by Sara McCall
Beneath cerulean light, sans band (at home in Portland), a composed and graceful Haley Heynderickx opened her solo set with “The Bug Collector” — a symbolic tale of an effort to spare a loved one of the paranoia and anxiety that plagues them.
Following a reverent applause from the crowd, the artists’ deep and round voice earnestly declared “I don’t like writing romantic songs.” By “romantic”, I’d guess she meant “flowery” or “lovey-dovey”, because the driving force of Heynderickx’s writing style is how beautifully and romantically she writes about the unromantic parts of love.
With lyrics like “Fate is a sundress, / ripped at the thigh” or “I showed you a body like a cluttered garage” or even the playful interior monologue of her most popular song “Oom Sha La La” it’s no wonder Heynderickx easily awes her crowd.
Later on she bantered, “I realize I have this curse that, when people date me they find their soul partner right after.” Sympathetic coos erupted from the crowd, only to be met with “Oh no it’s okay. I feel like I’m helping.” Heynderickx then launched into, “Show You a Body” - a song known for its haunting mantra, “I am humbled by breaking down.”
Heynderickx is absolutely right— she is helping, her recently released record I Need to Start a Garden, helps. It helps if you’re healing from any kind of separation: from a partner, from your city, from your youth.
I Need To Start a Garden is a kind of emotional “spring cleaning” of one’s identity— a real-time account of which perspectives and behaviors from our past can stay and which must go.
Heynderickx’s lyricism and lush use of imagery make her one of my favorite new singer-songwriters. The minimal (but not at all lesser!) nature of Heynderickx’s performance commanded a level of attention and dedication from the audience that is seldom given to the opening act. It was a feeling more akin to witnessing.
Haley Heynderickx is easily my favorite new singer-songwriter, and one whose name I’d wager will continuously pop-up in the months to come.