James Heather

BIOGRAPHY

In 2021 James Heather released, ‘Modulations: EP2,’ a collection of original compositions, Heather’s first in 4 years, which document his deeply personal connection to the piano. The release follows a journey from the tragic loss of his father through learning to cope, existential rumination and ultimately, optimism.Recorded in his homebuilt studio on a Bosendorfer 200 piano, each track on ‘Modulations: EP2’ was performed in a single take and each has its ...

In 2021 James Heather released, ‘Modulations: EP2,’ a collection of original compositions, Heather’s first in 4 years, which document his deeply personal connection to the piano. The release follows a journey from the tragic loss of his father through learning to cope, existential rumination and ultimately, optimism.

Recorded in his homebuilt studio on a Bosendorfer 200 piano, each track on ‘Modulations: EP2’ was performed in a single take and each has its roots in live improvisations. The tracks were originally conceived while touring and performing over the past few years. Heather  memorised each movement then subtly adapted adding more complexities and compositional dexterity over time. His approach to the new compositions, that he dubs ‘Pulse Music’, finds him playing freely, with no metronome or official notation to recall or dictate the piece but instead just his muscle memory, feel and instinct deciding where each track will go.

Putting it into his own words Heather states: “The EP is executed with the use of only solo piano and is a love story to the instrument that was my first passion. I have resisted the temptation to enter and add to the electronic music world I so adore on this release; instead, my current music acts as a lived reaction to music that is more machine than human, but not in opposition to it. To be minimalist in an age where you can do everything so easily, can also hold power, to focus on our strengths. I am still obsessed with the compositional possibilities within a raw song.”

As a child growing up in Southampton, James Heather’s Grandad on one side of the family taught him some core composition techniques and how to manipulate the tuning of piano strings, whilst his Granny on the other used to dabble with dreamy improvisations on the instrument. His own early compositions came soon after around the age of 11, also inspired by a love of Beethoven and Debussy and hearing his older neighbours Acid House pirate radio station and later hearing a young Milo from Portico Quartet jamming in jazz bands two doors away. Heather spent many years honing his piano playing alone, imagining composing for a collective of some sort one day, but a mixture of shyness and the different trends of the day meant things evolved privately. Heather tried to express the band he imagined in his head, but for solo piano. Often in these early years he would be playing in the background when family and friends were over, hoping to gradually pique their interest without stopping their conversation but secretly wanting to be centre stage. After moving to London in his twenties, he had a near death experience, which fed into his energy to step out as an artist. The result was to bring a fresh take to piano music which on Spotify alone is over 100 million streams in just a few years. Influence wise, the music takes as much from electronic music in structure, ambience and sensibility, post-rock and drone in its exploration of building meditative tones as it does its classical and jazz grounding. Heather proves adept in the intricacies of composition from the softest to the loudest of dynamics, always highly personal and with warmth and hope in the sadness, it belies the fact the music is coming from just one acoustic instrument.

The embryonic unofficial Soundcloud release the ‘Water Sonatas’, helped hone his production skills and compositional technique and received warm reactions, with the experiences being fed into his official debut album. In 2017, Heather started to release music officially via Ahead Of Our Time - Ninja Tune founders Coldcut’s resurrected first label, a time that has also seen him collaborate as a pianist with artists such as Dawn Richard, Mumdance and Roger Robinson (King Midas Sound). His first official solo release was “Modulations: EP1”, seven tracks which were written and recorded at different times and in various headspaces. Next came his debut album “Stories From Far Away On Piano” in August 2017, a more unified conceptual piece of work. The album concept centres on Heather’s interpretations of real world news stories. The pieces ebb and flow, slowly enveloping the listener in a subtly subliminal fashion. In May 2018, the record was released on vinyl for the first time. Later in 2018 Heather released ‘Reworks’, which featured some high-calibre remixes and alternate versions from DJ Seinfeld, Aparde, Echo Collective, Mary Lattimore, Chihei Hatakeyama, Sarah Davachi and brand new additional string quartet versions by himself.

“The album was an appeal to emotion, a way of bringing the listener in, to evoke an empathetic response, they’re my interpretation of stories I discovered. The stories themselves are not the focus, but the piano assimilation is, as the album is about viewpoint, opinion and perspective.”

Perspective is something Heather has in abundance; he nearly died in a traumatic road traffic accident, leaving him in a coma in intensive care and then off work for an extended time. One permanent injury was his finger, which became skewed in the crash. He was initially unsure if he’d ever be able to play to the same standard again. “When I eventually started to recover I began taking my musical sketches more seriously. I found solitude channeling my feelings into compositions, and when I saw the solo piano of Rachel Grimes play to a room of underground rock fans at Shelllac’s ATP Festival at one of my lowest points I was pleasantly surprised that my instrument might be able to appeal to a wider audience than I had thought previously."

