Arts & Culture

“Stubbornly independent” Candelo’s Heath Cullen in LA now recording crowd-funded album

Elka Wood 17 July 2019
Musician and songwriter Heath Cullen has met his crowd funding goal of $20,000 in just a week. Photo: Supplied.

Musician and songwriter Heath Cullen has met his crowdfunding goal of $20,000 in just a week. Heath is pictured last week in the Sonoran Desert, California. Photo: Supplied.

Candelo-based musician and songwriter Heath Cullen is in LA, poised to begin recording his fourth album, River Caught The Flood this week with Grammy award-winning producer Joe Henry.

After the success of 2015’s Outsiders and given the calibre of Joe Henry’s work, expectations are sky-high.

But before he can begin recording more music magic for us, Heath has to ensure he can pay his star-studded band, made up of guitarist Adam Levy, drummer Jay Bellerose, bass player Jennifer Condos, Patrick Warren on keys and Levron Henry on reed instruments.

Since he arrived in the US three weeks ago, Heath has been sampling vegetarian bratwurst, experiencing a few California earthquakes and anxiously eyeing his Pozible campaign to see if he has the funds to pay the band this week. While we are speaking, I’m watching the numbers click by on Heath’s Pozible campaign and with 21 days still to go, he’s only a few hundred dollars away from his $20,000 goal.

Crowdfunding is not a handout, Heath points out, but a way for people to pre-purchase the work of artists they believe in to ensure it can be produced, effectively creating a community-owned record label for the artist.

Although Heath has crowdfunded for his three previous albums, this album is his most ambitious project yet.

While Heath loves spending time in his Bega Valley home, he spends a chunk of each year in LA, drinking in the music scene. Photo: Supplied.

While Heath loves spending time in his Bega Valley home, he spends a chunk of each year in LA, drinking in the music scene. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s felt like quite a terrifying financial hurdle. With something like this, you don’t know how it’s going to go and I’m so, so grateful to the support of my community,” he says.

For Heath, there is no other option than to continue making music independently.

“It’s an interesting climate in the music industry at the moment, it’s all changing so quickly with music streaming platforms and that’s because people expect music to be free,” he muses “you can’t blame them really, but it makes it tricky to be paid for what you’re doing.”

Throughout his career, Heath has retained a sense of integrity remaining strongly rooted to his home town of Candelo and “stubbornly independent”.

“I’m happy that I own my music,” Heath continues “it’s an age-old story but it does happen still, that an artist makes an album under a label, so the label owns the album but then decides not to release it. The artist can be in the position of having to buy their own music back.”

Heath has ambitions to tour nationally and internationally as much as he can. Photo: Supplied.

Heath has ambitions to tour nationally and internationally as much as he can. Photo: Supplied.

To remain independent, and still work with the musicians Heath has is quite a feat.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be working with Joe,” Heath says “I admire the man so much and that he would choose to work with me is … very humbling. Joe can pick the jobs that he does.”

While he says he hasn’t bumped into Ringo yet, being in LA’s thriving music scene means he does end up crossing paths with well-known names. As one example of the connections to popular music’s royalty, Joe is married to Madonna’s sister, Melanie Ciccone and has been since 1987.

“This city has been kind to me, it’s a great town for creative people,” Heath shares “but everyone is just another human to me.”

Heath and Joe have written one new song together for this record, Song That I Know.

“Joe has co-written songs with Billy Bragg, Mose Allison, Roseanne Cash, Madonna… and now me!”

With his financial goal met and exceeded, Heath can now focus solely on getting the most from his time in the studio.

“We’ll be cutting this record the old way – live,” Heath explains “it’s how I prefer to work, I think the chemistry is more tangible. You can work separately and get good results but it’s not as fun. I want to make a record that sounds like the musicians are enjoying what they’re doing.”

Heath’s Pozible campaign will continue running until the end of July and any funds raised above $20,000 will go towards publicity and promotion of the album and touring costs.

River Caught The Flood will be released in early 2020.

To pre-order your copy, visit Heath’s Pozible page.

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