Heather Youmans began her journey in professional theatre at ten years old. She was then discovered within the music industry at 13. In years to come, she was the opening soloist for an event headlining Sting and the late Natalie Cole; performed in professional theatrical productions across Southern California; and grew up in the studio alongside Grammy award-winning engineers/mixers and legendary, A-list session players.
In its first week on the radio, her debut single “Girl To Change Your World” was rated in the Top100 at Mediabase on the Top40 charts. The single went on to garner air time on Radio Disney and several other nationwide Top 40 radio stations. Through the years, she’s written and recorded original music for major motion pictures, including the 20th Century Fox feature film Moondance Alexander starring Don Johnson, Kay Panabaker, and Sasha Cohen. Several of her songs are also featured in the movies Flicka 2 – alongside country music icon Clint Black – Marley and Me 2: The Puppy Years and High Strung, which premiered at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre and released in theaters nationwide.
Heather is a fantastic singer with such a vibrant voice. She performs at Southern California venues (Staples Center, W Hotel Hollywood, The Hotel Cafe, The Viper Room, Dolby Theatre) with her husband and guitar player Jon MacLennan, who has been a guitarist for Julian Lennon, John Popper of Blues Traveler, and Steven Tyler. When she’s not performing live music or theatre in Los Angeles, she records as a session singer and continues to release new music. “I’m so lucky to have found an outlet for my music at such a young age, but this music will represent the woman and artist I have grown to become in the past decade – through love, loss, pain, triumph, and the beautiful moments’ life bring,” Heather says.
Outside of the music world, Heather has appeared in films, television, national commercials, voiceovers for Disney, professional theatrical productions, and wrote on music and entertainment for the Los Angeles Times Media Group and The “[Orange County Register, telling the stories of some of the world’s most respected musicians. When she’s not making music, you’ll find her tap dancing or working with legendary global musical instruments brand, Fender, in PR and communications.
When Heather Youmans had a moment to stop, she spoke with Gemma Magazine. We were thrilled to ask her questions about her process and future goals as well as her new song Worth It.
Who inspired you to become a singer?
My mom is a great singer and inspired me to take it up. If you wake up and the first thing you do is sing, she used to say you’re a singer. That will never leave me for as long as I live because it’s so true. The first thing I usually do when I wake up is to sing or think about music. So that’s what I am, and that’s why I live. It’s not a choice – I think it chooses you. If you’re chosen, you have to create it.
Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or shyness?
Even though I’ve been performing my whole life, I’m actually pretty introverted and shy offstage, despite the energetic, bubbly girl people see when they meet me. I think we all have moments of self-doubt. Whenever I feel that way, I try to redirect my focus to things in my control and skills I can work on. You have to fail a lot to find success.
What or who inspires you creatively?
The biggest inspiration in my personal life is my mom. She’s an incredible, strong woman. She’s the one who inspired me to sing and perform in the first place. My creative work is inspired by so many dynamic women in music, including HAIM, P!nk Kelly Clarkson, Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, Joss Stone, and Donna Missal.
How would you describe your music?
My music is upbeat and optimistic, but real, raw, and honest at the same time – like me! I naturally have a very sunny disposition, and I think that comes through in “Shine.” People tell me my new music sounds like a cross between HAIM and Sara Bareilles. It’s pop-rock with a whole lot of soul!
What was it like to be featured in Forbes Women?
Honestly, I woke up that morning, saw my article on the homepage of Forbes Women, and was like, “who is she? Is this even real?” It was unreal being profiled by Forbes, and to have them highlight my journey with such eloquence was an absolute dream. It’s one of the most vulnerable interviews I’ve ever given. We live in a world, especially with social media, where you only see victories. I knew I had to highlight my struggles and low points in this industry to show other women that persistence pays off. If you’re down, get back up and keep going!
Do you still tap dance?
I love to tap dance all the time! This fall, I was the “Tap Dancer” on Fox’s new show “I Can See Your Voice,” and I got to share my two loves – singing and tapping – on national TV! I’ve been tapping longer than I’ve been singing. So, when quarantine started, I took zoom dance classes and taught myself how to record my tap dancing and layer the parts in my music. One fun fact about my music, namely my new single “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!
Tell us a bit about your acting career
When I was 10, I got cast in my first professional musical theatre show: “The Music Man,” at the Lawrence Welk Resort in San Diego, California. I spent most of my pre-teen and early teen years doing commercials and working at regional theatres in San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles. I played Scout in a Los Angeles production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” — one of my favorite stories! Eventually, I was cast in a musical adaptation of the ’80s cult classic film “Teen Witch” and was drawn to contemporary music through that project. Before the world shut down, I had just performed a concert version of “Evita” at PVPA and sang in several Rockwell Table & Stage shows. In March, I was mid-way through rehearsals for the incredible production of “Hair” at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, but we had to put the show on hold to keep everyone safe. Honestly, the performers in that show are so incredible, and I hope, when it’s safe, audiences get to experience this production one day.
