Residing in St. Thomas, Canada, eclectic singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kaleb Hikele uses music as an outlet via his project The Sun Harmonic. Classical-trained pianist first, folk/rock songsmith second, The Sun Harmonic started performing in 2009 as a solo artist, now accompanied by his rock band and even string orchestras. With two new singles,” In The Forest” and “A Heart So Heavy”, released in Spring 2019, Kaleb began his ventures on tour through Ontario in June. Catch The Sun Harmonic live on stage in an intimate solo performance on guitar & piano, or live with his folk/rock trio. With his life-spanning catalog of original songs at hand, he sings just like he wears his heart on his sleeve.
“A Heart So Heavy” begins with a haunting piano solo that slowly transitions into a finely-calibrated ballad. The vocals come in and completely blow me away, their sultry and melancholic, yet full of emotion and truth. “A Heart So HEavy” is raw and emotive, it teeters on the line of of sadness, but remains reminicent and fairly light hearted. Kaleb’s vocal register and harmonically-rich production is musical brilliance. He pours his heart and soul into this track and we can’t get enough. The power and meaning from beginning to end is both inspiring and galvanizing in today’s music industry. The Sun Harmonic has done a fantastic job conveying his emotion through poetry, matching thast poetry ieth hard-hitting instrumentals and exuding a spectacular vibrance. We can’t wait to see what he delivers next!
Check out “A Heart So Heavy” here an read more below in our exclusive interview.
Hey Kaleb! Welcome to BuzzMusic! Can you tell us more about your upbringing and how you got started in music?’
Hey Buzz! Thanks for having me. Well, I was raised on musical theatre soundtracks on cassette tape, Hanson and Backstreet Boys CD's (typical 5 year old boy in the 90's) and I loved all sorts of music played in the house from my parents (John Denver, Tragically Hip, and more musical theatre). I also lived in a world of classical music, I was put into music lessons when I was 5 years old taking vocal and piano classes on a weekly basis, which gave me a pretty solid work ethic as a little kid. I went through the whole Royal Conservatory program doing exams each year and also sang in a show choir, learning even more musical theatre pieces and choral works from about 5 to 13 years old. It was a very magical and entertaining way to grow up, never short of excitement and fantasy when you're dressing up as a Chef and singing songs from the Little Mermaid at a recital. Ha! Closer to high school, when I was 13 I believe, a neighbourhood friend of mine told me on theschoolyard that I should play the guitar, he said it was cool (Until that point I had played classical piano and was very not cool, according to the other sporty 9 year old kids). So I traded some bullying for an electric guitar and started to learn Nirvana riffs, Blink 182 covers, and started a band with that same guy (he was a drummer). We put together a set of punk rock cover songs and were playing sets at the local skate park and our school gym in our Grade 8 year. I took to songwriting quickly, even before I could play more than 3 chords on the guitar, and so by age 14 we had new members and formed the first band for our original songs (more in the "screamo" scene than before) and we were playing shows and recording an EP in the first months of Grade 9. We were called Far From Freedom and made a lot of noise in two years, we released 2 EP's and played everywhere we could in our small town (St. Thomas Ontario). We opened for some London rock bands (the biggest city close to us) and played in the streets at local festivals (our loud screaming rock set did not fit in at all, let alone our mosh pitting 14 year old friends, it was hilarious!) When that band got to the end of it's run I started a more folk/rock based trio with the same drummer, a new harmonica-slinging guitarist and myself on the piano, we called ourselves The Capitol after the old time movie theatre downtown. We also released an album (recorded independently and burned onto CD's to sell out of my locker) and played local shows from 2006-2008. When I graduated high school in 2008 the time was right for me to leave all of it behind and go to music college in Toronto, and I started performing solo shows frantically and came up with a new name in 2009 - The Sun Harmonic. And "the rest if history" but is also still happening and evolving from that moment on...
How old were you when you first began performing publicly?
5 years old (woops, spoiled that answer already..) I don't even have strong memories of it, I was so young. I sang with my show choir, Colla Voce, in St. Thomas, performing in churches and halls mostly between 1995 and 2003 I believe... but as a songwriter, behind a guitar and eventually piano, I started performing (literally "gigging" in bars, and dive bars too) at the age of 13. I remember going to play in a dark dingy bar in London when I was 14 and the area was so shady my parents were offered drugs in the bathroom (not to mention, how did they let a 14 year old into a bar in the first place) so it was a funny start. It foreshadowed all my years of playing dive bars, so it's never been a surprise to me with the climate out there when you're gigging as a solo musician or a rock band. I lived in a small town so there weren't many proper music venues or even stages for us to play in, especially as teenagers. So we played to our friends wherever we could, a lot of shows in our school (we'd setup in the courtyard or in the cafeteria) and some shows at youth centers and street festivals in the summer. We had a built-in crowd being in high school, we'd always have a bit of a mosh pit going and be able to sell or give away CD's like crazy in the hallways at our school. It was a dream really, a small town is a great place for a musician to grow up in. You move to a big city and become the smallest fish, but that also brings a lot of lessons and experience. Thick skin as they say!
