Polly's pages (aka 'Donna Williams')

Ever the arty Autie

The Mental Skillness of Heidi Everett

March6

Feeling Colors by Donna Williams  Last month, with The Aspinauts, I had the honor of playing with a wonderful performer, Heidi Everett.  This is my interview with her.

DONNA WILLIAMS

Heidi, tell us about you, your life.

HEIDI EVERETT

Well lets see, 36 years in this life stream. Lots of paperwork in Natural Resource Management (that’s to be a ranger); Illustration; Visual Arts; Music; worked with racehorses, on farms, in national parks, fruit orchards, washing trucks, cleaning stuff, in restaurants and pubs, in kitchens, worked with kids, with teenagers, disabled, abled and with notables and unnoticed. There’s actually not much I havn’t done for a day or so. I think the only thing left I still have to do is fly a plane..give me time, I’m currently working on it.

DONNA WILLIAMS

Ha ha, yeah, I can relate.  I’ve scrubbed toilets, swept cockroaches, been a sweatshop factory hand, worked in a meat works, been a bad waitress and a singing kitchenhand, been a marketeer and professional bin scrounger, sold advertising, fruit picker, car cleaner, and lots of volunteer work.  Hey, maybe I am you, or you are me or we just think we’re two people 🙂

HEIDI EVERETT

I like mostly outdoor activities that do not require another person like surfing, hiking, camping, running, driving, horses, climbing trees, following fox tracks through the forest, getting lost, exploring, swimming, getting grimy, playing music, playing gigs, dancing, singing, throwing straws and leaves at my friend, solving problems, making jokes, being with my dog Tigger all the time.

DONNA WILLIAMS

Ooo, we have to get into waves on boogie boards, eh?  I need to get over my ocean phobia.  I do dearly love the ocean.  Don’t know where that fear came from.  Maybe I inherited it from my non-swimming hubby!  I used to be such a fish!

Heidi, you are a Melbourne based singer-songwriter.  Did you grow up in Melbourne?

HEIDI EVERETT

Born in Oxford, UK. Childhood spent near Wales. Came to  Oz at 9, lived in refugee hostels until parents got a house in Doveton, Vic. Grew up there rather naughty, moved out to Mornington Peninsula. Currently living in Heidelberg, Vic. I moved to the city because the peninsula already had two muso’s and one of us had to go.

DONNA WILLIAMS

Ah, so we did a cross over because I left Aus for the UK in my mid 20s, stayed 13 years, including living in Wales (also B’ham, London, Essex) then came back 5 years ago.

How long have you been singing and how and when did you start writing songs?

HEIDI EVERETT

I have been singing in front of people for about 6 years. I always knew I could sing in tune but my voice was like a pea pod. I thought only the popular people were allowed to  sing.

DONNA WILLIAMS

Definitely a bad theory.  I was singing since I was about three.  I used songs as language up until late childhood.  I think songs are magical.

HEIDI EVERETT

Music (and animated films) has composed itself spontaneously, independently and rather loudly in the four walls of my head since I was a child. Orchestras, opera, blues, jazz, country, you name it, I’ve had it. I learnt to write the melody of these songs out using my own symbols of notation like rainbows and spirals over the words until I taught myself the more traditional ways of songwriting theory.

DONNA WILLIAMS

What is the inspiration for your song?

HEIDI EVERETT

Alchemists need to work in dim rooms. With my particular disability, its hard to experience love, so it’s wonderfully easy to see it from a detatched third person view. I write a lot of love songs. The other half of my songs are about the various missing links I experience with day to day life itself.
DONNA WILLIAMS
That surprises me because your songs are very moving, unifying.

I’ve always experienced love, except maybe when in breakdown states when I was 1000 miles from my body, mind or heart.

With mania I’ve experienced it so euphorically I’ve been totally blissed out, in love with the world, a deep compassion for humanity but totally nuts about what to do with that feeling.  But it’s an awesome thing if you don’t do anything too crazy about that.  I’m kind of lucky to have known far more mania than depression but as you well know, Rapid Cycling ain’t all its cracked up to be (pun intended).

