The award-winning author of seventeen books—novels, poetry, short stories, essays, a memoir, a children’s book—for thirty years Steven Heighton has been exploring new genres, new styles, new ideas, new voices. The New York Times said of him, “He is an experienced adventurer in literary form… a sense of boldness and risk-taking infuses his work.” So his current project and passion, The Devil’s Share, an album of original songs, might seem like the latest symptom of his creative restlessness. But in fact it’s a return home, a making good on the sort of promise you vow to yourself in your early years without knowing you’ve done it.
Heighton began his creative life as an aspiring songwriter, in high school in Toronto. He kept at it into his early twenties, busking his way around Australia and Europe, playing a few small gigs, but before long he was devoting himself to writing books—poetry, at first, his lyrics morphing and learning to accompany themselves, to make their own music, as the words of a poem must do. Soon he was producing books of short stories, then novels, and then the rest. A long apprenticeship.
In 2010, ignoring sensible advice, he took up recreational hockey and sustained a significant injury: a laryngeal fracture, or, in plainspeak, a crushed voicebox. ER doctor to mute, scared patient: “You might never talk normally again. Also, you’ll probably never sing. Do you sing?” That might have been the necessary trauma that drove him back to his guitar (bought for a hundred Australian bucks while hitch-hiking along the Gold Coast many years ago) and pushed him back to singing (following a period of silent convalescence). After his poetry book The Waking Comes Late received the 2016 Governor General’s Award, songs began to come too. It was as if that milestone had confirmed that his apprenticeship was over and it was time to take his poetry back to its roots—back to where poetry itself began, long ago—in song.
As John Prine put it, “Your heart gets bored with your mind and it changes you.”
When you sing the words instead of speak or write them, it’s harder to overthink them—and at last nothing stands between your heart and your hearer.
The Devil's Share
The Devil’s Share is an album of eleven original songs currently being recorded and mixed at the Post Office Studio, Wolfe Island, by producer Hugh Christopher Brown. A single, "2020 (Cohen's Future)", has just been released by Wolfe Island Records.
Formats: Digital, CD, vinyl
Produced by Hugh Christopher Brown. Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper. Featuring Hugh Christopher Brown, Jason Mercer, Tony Scherr.
Selected lyrics from The Devil’s Share, to be released Spring 2021 by Wolfe Island Records. All songs copyright 2020 by Steven Heighton/Hightone Music (SOCAN).