that included keyboardist Steve Moore (Laura Veirs), guitarist Tim Young (Fiona Apple) and drummer Ian Fitchuk (Kacey Musgraves). “I wanted the music to be an exploration of expansion, to parallel my inner experience,” she says of her new album. “I had been in free fall, wrestling with job and relationship changes and the physical stressors of the process itself. Many of the songs here deal with making choices and experiencing grace – there’s a quality of exploration on awakening, of showing your shadow-self love instead of resistance.” Combined with Heather’s soft-lit vocal delivery and evocative piano touch, the seamless ensemble playing on Lights brings out the nuance and depth of its material.
What comes next? The melodic subtleties and atmospheric textures of Heather’s music make cinematic collaborations easy to imagine. Meanwhile, there are more songs to write, more tours to embark on, and further ways to offer new recordings by teaming with creative artists in a range of mediums -- it’s all a part of the freedom she is constantly striving for.
Through it all, Heather has kept her idealism alive and gained a hard-won lightness of spirit. “We don’t have to be hardened by the world,” she says. “I write songs to create a more tender space for myself and for those who want to listen.” For Heather Kropf, it has been a soul-testing but rewarding process, one that beckons to others to embrace and share in an ongoing act of creation.