I’ve also felt deep love for people here and people gone but until my 30s I felt this for people who had no idea I felt it because I couldn’t dare show it or share it.  Its like being a very fizzy drink in a very tightly closed up bottle.  I’m pretty cool now but I still have a lot of times Exposure Anxiety makes it very hard to open up emotionally and its very hard for me to directly show deep feelings so I tend to show them through arts or writing.

How would you describe your voice and musical style?

HEIDI EVERETT

My voice is in tune, I really like it when I can hear that it has melded in with the note coming off the guitar. Its not all that strong, but I use it to colour the phrasing in the songs, so it’s pliable. I try and sing in my normal speaking voice so I don’t sound American or Indian.

DONNA WILLIAMS

I think you underestimate the tangible realness of when you sing.  It’s very moving, yeah, that’s what’s so unifying about it, it’s warm, real, and yes, very exposed.

You’re involved with The Music Network For Mental Health.  What’s that all about and how did you get into it?
HEIDI EVERETT

I first saw the Bipolar Bears band in 1994. Then they held an open band workshop in 2005 so I went along with the community rehab music group I was in. They completely had me mesmorised by their skill but more importantly, by their approach to music, it was so respective of music, really mature. Then they started weekly songwriting workshops and I never missed a day, even though it took an hour to get there and sometimes three hours in peak hour traffic to get back home.

Every month there is a chance to get up on stage and perform, and I happened to get better at it and now I perform all over the place, sometimes to hundreds of people. I don’t love people very easily, but I love the music network!

DONNA WILLIAMS

I feel scared of people when I’m in mixed states but then I’m scared of me then too.  I depressive states I don’t leave the house so people don’t really exist much except on email 🙂   But when I’m in hypomania or higher, I feel a great humanity with people, sometimes too much so because I’m too Mary Poppins even though I’ve lived a life that should have given me a definite Poppins-ectomy.

What kind of assumptions do you find people have about Mental Health issues?
HEIDI EVERETT

As soon as you say ‘schizophrenia’ you can see people take a step back. Even depression is a dirty word because it’s the enemy of a consumeristic society, the media don’t want you to think that you could be depressed if you got a holden ute or a plasma tv.

DONNA WILLIAMS

Ha ha, yeah, that’s the sort of stuff I write about, that crazy irony.   As for schizophrenia, nothing about you scares me.  I just see Heidi, and Heidi dag, and real Heidi.  I also see what we share, we’re patchwork quilts, we’re helium baloons, we’re falling sky, albeit for sometimes similar, sometimes different reasons.  And so much of us is just Donna and Heidi, people stuff.

HEIDI EVERETT

The words ‘mental illness’ sound creepy, like you would’nt go round saying “oh, I got a dental illness’,  it’s the same kind of personal information that you just should’nt share with your office co workers. Its like having plaque on your brain. You don’t share dental floss, nor should you share mental floss.

DONNA WILLIAMS

Hilarious.  See, that’s you, that’s Heidi, and you’re a star, a real life star.  Few can dag out like you girl.  You’re on my team.  Dags are stars in my book.  Or maybe I just like elasticated minds.  We’re both idiosyncratics.  It helps 🙂

HEIDI EVERETT

I think  we could get the various mental illnesses reworded and into modern culture, just like there’s a various degree of the common cold to the flu.  After all, I really believe that one in three people will suffer a common depression at some point, we need to start advertising common depression or anxiety awareness and treatments.

DONNA WILLIAMS
True.  But don’t ask someone on a manic bender how to cure depression.  When I was 23 I was having a bender at the door to the lecture theatre and told my fellow uni students that I had realised how to ‘get free’.  I began telling those near me we should hold hands and all suddenly pee ourselves and we would truly be free.  In fact it still sounds sane to me.  Bizarre of course, but sort of true, we do care too much about clothes and carpet and one ‘normality’ and aren’t many of our souls suffocated and wishing for one shared humanitarian moment in which we all agree we’ve gone too far and we really can do something harmless and bizarre and join in a big laugh knowing reality is truly what we make it…. ok, ok, I’ll go take my medication 🙂

What role do you see the arts as having in the lives of both those with Mental Health issues?
HEIDI EVERETT