Who are your musical influences? How have they inspired your sound?
Beethoven, Billie Holiday and Beatles (or Beach Boys) is my typical answer to that question, covers some good bases. I have hundreds of vinyl records and hundreds of CD's flooding my apartment, music from A-Z in terms of genre and generations. I love classical music, mostly the Romantic era (Debussy and Chopin) and early Jazz (vocal like Billie or Ella, but also piano greats like Keith Jarret and Vince Guaraldi). I started listening to modern rock, screamo and punk, when I was around 11 or 12, so all of that music lights me on fire and I can still sing along to every word (early Green Day, NOFX, Thrice, Belvedere, Alexisonfire, Linkin Park, Sublime, Distillers, Pennywise, all the stuff you'd listen to with punks at a campfire party in the woods you know?) At 19 I dove into the vinyl my Uncle had given me (7" Steppenwolf and Supertramp records) and through a friend with a great vinyl collection I was introduced to the world of classic rock, Floyd and Beatles classics and lesser known gems. I'd spend nights with musician friends listening to Paul Simon solo albums, Television's Marquee Moon and anything in between that was all a new world to me. Finding this holy grail of music shaped how I grew and expanded my songwriting once I built a studio at home (a retro soul & blues album I did for fun in 2012, TheBroadview Band, other projects that were a tangent from my typical music). Along the way certain albums really suck in as far as inspiring me to learn and test myself as a guitar player (Simon's acoustic guitar work) and a songwriter (live Dylan solo in the mid 60's) and a vocalist (Jeff Buckley's "Grace" I could listen to every day forever). Currently I am listening to and supporting artists I see myself in, that is who I want to be as a songwriter and live vicariously through their own pursuits, along the lines of Tim Baker, Glen Hansard, Bruno Major, Yola, strong singer-songwriters with a knack for melody. But like I said, it's all cyclical and I'll listen to Beethovens 5th piano concerto right before cranking some Gob or Goldfinger tunes and singing along. It's all the same to me, music despite genre.
Can you dive into details about the lyrics in “A Heart So Heavy”? What do you hope your listeners take away from this song?
It's a love song written from me to my girlfriend. It's not meant to be sung in person, it's a message that can't reach someone in that very moment so it goes out into the universe and floats in space and is just is what it is. A song about longing and wanting to help someone who is away from you. Wanting to speak to someone who you can't talk to at that very moment, so you sing to them instead. That's the idea behind the song, written in that very literal context of being alone in a room and wanting to sing to my girlfriend who was up north in the city at her own place, this was before we were living together. We had worked that night together at Massey Hall in Toronto, where we met as ushers, and after going home I walked into a quiet living room and sat at the piano and wrote the entire song in one sitting. It took a few hours, I wanted to say the right thing and put as much meaning and heart into it as possible. I really believed in this song when I wrote it, and I don't usually do this, but, then I went into a studio and recorded it only one week later. It's taken me years to get around to recording a song before, but this one felt finished. It was clear, simple. To take away from a song you always have to put it into your own perspective, or put yourself in the shoes of the subject. If you have a great big love in your life like I'm lucky enough to have, you can certainly think of and sing this song in times of being apart, times when you miss that person. But this song can also be heard as a message sung by me directly to you, the listener. It's a remedy if you're feeling low, sad and hopeless, your heart is literally heavy and you're listening to music to medicate (most of us do I believe). The lyrics in the song can certainly be taken as a message to you, I'm sending love to help you through the day and things will be OK. It's caring and helpful, because everyone needs care and help and love to get by.
Whats next for The Sun Harmonic?
A full length album. Coming soon! Hopefully late 2019. I've always got a fairly heavy To Do List of things that will take months or years to do (Winter, a double LP, took 8 years, so I'm scaling back my so I've crossed off a few things this year: releasing A Heart So Heavy and In The Forest, two songs I had on my studio hard drive for over a year or so that are finally streaming and on vinyl. And then I took those on tour with me around Ontario in June to celebrate 10 years since I released my debut Sun Harmonic album in 2009. That was on the bucket list and a good way for me to stretch my touring legs again after a few years away from it. In the Fall I'll be playing some more shows solo and with my band, all in Ontario before I set my eyes on the West and East coast of Canada again in 2020 (hopefully sporting my new LP then too). I have too many songs I've written but not yet recorded, for various reasons, so there's a lot of ideas and albums that can come to life, but I'm taking it one step at a time and focusing on making these albums with some other idea or concept to them.
My next album started as a big idea that somehow came together over a few years, starting in Vancouver in 2015 when I recorded a few songs on the island and I thought about recording songs in Canadian studios all the way out east to Halifax. I was sidelined for a couple years by an injury and heavy junk in life, but I never lost the vision and the will to make it happen. So last summer I traveled by train to record in Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax before coming back home to finish the album in my basement recording studio in Toronto's east end. I'm working on it now and will be bringing a whole other year of weird and beautiful experiences into the mix, while inviting some talented friends to make my music come to life. It will be a folk, acoustic based, upbeat and uncharacteristic album compared to my music over the past few years (sad piano songs!) I really can't wait to finish it and release it soon... To be continued!
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