If album titles gave directions, Sam Helig's debut EP, Between Here and Home, probably wouldn't get you anywhere - except lost. But before getting into all of that, it's probably a good idea to visit where he's come from.
Originally from the Atlanta, Georgia suburb of Snellville, Sam Heilig's early influences came from all corners - his parents' love of oldies stations, his older brothers' embrace of alternative rock, and his own love of Top 40 radio. Reminisces Heilig,"I always loved music, and I always wanted to play the guitar. The summer after eighth grade, a friend taught me how to read some tabs and I learned my first song. I went home and immediately asked for a guitar for my birthday."
And as his often bloody fingers would testify, Heilig got that guitar. A veracious learner, he dug deep into the music of his favorite artists, including folks like Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson. "As I learned songs that I liked from others, I began to develop a deeper understanding of the craft of songwriting. During the Spring of my senior year of high school, it finally began to click a little bit to put melodies over chord structures, and I just went from there."
Beyond the lure of pop music on the radio, Heilig was also deeply influenced by a much smaller, less well-known community of songwriters in the Atlanta area centered around Young Life, an outreach ministry for high school students. In general, these artists approached songwriting from an angle concerned less with superstardom and more with communicating love, hope, and joy to others through their songs. Among these songwriters was producer/engineer Paul Reeves. "Paul was doing music at a camp I attended when I was in high school, and afterwards, I got in touch with him to see if I could get some tips on writing songs. We ended up talking for an hour or so on the phone."
Now that you're caught up, let's fast forward things a few years. As it turns out, that phone call proved to be an important step in Heilig's journey. What began as a conversation about songwriting eventually became a friendship, and during the fall of 2009, Heilig set up camp at Reeves' Domus Studio in Athens, GA to record the five tracks that eventually became Between Here and Home. "It all happened so fast that I still don't know what to think of it," muses Heilig. "Paul and I first talked about the possibility at the end of the summer, and after that, we were off and running." After a whirlwind of activity and preproduction - including a successful crowd-funding campaign through Kickstarter.com - Heilig ended 2009 with a recording ready to mix and a lot of gratitude. "I have to look at it like it's a gift instead of something I've done on my own," he says.
Clocking in at under twenty minutes total, Heilig manages to cram a lot of life into a relatively small amount of time. From the upbeat, driving "Made to Love" about Heilig's own relationship with God to the fictitious story of a real man living near his street ("Henry"), Heilig emerges as a songwriter of considerable depth and width, especially for his debut release. "This is really about where I've come from versus where I'm going," he says. "It's about knowing that there's hope amongst the depravity, that ultimately love wins out. That's what I've seen in my own life and in the lives of others."
Now that we know where "here" is; what lies between this place and home? "I think that the Lord has given me a passion for music, and he's given me a gift. And I believe that we are to instinctually chase those passions and to use those gifts that he's given us to glorify him. So because of that, I get to do this thing that he's given me the ability to do to spread the gospel and joy and love. I'm just going to try my best to continue to look at all of this as a gift. I think that will be contagious. I hope to be able to write songs the way I want to write them, and if it's supposed to thrive, then it will."
And there it is. While nothing can be said for certain, Heilig will most certainly continue to embrace the journey, pursuing the gifts and passions he has received, and trusting that wherever he may find himself on this path, he is never - in fact - lost.
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