The more people I meet, the more I see that creativity is the magical realm of the mentally eccentric.  It seems to be what we are actually more qualified at originality than the general population, and it makes me angry when I see that another social worker is offering creativity groups to help us recover. We should be teaching them how to be creative!  It also annoys me that these creativity groups don’t actually teach tecnique, so there is a rife culture of ‘schizophrenic art’ – daubs of paint and triangles within triangles. When I see an artist with a unique developed personal unique style, my heart leaps for joy! (Take one Donna Williams for example)

DONNA WILLIAMS
Ah, she bows.  Why thank you.  Yes, but I do know what you mean.  I like to think my work reflects how I experience myself and the world, and sure, I experience that through the filter of autism and of bipolar, and of being a very solitary personality, but none of those things are the sum total of me.

Do you find that those without Mental Health issues also support the music of those with these issues?
HEIDI EVERETT

I think all muso’s are wacky anyway, you have to be to be able to dabble in the art of music. So, without shouting from the rooftops, many of the well known successful artists struggle with their demons, I think that’s what some of their appeal is to their audience. The fact that they sing about what we all think of life. They can say what we’re all thinking.

DONNA WILLIAMS
So true!

In what ways is your music universal?

HEIDI EVERETT

Have you read the book,”Music of the spheres”?

DONNA WILLIAMS

I fit visual-verbal agnosia, so I read but half the meaning is missing, then dyslexic tumble takes care of the rest like a blender takes care of potatoes.  hmm.  Books and pleasure aren’t very compatible terms in my world unless I’m writing them.  I can scan read and I can also read fluently with meaning if I use gestural signing as I read.

HEIDI EVERETT

Its about how all the universe resonates, its debateable, but I believe that all matter and non matter has a frequency and if we get it moving in some sort of harmony, then it just feels right.
DONNA WILLIAMS

ooo, sounds buzzy.  I ran across a bridge once and created resonance and the whole thing started dancing, very very very funky.  I used to believe all things had ‘essence’ and that we could resonate with all things, feel them kinesthetically, vibrationally.  I still believe that but I’m kind of like Wendy Darling, believing in Peter Pan and I’m in a world for whom that’s all fairy tales.  But I sense my world, as does the best of idiosyncratics 🙂

HEIDI EVERETT

On a worldly level, I think that our countries are currently in some sort of diminished minor chord, and until we calibrate ourselves back into a major then all this crap will continue. I believe that at the start of time, everything hummed along nicely in a C Major. Maybe it will again on Boxing Day after the apocolypse.

DONNA WILLIAMS
Ooo, C Major.  I like D and Bb.  C is ok.  Its very ‘middle’.  As for apocolypses, nothing is truly an apocolypse for all.  Even when the dinosaurs were wiped out, various things survived.  Apocolypses are relative.

What are your hopes as an artist?
HEIDI EVERETT

To not lose my sight or too many of my fingers.

DONNA WILLIAMS
Good basic plan.  As someone with a degree of meaning deafness and meaning blindness I’m not afraid of sensory deafness or sensory blindness because my hands are my ears and eyes.  I hear through movement, I see through touch and sound.  But I wouldn’t like to lose my hands.

Do you have any upcoming shows where people can come and meet you and hear your music?
HEIDI EVERETT

With the Bipolar Bears at the World’s Longest Lunch at St Kilda Town Hall on Friday 13th March @ 12pm. Huge community lunch in the gardens to raise awareness for the world’s  homelessness crisis.

Art of Difference  – Block Party at Gasworks Park  on Saturday 14th March @ 5pm. Free massive community party with entertainers from the world of disability and difference (Pickles St, Port Melbourne)

DONNA WILLIAMS
Exciting.  I hope people will go along and check you and the Bears out.

Do you have a website where they can get further information?
HEIDI EVERETT

This is my official website – www.heidieverett.com.au
This is my music –  www.myspace.com/skypsi
This is the music network –  www.mentalhealthmusicnetwork.net

DONNA WILLIAMS
Thanks for the interview.
HEIDI EVERETT

Thankyou Donna, its an honour and a priviledge to talk with you.
DONNA WILLIAMS

Ah, you are such a galant knight Sir Everett.  I’d have you in my army any time.

Warmly,

Donna Williams *)

http://www.donnawilliams.net