HeyDreamer - As Cities Burn

April 25, 2022

It was May of 2020 when a wave began surging over our US cities. It was a defiance against racism in general fueled by the murder of a black man named George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin. My own song “Hurricane” released in December that year came out of those and other events that followed.

Meanwhile, Melody Kiser (HeyDreamer) was similarly moved and inspired right here in my own hometown of Atlanta, Georgia to write about it with band mate and high school friend, Jasper Joyner. It was called “As Cities Burn” and as it turned out would become their last collaboration together. Aside from the fact that “As Cities Burn” is just a damn great song with amazing guitar riffs and lyrical hooks, it is a powerful and poignant and captures the essence of a time unique in our history.

Melody and I spoke about the genesis of the song. “[Jasper] had the chord progression already written and needed a concept/lyrics. It was one of those songs that came together instantly. The lyrics can actually be applied to many situations. They are about the darkness in the world, and the people who are waiting to find their way out of this darkness.

Melody grew up in a musical family. Her mom played keyboards for several bands from a young age, and her brother became an accomplished bluegrass violin/fiddle player as a teenager and young adult. “Going back even further, my maternal great-grandfather was the leader of a southern gospel vocal group that cut numerous albums. So, music has always been deeply rooted in my life. As a teenager, I cut my teeth playing cover songs in bars, nightclubs, and coffee shops. This really allowed me to grow as a musician and an entertainer. I was able to break free of my childhood shyness and blossom as a performer.” It was from this environment that she began to create her own music.

In 2019, she and Jasper created the band HeyDreamer. And in February 2020 (yes just as COVID began ravishing the nation and any chance of a successful tour) they released their first album, “If You’re Out There”. Jasper moved to Philadelphia to begin anew, and Melody continued on adding Dustin Williams (bass) and Dylan Hansen (Gamma Star) as their drummer (I had the opportunity to write about Dylan with his own project, “Cosmic Trash” in January 2022). HeyDreamer released their new album “Dances in Wonderland” produced by Will Turpin (Collective Soul) on March 4th this year as a fan-funded kickstarter campaign. “Working at R2R with Will Turpin and Steve Rawls (co-owner) has truly been a life-changing experience. I've learned so much. Will taught me that less is more… when it comes to songwriting and production. I tended to over-complicate things. I am a big fan of so many different genres of music, and my songs became ‘idea vomit’ really quickly. I've learned to arrange more concisely, and my ear training has developed immensely. It truly has been an experience I'll never forget. Real 2 Reel is a wonderful studio with awesome staff and state-of-the art facilities. I will always recommend it to anyone.

I first listened to the full album while hiking around the beltline here in Atlanta, chatting with Melody over Facebook Messenger. I was so blown away by the guitar leads I asked who her lead guitarist was only to find that it was actually her! She in fact wrote eight of the songs on the new album (She and Jasper co-wrote “Night Flight” and “As Cities Burn”).

Although “As Cities Burn” has more of a subdued and ethereal vibe than the rest of the songs in her new album, her musical influences are anchored in classic rock. “I love so many different genres and flavors. My main influences would be Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Heart, Paul McCartney, The Killers, and honestly so many others.” To me Night Flight had some definite Journey or Night Ranger vibes to it. (I was curious if she was familiar. She tells me she loves Steve Perry and calls herself a huge music nerd).

Reflecting on what she’s learned from her experience and what she would have done differently, she says, “I would have allowed myself to be more vulnerable early on in my career. It takes immense confidence to express this kind of vulnerability, and I lacked that for so long... and often still find myself unconfident. If you're going to write a song that impacts people, you have to be willing to open your heart. I would also say stick with your gut. It's easy to become overly malleable when you're writing with other people. If the idea was originally yours, stick to your gut. Always be open to the ideas of other's, but if you truly don't like the idea, you don't have to accept it. It's your art.”

Melody is always writing but not overly rushed to pump out new music until it’s ready. And now with a new band dynamic, it’ll be exciting to hear what they produce going forward. “We actually already have several songs in the works/finished. I plan to start recording these as soon as we feel comfortable with the arrangements and get them out to the world. The songs are excitingly different than the songs on either of our previous HeyDreamer releases. I can't wait!

Of course there are always so many who help us along in our musical journey. Among those she called out as particularly influential are Steve Rawls from Real 2 Reel Studios and Melissa Crispo, an independent artist she met on the Melissa Etheridge Cruise, for their support in helping her to accelerate her music career. And YOU TOO can support Melody and HeyDreamer by following her and supporting their music on Spotify, Apple Music, or wherever you get yours. You can actually relive their Album Release Party in the YouTube video below!

Reach out to HeyDreamer

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Written with love by Joe. "As Cities Burn" has been added to our "Indie Music" and "Artist Pick" playlists on Spotify.