Interview: Frank Heaney
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July, 22nd 2021
No matter where you are, there are amazing local artists all around you — even in the gossip-ridden, dimly lit hallways of a high school. Frank Heaney and I met as teenagers in Minneapolis; we were in the same high school chamber choir, had a ton of mutual friends and lived in the same neighborhood. Since then, Heaney has immersed himself in the Twin Cities music scene; he has released solo music on Spotify and performs with his band The Misdemeanors. I caught up with him to learn more about his experience with music since graduation and his future plans!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
BRONTË COOK: So, first, tell me about your relationship with music and performing.
FRANK HEANEY: I've always been really engaged with music. I started informally making music in middle school, just for fun. Throughout high school, I would do what I could to find musical outlets. In college, I had an informal jam-group, then started playing some shows with some friends who make their own music. For a while, that was kind of enough for me — just having fun, performing their music, doing live stuff.
I'd say my more intimate relationship with music came when I had a prolonged period of unemployment following college. When everything was going to hell, I really didn't have a lot to do. I had had a lot of kind of like half-baked concepts that I had written but didn't really have the toolset to actually turn into something that presentable and digestible. So that was kind of the main thing I would do to keep from losing my mind, just being locked up in my house all the time.
The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn, which was not exactly how I expected things to go. I’ve always enjoyed playing, but never really wanted to get too technical with it. But as I started to do it, it just became a really fun thing for me and a way to socialize.
COOK: Have you performed again since COVID restrictions lifted in Minneapolis?
HEANEY: I just recently started to perform again, which has been a cool experience for me. Like I said, I've performed plenty in the past, but I was usually there supporting other people's work, which I still do and love to do. But it's just been a really exciting thing for me to be able to perform my own stuff with a group of all my best friends and keep a really high energy. I feel like it's just an exciting time to play any kind of live music because people are more receptive. They're more excited.
COOK: That sounds awesome. There's definitely a pent up demand for live music like right now. Just in the last month, things have really started to come back. It's so crazy.
HEANEY: I know. I would go to any sort of outdoor event or indoor like my music just to have that kind of experience again. So it's cool to see it coming back.
COOK: What kind of places do you perform at in Minneapolis?
HEANEY: It's a lot of breweries and bars, and people are moving back towards more traditional venues. I did a park concert the other week at Theodore Wirth Regional Park which was super fun. It’s a lot of outdoor stuff. It seems like people, understandably, are more comfortable going to outdoor places. And as you know, in Minnesota, it's nice to get outside again after the winter. So, for now, it’s a lot of smaller breweries, bars, parks, restaurants, stuff like that.
COOK: You’ve released both solo and collaborative projects on Spotify. When you perform, do you do solo stuff or are you usually with a band?
HEANEY: It's all stuff with bands. My friends and I, we collectively call ourselves some The Misdemeanors. We've got some collective work, but we just play through my stuff or my friends’ stuff, whatever we're working on at the time. So that's been super fun, just to have a group of people I can hang out with and socialize with consistently again.
COOK: A lot of the artists I’ve talked to, they’ve said something along the lines of “quarantine is the best worst thing that's ever happened, artistically,” because you just have all this time to learn and make stuff. How is the transition from sitting in your bedroom making music to going out and actually seeing people again?
HEANEY: It's super exciting. It's definitely overwhelming, but I think in a good and healthy way. It's really exciting to be able to go out and present your work and socialize because I think that's a normal and healthy part of just being human and being an artist. Even though it's kind of overwhelming and intimidating after living in solitude, I think that overall, it's just going to be a really good thing. And I think people's art will benefit from it, too. You know, being so pent up, there's a lot of stuff you can create just out of that alone, but then learning tool sets and then hopefully having a collective feeling of excitement and enjoyment coming back into being social and whatnot.
COOK: Minneapolis is where I learned how important local music is. In high school, I remember going to a bunch of shows and getting in on the local music community and getting so excited about it. What are your thoughts on the relationship between local artists and the community in Minneapolis?
HEANEY: The relationship between artists and the community in Minneapolis is incredibly important. If I didn't end up running into people or becoming friends with people who had similar interests as me, I would have never found out how much I love [music and performing.] And you know, conversely, like, having people around me who have different interests and different tastes than me, it helped me find out what I didn’t like.
COOK: What about the digitalization of music in today’s world? Do you think it helps or hurts that community feeling?
HEANEY: It's kind of a double edged sword. It gives people access to tools that were previously only accessible if you had a bunch of money to go into studios, etc. It's awesome that people have access to all these tools and knowledge on the internet. But I think we could also get to a point where people aren't exposing themselves to other artists nearly as much. What I think is cool, especially with Localify, is figuring out how to find that digital meeting ground. And just kind of crucial to, you know, keep in good art getting pumped out. There are some bands I would have never heard about, then I go out and see a show that they play and I’m like, ‘Oh, I want to do what these folks are doing.’ I think some sort of digital kind of meeting ground or playground for people is super cool. Especially because, like you said, people have lost certain abilities to socialize and put themselves out there in vulnerable ways.
Frank Heaney is an artist based in Minneapolis. You can find him on Localify and Spotify.