JJ HELLER Interview : With the new album “Loved” in stores March 12th


(Photo :JJ HELLER)

With the new album "Loved" in stores March 12th, a new music video for "Who You Are" and a tour opening for Sanctus Real beginning on Valentine's Day, JJ Heller somehow found a few minutes in a busy schedule to answer a few questions for BREATHEcast.

What's new with JJ Heller? Are you excited or nervous are about "Loved" coming out? Any differences or similarities from previous records?

Both! I think this is the longest we've spent in between finishing making an album and releasing it. I've been really anxious to get it out and let people listen to it. I'm really excited to share these songs with our listeners and see how they relate to it, because, it is a little bit different of an approach production wise, than our albums in the past.

There are more environmental sounds; atmospheric musical parts to create a mood in each song. The acoustic guitar is less in the forefront. But at the same time we still feel like it maintains that personal, intimate feel of our previous releases.

What are some of your biggest music influences? Does any secular music ever make it on the iPod?

Pattie Griffin, for sure. She's my favorite singer-songwriter. She's the one who made me realize I can write a story song without making it sound touchy, so she's been a big influence on me. I love Ray LaMontagne. I'm a really picky music listener so I don't have a lot of favorite artists, but I have certain tracks of theirs. I enjoy a lot of Feist songs, and Adele of course, she's amazing. It kind of depends on my mood. I just got into running recently so I really love like listening to Coldplay when I'm out for a run.

A lot of Nashville acts are also really good. Tyler Burkhum, of Leagues, actually tracked guitar on my record, and he's really good. Mathew Perryman Jones is also really amazing; Katie Herzig too. She actually co-wrote our song "Your Hands" years ago.

How does your husband Dave play a part in your music and walk with God?

I feel like just having my name on the CD is a little bit misleading because it's so much of a duo but we kind of settled on just promoting it with my name years ago when my husband Dave was doing all of our booking. He just decided it would be easier for him to say, "my wife is really good," than "I am in this band and we are really good!"

When we perform live he plays guitar and sings back up. We banter back and forth and make jokes and have a really good time together. We co-write all of our songs and he basically manages me. There's no way I'd be doing this without him.

I heard that he directed and edited the video for "The Boat Song"

We get so many emails and Facebook posts from parents saying their small children will watch that over and over and over. We had no idea that was going to happen, but for some reason it really connects with the "small" population.

How did you get into ministry?

I never thought that I would be doing this. I didn't start writing songs until my sophomore year of college. I always liked music but never dared to hope I could make a career out of it. The summer before my sophomore year of college I went on a mission trip to Africa and one of the girls taught me how to play guitar. She and I and another girl wrote my first song, and I fell in love with writing. I came back home from the trip and continued to write songs

It was right after that I met Dave, and we started playing our songs in a band together. We graduated from college and got married and really felt like God was asking us to pursue it, at least for a season. We decided to give it a year, and if we ended up worse off at the end of the year than we were in the beginning. At the end of the year we had just enough encouragement to keep going. It's been a slow process of building our music and fan base.

"Your Hands" was featured on So You Think You Can Dance.  We were making a steady climb but when our song landed on the radio there was a huge spike of publicity and our listenership. That was totally unexpected but we were thrilled. I just feel like God is just taking us on this journey, and we just kind of need to sit back and hold everything with an open hand.

Any personal testimony you would like to share to encourage others, what the Lord has done for you?

Dave actually reminded me of this just yesterday. In my life I've seen the faithfulness of the Lord in a really personal way. A week before the trip to Africa I was having this prayer time and I got tired so I took a nap. I closed my eyes and all of a sudden I had this picture in my mind of a tree. It started raining and this hand came down and started to move the tree back and forth, as the dirt got muddier. The tree was loosened from the ground and the hand planted the tree next to him. After that season was over the tree was put in the pot so it could move all around. I knew the tree was me and the hand was God.

In college there was this time of upheaval for me where I wasn't in control. And then I was standing next to the Lord for a while, and there was this time of healing and growing. It's so crazy to me now that I'm traveling across the country with my husband playing music the Lord has put in my heart. I feel so blessed and honored to be in this position.

So tell me about the tour? Do you guys have all the dates booked? Planning any special stage tricks?

We're touring with Sanctus Real and the first leg of the tour is the East, which is pretty much booked. We're still adding dates for the West. We start Valentine's Day. It's called the "Promise" tour and we're opening for Sanctus Real.

Our goal when we perform is to be as comfortable as possible and make the audience believe they're in the living room with us playing songs.