Do you like the creative process of filming music videos?
I love it! As an artist, one of my favorite things is conceptualizing a music video and watching the vision come to life on screen! Every song has a story and music videos are a way to help get that out of my head. The music video for “Shine” is inspired by the 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 between the film and “Shine.” So, I dropped some obvious and not so obvious clues throughout for fans to pick up on. Also, I used Leelee Sobieski’s character of Aldys as my inspiration for ‘younger me” in the video. I was basically her in high school 10 years ago: Nerdy as hell and learning how to break out of my shell and really shine. She’s also my doppelgänger and actually commented on the music video on Instagram! I recreated some of the looks Leelee wore in the film, including that famous Denominator’s mathletes moment.
Where do you get your inspiration from as a songwriter?
I’m a visual songwriter that finds inspiration in striking photographs and movies. A long time ago, I gathered some of the most inspiring photos and quotes, printed them out, and glued them on pages of an empty notebook. Anytime I want something to write about, I just flip to a random page, see the image or quote and start writing. Since I’m a singer first, a song (almost always) starts with a melody and lyrics, and then the chord progression follows. My main instrument is bass, but I like to write on piano and acoustic guitar.
I frequently write alone (especially with songs that are more personal), but I had a great co-writer on “Shine,” Maria Gironas. In 2019, we decided to go to a San Francisco Giants game, and the entire time we talked between innings about our younger selves, reflecting on our experiences – both good and bad. We got to talking about our 10-year reunions and I asked her, ‘are you going to go’? And then we delved into this conversation about what we wish we could’ve told our younger selves, which became the basis for the song “Shine.” Growing up, a lot of people deal with anxiety, social pressures, and, looking back, there are moments when I wished my older self could’ve told younger me ‘hey, take a deep breath, this too shall pass, and just remember that what’s inside is what really makes you shine. Young women need to be told that they are enough and that they are so beautiful.
What do you like to do when you need a break just “click off?”
I either go to the beach or watch “Gilmore Girls”! This month, I finished watching all the seasons again. I’m a huge fan of the show because it tells the story of two strong women with a focus on writing and journalism. I used to be an entertainment journalist for the LA Times Media Group and the Orange County Register, and it was watching shows like “Gilmore Girls” as a teenager that got me inspired to write and explore journalism!
WORTH IT is Heather's latest single and she sounds fantastic!
Tell us about your new song “Worth It.”
"Worth It" is inspired by iconic Martina McBride and Faith Hill power ballads from the ‘90s and early 2000s, but with a raw, emotional pop vocal-like Kelly Clarkson or P!nk (especially the ballads on her I’m Not Dead album). The track is grounded in the idea that "great love isn't easy but WORTH IT" and chronicles the journey of two lovers, who despite their differences and life challenges, always find a way to 'make it work.’
The music video features my real-life husband, who I wrote the song about. We first met at a recording studio when we were teenagers, and he was my guitar player and long-time friend several years before we dated. Fast forward to the present and we’ve been married for over six years. Relationships are not easy. Nobody gives you a guidebook to navigate them. Mine is definitely not perfect. My husband and I got married young, and we’ve had our bumps, but we learned how to grow together. I hope “Worth It” reassures couples everywhere that it’s ok if love isn’t perfect. It’s not meant to be. That’s what makes it beautiful and worth it.
How did you meet your husband?
Worth It chronicles the journey of two lovers, who despite their differences and life challenges, always find a way to 'make it work.’ The music video features my real-life husband, who I wrote the song about and - ironically enough - was randomly cast as my love interest in another music video I put out 10 years ago (we got set up!). "We first met at a recording studio when we were teenagers and he was my guitar player and long-time friend several years before we dated." "Fast forward to the present and we’ve been married for over six years," said Youmans.
What makes marriage worth it for you?
But to answer your question: what makes it all worth it in my marriage is knowing that the connection my husband and I share is so unique, deep, and special. I’m someone who believes in soulmates, and I know there’s no other love that will ever be like this in my life.
Worth It serves as Heather Youman's third chapter to her artist project, which is a commentary on happiness. It started with SHINE - a coming-of-age story about self-love - and left off with A LITTLE CLOSER TO HAPPY - a realist’s view of happiness. WORTH IT finds an optimistic point of view and light in great love’s challenges.
You can also keep up with Heather on both Facebook and Instagram