Living the single life

Heather Turkington told David Hennessy about her new single, why she’s ready to take centre stage after being a backing singer and bringing allied health professionals like herself together in a virtual choir during some of the crisis’ dark times.

Heather Turkington from Portadown had to be prodded to think about releasing a single of her own.

She was happy doing little bits such as singing backing for country star Copper Kelly.

But if releasing her debut single, Laura was dipping her toe in the water, she’s ready to go swimming now.

Heather told The Irish World: “Eugene (Rowe, the singer known as Copper Kelly) was just like, ‘Heather, you could actually just release a single. You could actually be your own artist’.

“I was like, ‘No, I couldn’t’.”

But Heather would be persuaded in the end and is glad she was.

“And then I was just like, ‘Right, let’s do it’.

“So we recorded a few live versions of it.

“And then eventually, we took it into the studio and he produced it.

“So then I was like, ‘I don’t actually want to release it unless we do the whole shebang, and have a video as well’.”

Heather had always written her own material but never taken it anywhere. That’s about to change.

“It’s kind of started off this whole thing. I have always written my own stuff but never really kind paid any attention to it.

“So now I am actually like, ‘I can actually turn these into songs, record them and release them’.

“I’ve been co-writing with Eugene for a while now.

“He’s just released an EP and I’ve co-written one of the songs on it and I think that’s given me a boost.

“So I think that’s kind of got my confidence up.

“And I have good people around me to encourage me and help me and I think the fact that Laura came out so well- or I think it came out well- I think it’s given me the confidence to go, ‘I can do this and I can do it again and produce stuff that I feel is good and that I can connect with and hopefully other people can too’.”

Heather has always been singing informally.

“I was always singing from when I was wee.

“It was always just when people asked me to at weddings or events or whatever, but I’d never thought of actually recording my own stuff and getting it out there.

“People know me as a singer, but I don’t think people knew me as someone who would ever be release a single.

“Yeah, it’s changing that perception of yourself and other people’s perceptions of you as well.

“It’s a place that I never thought I would be and now suddenly I am, and I like it.

“I’m happy with where I’m at and where it’s going.”

Heather chose the song Laura, originally by Bat for Lashes, as it was one she had always connected to ever since introduced to it during her years in Australia.

“I had used to sing the same song in Australia so I’d known it for ages and it was one of my favourite songs.

“When I lived in Brisbane, I lived with an Irish couple and the guy Kevin could play guitar and could play mandolin.

“And I was like, ‘Well, I sing so let’s just kind of see what happens’.

“So we used to sit outside on our deck most nights and we thought we were annoying the neighbours but they joined in a lot of the time. They clapped us and cheered us on and gave us some encouragement which was cool.

“But Kevin said to me, ‘Heather, your voice would really suit this song’.

“I learned it and I was like, ‘I love this, I absolutely love it’.

“So we played it at a couple of open mic nights and got really good receptions every time we did.

Heather with Eugene (Copper Kelly)

“So I think it’s always just stuck in my head ever since then as a song that I really connected to on some level. I don’t even know why.

“I think good music is an individual thing and it makes you feel.

“I think one of the lovely and the powerful things about music is it helps you process things and helps you feel things that you didn’t even know were there.

“And this song just always did that for me.

“And I’m so delighted that I actually get to sing it and call a version my own now.

“It’s a really good feeling.”

Asked if we will see an EP or an album in due course, Heather says: “That’s a dream in the future but I’m going to take it step by step because it took people enough poking at me to even get me do the single.

“Now that I’ve got a little bit of my confidence up I’m like, ‘Oh maybe I could do an EP’.

“I want to be working on my next song now, but I want it to be my own song and my own music and to really find out what that is.”

Heather says she has had some amazing feedback from the single that includes videos of people at home asking Alexa to play the song.

She has even had a TV presenting offer from it.

Heather works a dramatherapist in men’s mental health in Co. Armagh.

This is her other passion.

“There’s not enough me and there’s not enough hours in the day to do all the things that I love and want to be doing right now.

“But I feel like I’m doing a good job with squeezing it all in.

“I work as a dramatherapist and that is a big passion of mine.

“I really try to advocate for the creative arts therapies in our healthcare system.

“Every time you talk to me that will come up in conversation because it’s always in my head and I’m always trying to find new ways to bring that to people.

“Because I think the more mental health help that we have at the moment, the better especially after the past couple of years.

“I think mental health is the next pandemic that we’re going to see and already are seeing so I think we need to make sure that we maximize our healthcare workforce in order to be able to deal with that as best as we can.

“So I think dramatherapy has a lot to offer in that respect and that’s why I do what I do. I would not be doing anything else with my life.

“I love it. It’s definitely a calling of mine.”

Last Christmas Heather put a virtual choir together made up of health professionals like herself to sing some Christmas classics and perhaps raise some spirits.

Called the Allied Health Professionals (AHP) Choir, the initiative continued with a song for world mental health day in May and are preparing their next video. The choir have been featured on UTV.

“For Christmas, we decided that we would create a virtual choir since we couldn’t meet in person.

“There’s 13 allied health professions in Northern Ireland so we decided to try and bring that community together, plus with anyone else who wanted to join.

“We sang a couple of Christmas songs and then we did another one for Mental Health Week in May, and actually, it ended up on TV.

“And we’re doing another choir at the moment. We’re doing the song Rise Up by Andra Day.

“The lyrics are so uplifting.”

Heather says it remains important to do what is needed to raise morale in healthcare as they are drained by the last eighteen months and they continue to be battered by the virus.

“At the moment we’re really feeling it.

“It’s very hard to work in healthcare at the moment.

“It seems like everything’s opened back up but we’re still being affected as much as before.

“There’s a lot of people here very tired and very burnt out.

“We thought that it was kind of a good time to bring people together again and just try to offer each other a bit of encouragement through music.

“Again, that’s the power that music has.

“It can get you through the toughest of times.

“There’s a whole lot of just very, very tired people.

“And it’s not a nice place to be some of the time at the moment.

“We’re just really kind of holding on to any sort of hope, and sense of normality and community that we can get at the moment.

Our place is getting it tougher than we have had it throughout the whole pandemic.

“I find it strange because life seems to be going back to normal for a lot of people but then you go to work and it’s more intense than it’s ever been.

“We will get through it, we’re a good little community at work.

“But we’re tired, people are tired.”

Laura by Heather Turkington is out now.

For more information, click here.

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