Chicago songwriter Heather Styka has been making a name for herself and winning over new fans beyond the Windy City with her unique combination of folk and pop sensibilities and lyrics that tackle relatable themes of inclusion, belonging and civic responsibility. These themes come together in her new album, North, which releases on May 18.
On North, Styka cuts deep into the issues, combining the lyrical intricacy of folk, melodic pop sensibility and the grit of classic country on songs that are both equally smart and disarming. The album was recorded at Styka’s family lake house in northern Wisconsin with Danish backing band The Sentimentals, who have made a name for themselves accompanying Americana artists including Jonathan Byrd, Anna Egge, and Slaid Cleeves. In a matter of days, sequestered in a small log cabin on a lake, Styka and the Sentimentals recorded the entirety of North, tracking most of the album live as a full band.
Live, Styka comes off as something like Leonard Cohen crossed with Patsy Cline. Armed with a guileless, unvarnished delivery, she’s equal parts wordsmith and entertainer. As intimate and candid as late night conversation, her live shows are peppered with a quirky sense of humor and confessional storytelling.
Call her sound folk, call it Americana, call it alt-country, but Styka’s heartfelt croon draws as much inspiration from classic warblers such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald as it does from Gillian Welch. And with North, it’s headed in the right direction.
Today Glide is excited to premiere the album closer, “Love Harder”, a song that explores the question of how to respond to an increasingly divisive world, a reminder that togetherness is a good first step to healing. Beginning with the striking strum of a guitar and a simple drum beat, the song feels mournful yet heartfelt as Styka lays out a descriptive narrative. She touches on the divisions that plague our country in a truly divisive time as the song develops into more of a soulful number complete with sweeping choir-like harmonies. Styka puts her vocal prowess on full display alongside her talent for telling stories and connecting emotionally. But besides that, the song feels strangely patriotic as Styka confesses her own love for her country while begging us all to examine what makes it such a loving, nurturing place underneath the turmoil.
Sharing the story behind the song, Styka has this to say:
“November 2016, I was at a folk music conference singing among friends, trying to make sense of the election results. I wrote this song to remind myself that self-isolation and division won’t solve the problems that we face as a country.
I was really hoping ‘Love Harder’ would become dated, obsolete, but instead it seems more and more relevant as the months go on. It’s powerful to have a room full of people singing along to these words, but it would be even better if the all-too-common expressions of hatred and violence were rare footnotes in the annals of history.”
Heather Styka releases North on May 18th. For more music and info visit heatherstyka.com.
Photo credit: Sue Bibeau