The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 52
Published 5/22/13 | Log In
J.J. Heller and her husband Dave perform at the Q Café
Photo credit: JOSH FLYNN/The Falcon.
The Q Café welcomed J.J. Heller Friday
By ASHLEY MICHIE, Features Writer
Published: May 16, 2012
J.J. Heller has been playing music full time since 2003.
Six years later, a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance used one of her songs in an audition. That song was later played on radio stations across the country, spiraling Heller into the national folk scene.
On Friday, folk singer-songwriter J.J. Heller performed at the Q Café with her husband, Dave Heller. The Hellers brought the sun from Phoenix and performed for their Seattle fans at the request of Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest Church.
Director of the Q Café Brian Jensen said he recently converted to being a J.J. Heller fan after watching her music video for “Boat Song.” Filmed in the Hellers’ dining room by Dave Heller, the “Boat Song” music video was inspired by the children’s board book Runaway Bunny.
Jensen said he was won over by her humbleness and fun-loving personality.
Throughout their performance, J.J. and Dave Heller interacted with the audience. After her first song, “Red Against Your Black,” J.J. Heller looked out at the audience and said, “It’s fun to look at all your faces; you’re all smiling so big.”
During “Small,” Dave Heller informed the audience that the song requires the harmonica.
“You are brighter than the sun,” J.J. Heller sang.
Her husband joined her in song and told the audience to put their hands together. The audience clapped as Heller played her harmonica.
The Hellers’ performance contrasted with the opening performer, folk-pop singer and guitarist Kate Lynne Logan, who said that her songs are either really depressing or “kind of” depressing. One of Logan’s songs expressed finding hope in the midst of miserable situations with the words, “I’m going to fly from the highest mountaintop. … I’m going to find my way.”
Heller’s songs also expressed hope. Heller said the first time she experienced a panic attack, she was sitting on her couch watching TV when her heart started beating quickly and she became dizzy.
During that period of anxiety, she prayed constantly, she said. Each day, she would pray, “please don’t let me have another panic attack.”
Heller said that this ongoing anxiety was overwhelming and made her feel hopeless. She couldn’t understand why God allowed the pain to continue.
She said God answered her prayer by telling her to wait. The result was a long journey of healing. But that healing was not for her alone.
After So You Think You Can Dance aired her song “Your Hands” (which begins with “I have unanswered prayers”), Heller started receiving letters from people who had heard her song.
“God allowed me to go through that pain so I could write a song about it,” Heller said.
The song “Your Hands” is tangible evidence of God’s goodness, she said. She invited the audience to sing it with her.
“When you walked upon the earth, you healed the broken, lost and hurt,” she sang.
At the beginning of Heller’s music career, she played at a treatment center for eating disorders.
She said that the patients at the center wanted to control something in their life, and food was something they could control.
Heller said somebody asked her if she had considered writing a song about self-injury.
She said she hadn’t considered it until she met a girl named Britney who started experimenting with cutting when her life started to fall apart in high school. Like eating disorders, cutting gave Britney an illusion of control, Heller said.
Heller said that she has control issues as well. For her, control comes in the form of worry. The irony, she said, is that people with control issues are looking for freedom and peace, but that only comes when a person lets go.
The song, “Control” was written for Britney, Heller said. But she said it is her own song too.
As Heller sang “I’m letting go of the illusion; I’m letting go of the confusion,” she held her hands out as if she were letting go.
The Hellers seemed not to be performers for the audience that night; they interacted with the audience as friends.
At one point, Heller acted as teacher, teaching the audience her song “Kingdom Come.”
By the end of the song, the audience sung the chorus without her help. Heller told the audience that their singing was beautiful. On her lips was the smile of a familiar friend.