Les Heathcock - His Story
Music has a profound effect on most people, particularly the men and women who create it. In Les Heathcock's case, it won't be an understatement to declare that music not only soothed his psyche, but it actually saved his life.
"It's funny how sometimes life gets interrupted by the silliest little things," Les begins, "For instance, a little thing like a rib going through your lung and being stuck in the hospital for several months can have a big effect on your plans for the future." That's what happened to Les Heathcock in September of 2010. A born-and bred Texan, this native Houstonian started playing guitar at the age of 17. "I know most singers and musicians say they picked up a guitar and started singing when they were five, but it took me a little longer," Heathcock jokingly admits. "One day, while I was still a teenager, I heard this guy singing and playing an acoustic guitar and getting a lot of attention, especially from the opposite sex. So, I thought to myself, 'I think I can do that,' and, by the time I was 18, I had taught myself how to play. It just came naturally to me." By the following summer, he was already a member of a young, upstart rock band. For the next few years, they paid their proverbial dues -- raking up hours (and experience) playing high school dances, proms and small local Houston clubs, doing mostly cover versions of Top 40 hits. "We played everywhere you can imagine, and some of the places were real dives," he recalls. "But, I really learned a lot about myself during those days -- creatively and musically. After a while, though, doing Journey covers got a bit old."
Singing and playing musical hits written by others began to hold little interest for Heathcock. He was feeling the urge to scratch that nagging little creative itch of writing and performing his own compositions. "I started to feel really confident in the music I was writing," he continues. "So, I thought it was time to start a real band, one that didn't play R.E.M. covers. I wanted to get together with other musicians who had the same creative vision in mind that I did, so, I felt it was time to be in a real band that played our music."
There were a handful of the bands that Heathcock fronted that were actually quite good. The original music of one group, Physics, would garner the band a large regional following of loyal fans. For the members of Physics, the dream of a record label deal and touring the world seemed like a real possibility to the young upstarts. However, after a number of additional failed attempts of trying to work on his songs in a musical collective setting, Heathcock finally came to the realization that he would probably never attain the holy grail he was so desperately searching for -- that perfect combination of fellow musicians who could interpret his music the way he heard it in his head. "I knew what I wanted my songs to sound like, I could hear it -- loud and clear -- in my mind," he remembers. "I'm not overly precious about my material, and I certainly love to collaborate, but whether it was ego clashes or just bad musicianship, I couldn't find a group of guys who ever agreed on any one cohesive sound, whether it was 'alternative rock,' pop or just good old guitar-based rock 'n' roll. So, I just decided to call it quits."
While Heathcock's band days were now a thing of the past, his desire to play music still burned bright within him. As most struggling musicians would attest to, though, you can't pay the light bill on dreams and desires, regardless of how good a singer/songwriter you are; consequently, Heathcock spent the next decade laboring away as a part of the 9-to-5 Houston workforce. "Even when I was working at one of these so-called 'real jobs,' I could still hear my own music running through my mind," he explains. "I had never given up on music, but I did stop writing for a few years."
Heathcock would experience an epiphany of sorts when he suffered the above mentioned life-threatening, near fatal accident. "Lying in that hospital bed, and then having to relearn simple things like walking and playing the guitar completely, changed my outlook on life. It made me realize I had been ignoring this creative gift I had been given for way too long," he confesses. "More than anything, I learned to respect the fragility of life and the fact that we never know how long we have to realize our dreams. It was time that I tried to go after mine, again."
Once he, and his soul mate, Susan, had nursed him back to health -- after a long, protracted and painful rehabilitation period -- Heathcock made himself a promise he was determined to keep. "I made a vow to myself that, first off, I was going to catalog and re-record a lot of my older material that I was proud of," he admits. "This time around, though, instead of doing it with a band, I was determined to do it on my own -- utilizing the most hi-tech music-making technology." An unexpected, but exciting result of Heathcock's quest was the birth of a batch of totally new songs -- including the critically-acclaimed, fan favorite "As I Life and Breathe" (currently Number #1 on ReverbNation.com). "I really never felt like I had written anything significant before the accident," he confesses. "But now, with these new songs, I know that my vocal range has improved, and my songwriting is better than it has ever has been. Not that I didn't love writing before, but these days the music is just pure joy for me to create. I now know this is what I was meant to do."
Fate has a funny little way of putting us back on track to get us where we belong. And, for Les Heathcock it is at the forefront of contemporary rock music. He bets his life on it.