Heather Styka Chicago, IL

Chicago songwriter Heather Styka is not afraid to go where others fear to tread — and to get a little messy on the way. Beneath “sweet, soulful vocals” (Portland Press Herald) and “nimble fingerpicked guitar” (Dispatch Magazine) lie narratives of vulnerability, strength, and wanderlust, drawn from her extensive touring. Styka’s image-heavy lyrics brim with sincerity and heartbreak, but she veers towards an unexpected edge, more interested in questions than answers. Half road-weary, half persistently optimistic, these are the sort of songs that take you on a journey and haunt you all the way home.

Styka started writing and performing as teenager in the Chicago suburbs. Honing her craft among Chicago’s long-standing folk community, she hit the road after graduating with a degree in creative writing. At the age of 28, Styka has performed for over a decade, released four full-length albums, and toured from coast to coast. Her 2011 release Lifeboats for Atlantis brought her to national attention, hitting #3 on the FOLK-DJ charts. In addition to being a 2015 New Folk Finalist at the Kerrville Folk Festival, Styka received first place in the Big Top Chautauqua Songwriting Competition (2009) and second place in the Great Lakes Songwriting Contest (2012). She’s performed at the Folk Alliance International (FAI) and Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM) conferences as an official showcase artist. 

While living in Portland, Maine, Heather Styka released While This Planet Spins Beneath Our Feet. Recorded in the Adirondacks with Beehive Productions and printed by Styka on a 1901 letterpress in Maine, this 2014 release charted for four months on FOLK-DJ. Songs like “Love in the Multiverse” and “Caspian Sea” reveal Styka’s intellectual curiosity — and her passion for philosophy, history, and theoretical physics — while the earnest and catchy pop sensibilities of “Careful With My Heart” caught the ears of a number of peers who now cover that song, including Joe Jencks (Brother Sun) and Scott Cook.

Styka’s latest album, The Bittersweet Tapes (2016), “tugs the ear on first listen and greets you like an old friend on subsequent visits” (Simon Rigby, Indie Music Portal). These gut-punch pretty songs nod to traditional folk, classic country, and even garage rock, carried by Styka’s emotive vocals. Recorded in Tulsa, Oklahoma on an old four track recorder with sparse, ethereal production by John Calvin Abney (John Moreland, Samantha Crain), The Bittersweet Tapes retains an unfiltered immediacy. “In this raw and intimate portrait of life, disguised as a collection of songs, Heather Styka has truly created a masterpiece… A writer with this kind of vision and ability doesn’t come along very often” (Chris Darby, Independent Melody). 

With training both as a poet and an actor, Heather Styka is equal parts wordsmith and entertainer. Colored by a quirky sense of humor and peppered with confessional storytelling, Styka’s live shows are intimate and candid as late night conversation. Styka is currently writing a new album and collaborating on multiple upcoming projects. There’s no telling where this young troubadour is headed next, but if Heather Styka’s songs are any indication, she’ll be getting there with fierce and fearless honesty.

Emily Lively