Laela — from Mountain Market to Nashville Tennessee?

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
August 14th, 2012

Shoppers at last Thursday’s Mountain Market were treated to the remarkable talent of 15 year old Laela Heidt as she played the toonies right out of their pockets. She’s been singing seriously since she was 10, but the story goes back further than that.

“When I was first brought back from the hospital, my grandma—who didn’t know how to play the acoustic guitar—just took out the guitar and started strumming it and making up songs,” Laela said. “So she’s been teaching me songs since I was a baby.”


“My Grandma is definitely my biggest influence,” Laela continued. “She never had any formal training, but she’s amazing. She learned how to play guitar, and piano, and sing. She does all these things, and she just improvises. But it sounds amazing to me!”


Asked about other influences, especially following a Tom Petty cover she nailed, Laela said, “No. I honestly can’t think of any specific musicians, popular or famous ones anyway.”


“It’s mostly been personal people in my life,” she said, “like my brother is a big influence. We’re totally opposite in what we play, genre-wise, but the reason I started playing the piano was my brother—I wanted to be just like him! I picked up guitar the same way.”


The young singer moved from Grand Forks to Rossland to Warfield with her mother, Deborah Spitler, and father, James Heidt, mixing a dash of public school with a splash of homeschool.


After attending Kindergarten to Grade 2 in the public system, Grades 3 to 5 at home, Grades 6-9  public, and Grade 10 at home, Laela is just about to enter Grade 11 in the DESK (Distance Education School of the Kootenays) program. With no immediate plans for university, she said, “I’m just going with the flow right now.” 


But maybe music will open up her life’s path?


“I really want to go commercial,” she said. “My mom’s totally certain it’s going to happen, but I’m just hoping! I either want to do something with music, or do a major in English. Before music, I think I fell in love with words.”


Where does her drive to sing come from? “My life,” she said. “My songs are like a public diary. They’re about growing up, boys, family life, everything.”


Her first album was recorded last year but had “production issues” so Laela “is not really giving it out.” Doubling our misfortune, there is no place yet to stream her tunes online—”soon,” she said.


But a second album will be out soon. According to her mother, Laela was strumming away at her campsite at a recent roots and blues festival when a performer approached her, intrigued by what he heard. Since then this guy’s bought her a banjo and the plan is to strike out to a country and western studio in Nelson and strike up a hit single.


I’m all ears for more, but that’s what we’ve got for now.


The same day Laela was busking, a couple of Italians popped on stage to give 10 absolutely stunning a cappella duets of traditional Italian tunes.


I asked Laela, “Maybe you’ll do like these Italians and wander the world, singing for your dinner?”


She laughed, “I don’t know about that, I’m not that crazy—well, not crazy—I’m not that brave!”


Hardly so, coming from a 15 year old who can let it rip to a market full of strangers.


Next Thursday—Aug. 16, 3-6 pm, 1st and Queen—it’s Buzz and Bonzo for a Mountain Market extravaganza of fiddle, guitar, and song. Laela will play again the following market—Aug. 23—at 3 p.m., followed by the ever-more spectacular Gabe Mann on fiddle.

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