EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - East Texas singer-songwriter Heather Little is a soft-spoken woman with several children and a close relationship with her parents.
She's likeable and humble, yet ask her a few questions, and let her talk, and the life she's lived starts pouring out.
Little says she has always loved music, and listened to the music her dad, a park ranger, had in the house when she was young. She would sneak listens to his albums when he was at work, though she wasn't supposed to take them out of his glass record cabinet and their protective sleeves.
"He had albums by Dolly Parton, Crystal Gayle, Sylvia, Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand, Hank Williams Jr., all those classic artists," she said, "I knew that every day at 4:32 he'd walk through the door. Always at 4:32. So I knew I had until almost 4:32 to listen and then put them back," she laughs.
She says her mom introduced her to what is now classic rock from the '60s and '70s...Bread, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, America.
"All those bands that are considered 'classic rock' now," she laughed.
She remembered her mom singing to her when she was little.
"I could ask her to sing almost anything you could hear on the radio, and she could sing it. She's a great singer. She's shy, though, so
never hear her sing," she said.
Those influences, among others, have contributed to a style of music that might be called Americana with a touch of East Texas country. Whatever you call it, Heather's songs are easy to listen to, and had me singing along after a few times through the album, which is entitled
Heather says it was also her mom who encouraged her to enter a songwriting contest in 2002. Heather was busy at home taking care of her own children along with a few others, and didn't see how she could possibly do it, but her mom pitched in to help, and Heather was able to enter a couple of songs and meet Miranda Lambert, who was one of the judges. That began a collaboration with Lambert and other local talents, including recent Grammy-winner Kacey Musgraves.
You have likely heard some of Little's songs on Miranda Lambert's albums. In fact, Lambert's first single, "Me and Charlie Talkin," was co-written by Little, Lambert, and Lambert's dad Rick, as was the song "Gunpowder and Lead."
With singles on a highly successful album like that, it would seem Little could write her own ticket to success in the country music business. But that's not how it happened.
"When those songs were released, I was in the middle of a divorce. And in Texas, any song I wrote was considered community property," she said.
And the terms of the divorce require Little to stay in Lindale ISD so her children can attend school there and still see their dad. Little had to figure out another way to make a living, since she couldn't actively be in Nashville writing more songs for Lambert and other artists.
"So I took a job at Lindale High School as a janitor. I was cleaning the bathroom in the school Miranda Lambert had attended, and a teacher walked in. Her phone rang, and the ringtone was our song, "Gunpowder and Lead." And I'm cleaning the bathroom," she recalls.
Little shakes her head and laughs, because as she says, her top priority is and always will be her kids.
"I knew all my life I wanted to be two things: somebody's mom, and a singer. And the kids come first," she says.
Heather is no longer cleaning school bathrooms. She now does her best to devote herself to writing and performing when she can. She performs in East Texas, often at The Forge in Ben Wheeler to a packed house, on the weekends the children are with their dad. She also has a song or two on Lambert's next CD, set to be released on June 3.
Heather Little is determined to follow her dream, and when I asked her what she would say to women who feel "stuck" in life, whether overwhelmed with responsibilities at home with children, or in a job that isn't what they've dreamed of doing, she said this:
"Find time to do what you love to do. You have to keep that part of yourself, whether it's listening to your favorite music, or gardening, or whatever it is. You have to make time to do it or you're going to be a shell of who you really are, just an empty shell making peanut butter sandwiches. Find time for what makes you who you are, and you'll be better for the people in your life."
Heather Little's cd,
Wings Like These
Follow Heather on Instagram at @heatherlittlemusic.