Singer-songwriter Kevin Heinz to open new Sunset Sessions series at the Wheeler Opera House
If You Go …
Who: Kevin Heinz
Where: Wheeler Opera House, lobby bar
When: Friday, July 2, 8 p.m.
How much: Free
More info: www.wheeleroperahouse.com; Heinz is also playing Crown Summerfest at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel on Friday at 5 p.m. (www.crownmtn.org) and opening for Midnight North on Sunday night at Belly Up Aspen (www.bellyupaspen.com).
Whatever’s going on in his world, singer-songwriter Kevin Heinz has always molded the raw clay of his life into song. And these days his life is a romantic ballad.
The Boulder native and fixture on the Colorado music scene recently fell in love with his longtime best friend — the pair hit the road to California, got married and are expecting a child in the fall. Of course, Heinz has been writing songs about the storybook experience for months.
“This love story came true,” he said. “They’re true stories.”
Now settled in San Francisco, Heinz is back home in the mountains this weekend to play the Wheeler Opera House’s inaugural Sunset Sessions presentation. The Friday night concert is the first in the new series of free summer shows in the recently renovated lobby bar at the downtown Aspen theater.
“It’s exciting to open up a new venue in the historic Wheeler Opera House,” Heinz said. “That’s the No. 1 reason I’m coming up to the mountains.”
Heinz has picked up a few additional gigs while he’s back in town: he’ll play a free set at Crown Summerfest in El Jebel this evening and will open for Midnight North on Sunday night at Belly Up.
Returning to Colorado, the homegrown talent is reflecting on how the state shaped him creatively, from his time playing in the church band to his young adulthood bouncing between ski town gigs.
“Growing up in Boulder, I got to see a lot of acoustic performers out on the Pearl Street Mall, going to big concerts at Red Rocks and the stadiums — often led by just a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar and a band behind them,” he recalled. “And that inspired me to write my songs and perform, whether it was a solo show as a singer-songwriter or getting a whole band together.”
As he was starting his career, he moved to Vail, where he worked in production at Plum TV, gave guitar lessons, ran open mic nights, produced records, jammed with fellow mountain-town buskers and worked on the craft in the relative solitude of ski town life. Heinz became a regular in these parts during his decade in Vail, including sets at the locals’ showcase at Belly Up and opening for Pat Benatar there.
“Getting to jam with friends and nurture the music, whether it was a backyard concert with a group of buddies to a stage show — it’s such a supportive music community and people are just out to hear good songs,” he said of his time as a mountain town troubadour. “It’s an inspiring environment.”
His 2011 record, “Kevin Heinz & Friends,” was a celebration of the Colorado scene featuring collaborations with musicians across the state.
Over the years, audiences here have seen him play roots rock, perform loop pedal-fueled one-man band sets, and watched him ripping blues rock with a full band. His new record, “Baker Beach,” and its songs like “Burnin’” offer yet another evolution, as Heinz infuses the laid-back acoustic record with reggae rhythms.
At the Wheeler show, he’s planning to showcase much of the “Baker Beach” material along with some brand new songs he’s written since making the move to northern California. To Heinz, the many directions he’s gone with his sound are all unified.
“My favorite description of the music is ‘acoustic soul,’” he explained. “More in terms not of soul music, but that the songs themselves have soul. They’re from me and my soul and my life experiences.”
Mining his life for his art is a necessity.
“It all comes from a real place and I hope people can relate to those moments,” Heinz said.
If you’re going to over-share, Heinz reasons, better to do it in a personal song than in an impulsive social media post.
“I wait and write it in a song and that’s my social post, if you will: this well-crafted and thought-out piece of music rather than 140 characters as it happens,” he explained with a laugh. “I like to sit and wait and make it great.”
The Wheeler’s new Sunset Sessions will be free all summer. The series continues with local comedian Beth Brandon on Wednesday. The rest of the summer lineup is expected to include more music and comedy, along with the spoken word and performance series The Salon, Writ Large and Poetry Brothel — all moving to the Wheeler from Justice Snow’s Bar and Restaurant.
Wheeler Executive Director Gena Buhler got to know Heinz and his music during her time running the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Kevin for many years,” Buhler said, “and have watched him grow as a musician. Being able to feature his talent as a kickoff to our new series seemed like the perfect fit, and I hope that everyone will be able to come to enjoy the music, company and great sunset views from the new lobby performance space.”
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