His day job since 2003 at Ninja Tune may have cut in to his own composition time, but has also proved a positive formative effect on his mindset, exposing him to successful campaigns for talent like Kamasi Washington, Actress, The Cinematic Orchestra, Thundercat, Young Fathers, Kate Tempest, Bicep, The Bug and Bonobo, which have become a grounding anchor. “I’ve always liked to step out of myself and to become immersed in and help other people’s artistic visions. I'm blessed to be able to do that as a job. I can then meditate in my own music in periods of downtime away from the noise of the industry. This push and pull has worked for me till this point.” he explains. Heather also presents the monthly radio show "Moving Sounds'' on Soho Radio. The show is named after this longtime playlist, it showcases music and people from the unknown to household names within ambient music and its offshoot genres and guests have included Hania Rani, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Sarah Davachi, 130701 Records, Sonic Pieces, Coldcut and Penelope Trappes.

Heather’s music has featured on many Spotify playlists such as Peaceful Piano, Lucid Dreamer and Most Beautiful Songs In The World. Whilst on Apple, Heather has been featured on playlists such as Headspace and Meditative Moments and reached number 2 on the UK classical charts in iTunes. Coverage in the media has included interviews at Quietus and Loud & Quiet as well as glowing reviews at Arts Desk, Line Of Best Fit, Mojo, DJ and  more. Heather has also completed DJ mixes on Solid Steel, a Mica Levi special for Vinyl Factory (which received Resident Advisor mix of the day status), Headphone Commute and taken over Nabihah Iqbal’s NTS show. Heather has played on bills supporting Laura Marling, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Bill Laurance (Snarky Puppy) and Lubomyr Melnyk (Erased Tapes) and completed a tour of Europe. Heather composed scores for Iskra Strings (Radiohead, The xx & Ólafur Arnalds) of his songs for his sold-out headline show at St Pancras Old Church in London and has also broken new ground for solo piano by taking the genre to festivals such as Wilderness, Green Man (opening the Far Out tent which included Idles and Ezra Collective, making Crack Magazine's 8 Stand Out Moments in their review), Glastonbury (his first ever gig in 2017 apart from Sofar Sounds) and Seachange. Supporters include James Lavelle (UNKLE), Cillian Murphy, Emika (who he played 2 sold out shows at the Berlin Planetarium with in 2020), PBDY (Brainfeeder), Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings and The Cinematic Orchestra, who asked Heather to rework their song "A Caged Bird / Imitations Of Life" for their 'To Believe' remix album. Nils Frahm has put Heather's music in the opening tracks in his Piano Day playlists in 2019 and 2020.

Heather is one of the new school set of ‘post classical’ artists flourishing and standing out in the wake of the wider public’s overdue but now burgeoning relationship with this varied genre.


Forthcoming Events

August 2021

James Heather

Popular Tracks

  1. Last Minute Change Of Heart
  2. MHope
  3. Kraken
  4. Pathos
  5. Blueprint
  6. Play All (5)

Latest News

BIOGRAPHY

In 2021 James Heather released, ‘Modulations: EP2,’ a collection of original compositions, Heather’s first in 4 years, which document his deeply personal connection to the piano. The release follows a journey from the tragic loss of his father through learning to cope, existential rumination and ultimately, optimism.Recorded in his homebuilt studio on a Bosendorfer 200 piano, each track on ‘Modulations: EP2’ was performed in a single take and each has its roots in live improv...

In 2021 James Heather released, ‘Modulations: EP2,’ a collection of original compositions, Heather’s first in 4 years, which document his deeply personal connection to the piano. The release follows a journey from the tragic loss of his father through learning to cope, existential rumination and ultimately, optimism.

Recorded in his homebuilt studio on a Bosendorfer 200 piano, each track on ‘Modulations: EP2’ was performed in a single take and each has its roots in live improvisations. The tracks were originally conceived while touring and performing over the past few years. Heather  memorised each movement then subtly adapted adding more complexities and compositional dexterity over time. His approach to the new compositions, that he dubs ‘Pulse Music’, finds him playing freely, with no metronome or official notation to recall or dictate the piece but instead just his muscle memory, feel and instinct deciding where each track will go.

Putting it into his own words Heather states: “The EP is executed with the use of only solo piano and is a love story to the instrument that was my first passion. I have resisted the temptation to enter and add to the electronic music world I so adore on this release; instead, my current music acts as a lived reaction to music that is more machine than human, but not in opposition to it. To be minimalist in an age where you can do everything so easily, can also hold power, to focus on our strengths. I am still obsessed with the compositional possibilities within a raw song.”

As a child growing up in Southampton, James Heather’s Grandad on one side of the family taught him some core composition techniques and how to manipulate the tuning of piano strings, whilst his Granny on the other used to dabble with dreamy improvisations on the instrument. His own early compositions came soon after around the age of 11, also inspired by a love of Beethoven and Debussy and hearing his older neighbours Acid House pirate radio station and later hearing a young Milo from Portico Quartet jamming in jazz bands two doors away. Heather spent many years honing his piano playing alone, imagining composing for a collective of some sort one day, but a mixture of shyness and the different trends of the day meant things evolved privately. Heather tried to express the band he imagined in his head, but for solo piano. Often in these early years he would be playing in the background when family and friends were over, hoping to gradually pique their interest without stopping their conversation but secretly wanting to be centre stage. After moving to London in his twenties, he had a near death experience, which fed into his energy to step out as an artist. The result was to bring a fresh take to piano music which on Spotify alone is over 100 million streams in just a few years. Influence wise, the music takes as much from electronic music in structure, ambience and sensibility, post-rock and drone in its exploration of building meditative tones as it does its classical and jazz grounding. Heather proves adept in the intricacies of composition from the softest to the loudest of dynamics, always highly personal and with warmth and hope in the sadness, it belies the fact the music is coming from just one acoustic instrument.

