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Q&A with indie-folk artist Heath Church ahead of Norman performance

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Heath Church

Heath Church, an indie-folk singer-songwriter from Kansas City, will perform in Norman at Red Brick Bar Oct. 12.

A Kansas City-based indie-folk musician plans to visit Norman on his Midwest tour.

Singer and songwriter Heath Church released his second EP, “Chemical Optometry” in June 2019, promoting a message of hope and community for those dealing with stigmatized mental illness. 

On Oct. 12, Church will bring this message to Norman at the Red Brick Bar. 

Church grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri, learning to play the piano as a child, and later, the guitar, which he now performs with. According to his website, playing music brought him the belonging he always felt as someone who suffers from depression — a belonging he feels everyone deserves. 

Church’s performance in Norman will be at 9 p.m. Oct. 12 at Red Brick Bar, 311 E. Main St. 

The Daily sat down with Church ahead of his show to discuss his inspiration and his experience as a singer and songwriter:

Q: Why did you want to come to Norman on your tour?

A: I actually have a college friend who lives close to Norman. Whenever I was scheduling my tours, I definitely asked around to try and find places to stay. That's really why I picked Norman. I scheduled my tour all across the Midwest. 

Q: You recently released your EP, “Chemical Optometry.” What was the recording process like?

A: The EP was a lot of fun. In the past, I have recorded albums on my own. I'm kind of a techie, a little bit of a nerd. So I recorded a lot of stuff on my own. But this time, I went to my friend Adam, who has produced several albums. He has a small studio in his basement. We had a lot of fun nights, and we have some good memories of recording the album. 

I remember a few nights where it was really snowy, and I didn't know if I was going to make it over there. We would record, and then we'd go out and we'd have a few drinks by the fire. I have a lot of good memories of recording. 

It's definitely different when someone else produces the album because you can focus more on just the performance part of it. You don't have to worry about any of the technical aspects, really. I can just focus on singing my best and playing guitar the best I can. 

Q: What is your songwriting process?

A: So whenever I write a song, there's different approaches people take. Some people start with lyrics or people start with music. I like to do what they call "middle-out songwriting," where you kind of start with a little bit of music and a little bit of lyrics at the same time. 

I generally typically find the melody first, and then certain words kind of come to mind. And it sounds kind of crazy when I'm first starting the songwriting process because I'm literally saying random words out loud that fit the melody. There's something that clicks about certain words. 

Then the song starts to write itself because I find a subject that comes out of those words, and then I connect to that subject. I start to look at how I relate to that and if it's a story, then I'll write about that story. 

Q: What artists have impacted your songwriting and music?

A: I have a few favorites. My first favorite would have to be Rivers Cuomo from the band Weezer. I've listened to Weezer since I was very young. He also writes a lot about depression and things like that. He's very raw, very honest songwriting. He likes to make these incredibly catchy melodies, and he sneaks them into the songs and they’re very subtle. 

One of my other big influences is Elliott Smith. He's one of my icons that I kind of want to write music similar to. He (died by suicide), but he has some of the most amazing music you'll hear. I just really like the brutally honest nature of music. 

Q: Do you have a favorite song to perform?

A: I have a really fun song called "Dry County Blues." I wrote it when I was in college. I went to school in a dry county, which means you can’t buy alcohol anywhere within the county. 

I have a lot of fun memories of me and my friends driving two towns over on a Friday night to go buy alcohol. It's always a blast to play, and people always laugh a little bit. 

It's kind of my observations about the town in general. And different perspectives people have on alcohol, and why some people think drinking is wrong and other people think it's fine. 

Q: Are there any cornerstone topics you tend to return to in your songwriting? What themes speak to you the most?

A: I like to write a lot about mental health and depression since I’ve struggled with that in my own life. My latest album is called “Chemical Optometry.”

When I wrote the album, I wanted to share experiences of depression to give others a better perspective, and also, to help them feel related to by other people. Another goal was to reduce the stigma around mental health and taking medication, and make people feel better about that. 

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