Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Heather Youmans

Artwork for “Shine.” Photo courtesy of Heather Youmans.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Southern California-based singer-songwriter, bassist and actress Heather Youmans has dropped the official music video for her single, “Shine.”

Influenced by other female musicians such as P!nk, Kelly Clarkson and Alanis Morissette, Youmans has had her music featured in movies, appeared on “American Idol,” opened for Sting and even sang the national anthem for the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.

Designed as a “love letter” to her younger self, Youmans hopes that “Shine” will inspire women everywhere in a time when positivity is needed most.

The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Youmans about “Shine” and more.

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Heather Youmans – Not unlike most artists, I was looking forward to some live performances that got canceled or postponed this year. I was ready to hop on a plane and sing for the Los Angeles Dodgers at MLB Spring Training in March and then it was cancelled. I was rehearsing for a production of “Hair” in Los Angeles that was set to open March 2020 and our show was put on hold. I miss performing live and none of this was ideal, but keeping fans safe is really important to me.

Music Bugle – What was it like making your song “SHINE”? 

Heather Youmans – “Shine” was written back in 2019, but it was recorded entirely during the pandemic. All of the sessions, except for my lead vocal tracking, were done virtually – from the production and session musicians to the mix and master. I engineered the background vocals you hear in the post-chorus by myself in my home recording space. Thankfully, due to technology, it’s more possible than ever to make great music from home. You just have to get resourceful! I wrote the song as a love letter to my younger self and everything “me now” would tell “me then.” “You are beautiful, you are strong. Hold your head up and honey, let your hair down sometimes.” I want this song to be an anthem for millennial women like myself, but also ladies everywhere. Life’s hard right now and I just hope this song and video give everyone a much-needed dose of optimism and happiness. The music video is inspired by cult classic film “Never Been Kissed,” starring Drew Barrymore, but you don’t have to be a fan of the movie to enjoy it! I’m the biggest fan of that movie and there are so many thematic parallels with the film and “Shine,” so I dropped some obvious and not-so-obvious clues throughout for fans to pick up on. The song was written with Maria Gironas as a love letter to my younger self, so I used Leelee Sobieski’s character of Aldys as my inspiration for ‘younger me” in the video. Leelee is my doppelgänger too! I had the best time filming this video. I got to ride around on this really cool yellow bike with sunflowers and created a ‘90s-inspired bedroom with all my favorite things.`90s ladies, remember Lip Smackers and gel pens?

Music Bugle – What is something you wish happened more in today’s world? 

Heather Youmans – We’ve faced unprecedented challenges in 2020, so now, more than ever, we need optimism. We need to hold onto those little moments of happiness if we’re going to make it through all of this. “Shine” encourages everyone to do just that. 

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise? 

Heather Youmans – I recently made a playlist of all the incredible female artists that inspire me. Here’s who you’ll find on it – Alanis Morissette, HAIM, Sheryl Crow, Donna Missal, Beck Pete, Josie Dunne, Daphne Willis, Fiona Apple, P!nk, Tori Kelly, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin, The Ronettes, Avril Lavigne, Maggie Rogers, Emily King, Faith Hill and Joss Stone. I’m also a huge fan of John Mayer, Ray LaMontagne and Brett Dennen. I love a good power ballad, but I’m always down for a soulful tune or powerful indie rock song!

Music Bugle – How would you describe California to someone who has never been there before? 

Heather Youmans – Think of your favorite song by The Beach Boys. Close your eyes, listen to the harmonies and let that paint a picture in your mind. That feeling – that’s the essence of California. I was born and raised in San Diego, so I try to capture that California vibe in my songs. The post-chorus in “Shine” is inspired by harmonies in The Beach Boys’ hit “California Girls.” I met Brian Wilson in 2017 and interviewed him about songwriting. People come into our lives for a reason and it was that encounter with Brian that really got me inspired to write more. He’s a big inspiration of mine and the godfather of that “California” sound.

Music Bugle – What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far? 

Heather Youmans – This past New Year’s Eve, I sang the national anthem to 20,000 people at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It’s one of the biggest venues you can sing at in Los Angeles, so I was just so thankful for the opportunity. This next one is a throwback. When I was a teenager, I was the opening vocalist for a UNICEF benefit headlining Sting and Natalie Cole. That whole night inspired me for years. After I met Sting and watched him sing and play bass, I knew I had to learn the instrument. 

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you feel the need to escape? 

Heather Youmans – I go straight to the beach when I need to escape. Music and the beach are keeping me sane right now. Since I’m from Southern California, I feel really connected to the ocean. Sitting on the beach watching the sunset is the most serene experience for me. 

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

Heather Youmans – Actually, there are two! “Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one,” by Stella Adler. Life’s hard right now, but I’m trying to do more of what makes me happy. That’s how I’m coping right now. When bad things happen, it’s easy for me to retreat from music and not feel inspired, but once I start singing, playing bass or writing, I feel better almost instantly. Art reminds me I actually have a soul and how beautiful it is to be alive despite everything going on the world right now. The second one is, “For what it’s worth, it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it and I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” The second quote by Fitzgerald is about that thirst for life. Live your life. Get after your dreams. It’s never too late and there are no rules.

Music Bugle – What has been your favorite song to cover? 

Heather Youmans – My answer to this changes every day and it’s hard to just pick one! I love to cover Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now,” Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much” and John Mayer’s “I Can’t Help Myself With Loving You.”

Music Bugle – What has been the most productive thing you’ve done while in quarantine? 

Heather Youmans – I love to tap dance. I’ve actually been tapping longer than I’ve been singing, so when quarantine started, I taught myself how to record my tap dancing and layer the parts in my music. One fun fact about “Shine” is that there are hidden tap dance tracks in the mix. It may be hard to pick out at first, but listen again to the final chorus and you’ll hear this metallic tapping sound in an eighth note pattern. That’s me tap dancing!

*Photo credit – Mackenzie Breeden*

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