The embryonic unofficial Soundcloud release the ‘Water Sonatas’, helped hone his production skills and compositional technique and received warm reactions, with the experiences being fed into his official debut album. In 2017, Heather started to release music officially via Ahead Of Our Time - Ninja Tune founders Coldcut’s resurrected first label, a time that has also seen him collaborate as a pianist with artists such as Dawn Richard, Mumdance and Roger Robinson (King Midas Sound). His first official solo release was “Modulations: EP1”, seven tracks which were written and recorded at different times and in various headspaces. Next came his debut album “Stories From Far Away On Piano” in August 2017, a more unified conceptual piece of work. The album concept centres on Heather’s interpretations of real world news stories. The pieces ebb and flow, slowly enveloping the listener in a subtly subliminal fashion. In May 2018, the record was released on vinyl for the first time. Later in 2018 Heather released ‘Reworks’, which featured some high-calibre remixes and alternate versions from DJ Seinfeld, Aparde, Echo Collective, Mary Lattimore, Chihei Hatakeyama, Sarah Davachi and brand new additional string quartet versions by himself.

“The album was an appeal to emotion, a way of bringing the listener in, to evoke an empathetic response, they’re my interpretation of stories I discovered. The stories themselves are not the focus, but the piano assimilation is, as the album is about viewpoint, opinion and perspective.”

Perspective is something Heather has in abundance; he nearly died in a traumatic road traffic accident, leaving him in a coma in intensive care and then off work for an extended time. One permanent injury was his finger, which became skewed in the crash. He was initially unsure if he’d ever be able to play to the same standard again. “When I eventually started to recover I began taking my musical sketches more seriously. I found solitude channeling my feelings into compositions, and when I saw the solo piano of Rachel Grimes play to a room of underground rock fans at Shelllac’s ATP Festival at one of my lowest points I was pleasantly surprised that my instrument might be able to appeal to a wider audience than I had thought previously."

His day job since 2003 at Ninja Tune may have cut in to his own composition time, but has also proved a positive formative effect on his mindset, exposing him to successful campaigns for talent like Kamasi Washington, Actress, The Cinematic Orchestra, Thundercat, Young Fathers, Kate Tempest, Bicep, The Bug and Bonobo, which have become a grounding anchor. “I’ve always liked to step out of myself and to become immersed in and help other people’s artistic visions. I'm blessed to be able to do that as a job. I can then meditate in my own music in periods of downtime away from the noise of the industry. This push and pull has worked for me till this point.” he explains. Heather also presents the monthly radio show "Moving Sounds'' on Soho Radio. The show is named after this longtime playlist, it showcases music and people from the unknown to household names within ambient music and its offshoot genres and guests have included Hania Rani, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Sarah Davachi, 130701 Records, Sonic Pieces, Coldcut and Penelope Trappes.

Heather’s music has featured on many Spotify playlists such as Peaceful Piano, Lucid Dreamer and Most Beautiful Songs In The World. Whilst on Apple, Heather has been featured on playlists such as Headspace and Meditative Moments and reached number 2 on the UK classical charts in iTunes. Coverage in the media has included interviews at Quietus and Loud & Quiet as well as glowing reviews at Arts Desk, Line Of Best Fit, Mojo, DJ and  more. Heather has also completed DJ mixes on Solid Steel, a Mica Levi special for Vinyl Factory (which received Resident Advisor mix of the day status), Headphone Commute and taken over Nabihah Iqbal’s NTS show. Heather has played on bills supporting Laura Marling, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Bill Laurance (Snarky Puppy) and Lubomyr Melnyk (Erased Tapes) and completed a tour of Europe. Heather composed scores for Iskra Strings (Radiohead, The xx & Ólafur Arnalds) of his songs for his sold-out headline show at St Pancras Old Church in London and has also broken new ground for solo piano by taking the genre to festivals such as Wilderness, Green Man (opening the Far Out tent which included Idles and Ezra Collective, making Crack Magazine's 8 Stand Out Moments in their review), Glastonbury (his first ever gig in 2017 apart from Sofar Sounds) and Seachange. Supporters include James Lavelle (UNKLE), Cillian Murphy, Emika (who he played 2 sold out shows at the Berlin Planetarium with in 2020), PBDY (Brainfeeder), Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings and The Cinematic Orchestra, who asked Heather to rework their song "A Caged Bird / Imitations Of Life" for their 'To Believe' remix album. Nils Frahm has put Heather's music in the opening tracks in his Piano Day playlists in 2019 and 2020.

Heather is one of the new school set of ‘post classical’ artists flourishing and standing out in the wake of the wider public’s overdue but now burgeoning relationship with this varied genre.

Forthcoming Events

August 2021