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A Dirty Dozen with HEATHER LEONI from THE NOVA HAWKS – February 2021

| 2 February 2021 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “The Nova Hawks are a British blues rock n’ roll band centered around two supremely talented musicians in vocalist Heather Leoni and guitarist Rex Roulette. The music they are set to release on their debut album, Redemption, came about while writing between London, the West Midlands, New York, and Los Angeles. Redemption will be released February 12th. Today the band has released the video for the album’s title track.” We get Heather to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through? Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Redemption is our debut record, a collection of some of the songs we’ve written for and collaborated on outside of the Nova Hawks over the years. A diary, if you will, of the last five years. Lyrically for me especially, telling a story of ups and downs and now moving into a new chapter of my life. The tracks written for the record were primarily put together in a cabin in Rex’s dad’s garden and over our phones while Rex was touring. The remaining were reworked old songs we rediscovered and breathed new life to- which is a bloody fun time. I think the main thing you might not grab first or second time, that I’ve loved since he got involved, is Rich Kirk’s drumming. Go back and listen to it again, as if the drums are the melody – they tell their own story. I always hear something new when I listen to the record; it’s never straight forward, just adds little nuances here and there to keep you interested; it’s truly a privilege to be in the room with him when he works. Also, on a few tracks, Jon Moon went for the Spektor “Wall of Sound” approach- the choir parts specifically were recorded in my spare bedroom (my cat features in a few takes!) and he turned them into this huge gospel dreamy sound. I can’t begin to explain how that felt when we heard it through the studio speakers for the first time!!

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I haven’t got a clue; it seems to always have been in my life; I vaguely remember my dad telling me to “turn down the radio” in my room when I was about 6/7 and it was actually me singing at full volume – so I guess around that age I’d started to find that musical side of myself. The radio was always on in the house, or my parents would play records over and over, so I’m sure it was ingrained that way! It wasn’t until my teen years that I found I could actually sing and didn’t want to do anything else, despite active discouragement by schoolteachers! Luckily, I’ve always had supportive family and parents who encouraged me at every turn. In fact, I believe I was 10 when my mom took me to see Michael Jackson and I declared that I wanted to “Do that”- perform!! I wasn’t very good at dancing and like I said, in my teenage years I discovered my voice.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

I wouldn’t say there was anyone in particular, I was obsessed with Hanson – even bullied for loving them so much however, if you listen back to them and their countless studio albums since, they must have influenced my love of harmonies and opening a small door into the blues. I think I’ve got such an eclectic taste of music, going through punk, metal, emo stages, pop and funk. Singing in function bands, acoustic acts etc., that they’ve all influenced in some way. In the last few years though, it has been blues, riff music and gospel (Rival Sons are a huge favourite of mine); which you can find in the album- music that physically moves you, tells a story – something about it takes you on another plain somewhere.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Its ever changing so I’m gonna go with who I’m listening to currently: Chris Stapleton, All Them Witches, Jimmy Sweet (who also features on our album), Brittany Howard, Queens of the Stone Age, and one for luck – Rival Sons!

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Chris Stapleton or Jay Buchanan (Rival Sons), both are incredible story tellers and phenomenal vocalists, I reckon you’d gotta up your game around them! Oh and Brittany Howard, she’s just otherworldly.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Well, I think a Facebook user recently described it as perfect as possible – “Satanic POS.” I was once described as the “female Ozzy Osbourne.” While Ozzy is rad, I wouldn’t say I was the female version of him.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

There’s only two of us; I’d say, we lived on vegan crisps during recording so neither of us cooked!! haha! I’m pretty sure it’s my round next and Rex plays guitar!

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

Oh jeez! I met Rival Sons after a show, through a friend of mine and I just clammed up. Absolutely couldn’t handle the situation at all haha, and I look like an awkward hot dog in the photo with Scott Holiday – think I’d like a do over with that situation.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The way it makes you feel something – be it sad, angry, love – being a musician allows you to create a universe in which you can revisit every time you perform a song. I mean, what other job lets you do that!? I mean, there really is no other dream job but if I HAD to choose – probably a Criminal Psychologist- that stuff is so interesting to me.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Wow – not a clue! Something super obscure probably, or some sort of Smash Hits bubblegum pop “top 5” Q’s to live out my younger self’s dream haha. I mean, it’s not asked a lot but, anything to do with being a “Female musician” is pretty tiring aren’t we past this now?

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Loads! I just don’t hold on to these things much anymore. The pandemic especially has changed things so much that, there’s literally no point looking back and holding on to stuff.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Ah! I actually have three. Probably controversial but “Billie Jean” – for obvious reasons. But Traveller by Chris Stapleton, is a stunning record – imagine being in the room with that guy when he opens his mouth and that sound comes out. jeez!

BONUS QUESTION – Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 / quarantine / shelter in place, what have you discovered you miss the most from your life before the pandemic struck?

A cold, draft pint! There’s way too many to list, I find new things everyday to miss!!



Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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