Northampton singer-songwriter Heather Maloney talks heartache, hometown beginnings ahead of album release | ACADEMY OF MUSIC

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By Laura Newberry | [email protected]
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on April 23, 2015 at 9:45 AM, updated April 23, 2015 at 2:03 PM

As it often is with major life changes, it all began with some heartache.

Heather Maloney was sitting in silent meditation at a Buddhist retreat in Barre, Mass. when her first lyrics came to her: If your heart is aching, let it ache.

“One of the things they teach you is to go into feeling things rather than distract yourself from them,” the singer-songwriter said of her time at the retreat center, where she lived in a small cottage on the grounds on-and-off for three years.

And what Maloney was feeling, she said, was “insane heartache.”

“Suddenly I’m sitting there writing music instead of meditating,” she said. “I just kind of went with it.”

That was in 2008, before she settled in Northampton. Those lines that acted as the catalyst for her music career became the song “Let it Ache,” which eventually made its way onto her 2009 debut album “Cozy Razor’s Edge.”

The 29-year-old has since produced two more albums, the latest with Northampton record label Signature Sounds. On April 28 she’ll release her fourth, “Making Me Break.”

Maloney will play a release show at The Academy of Music Theatre in Northampton on April 24.

heather[4].jpgHeather Maloney in front of Northampton’s Academy of Music in Northampton, where she’ll play an album-release show on April 24.

Though she grew up in northern New Jersey, Maloney calls Northampton home. She landed in town after her time at the retreat, where she cooked vegetarian meals for her keep. She’d been studying operatic singing, but just one semester before graduating with a two-year degree she was overcome with the impulse to drop it all and find solace in silence.

Maloney’s first concert was a small one, playing at the retreat’s meditation hall for others who lived and worked there. By 2010 she was had moved to Northampton and was pursuing a full-time career in music. She played the now-closed Yellow Sofa Cafe, Sam’s Pizza and opening slots at Iron Horse Music Call.

Those first songs and shows reflected her recent experiences, Maloney said.

“In some ways it was challenging to go from a structured, peaceful life there,” she said of the retreat. “The whole point of you being there is to cultivate awareness, compassion. Those values initially inspired me to write songs.”

“I don’t know when the turning point is, but I’m committed to getting there.” – Heather Maloney

Maloney’s song-writing process has changed along with her life, she said. For much of last year she was touring, driving from state to state in her van, or in hotel rooms.

“I’d get an idea and sing them into my iPhone, going back later to record demos,” she said. “Sometimes I would just say, ‘Well, screw it,’ I’m on the road and I’ll try one of these songs live. I developed a number of these songs in performance situations.”

The songwriter said the mental space she occupied at that time comes through strong in “Making Me Break” – most evidently so in the name.