The power of the internet was in full effect when our DJ Mateo Hain brought my attention to the upcoming debut album of Canary Room: the musical project of Portland-based singer-songwriter Maddy Heide.

Heide is a preschool teacher by day, and musician by night, using what free time she has to share her songs with a growing audience.

Together, Heide and I discussed the pull the Midwest has on us, the power of Spotify and Bandcamp, post-grad scaries, the terrors of preschool children, and her orange cat Clementine.

Truthly, Heide has always been a musician. After being exposed to music from a very young age, particularly string instruments from her mother’s work as a violin teacher, she was hooked on the process of creation.

Maddy: “I was always into songs and music. Part of it I was really into musical theater, and interested in this idea of telling stories through song. I found these musicals compelling and wondered how I could do it.”

Folk music has also played a vital role in the formation of Canary Room as a project.

Maddy: “I find voice pretty compelling. Focusing on the voice and how they’re saying it.[…] When I was exposed to Joni Mitchell and Diane Cluck I knew that I wanted to do this. I said to myself, ‘I want to write guitar songs.’”

Thus, Canary Room’s first album has been a years-long process, drawing inspiration from a variety of different phases and souls in Heide’s life.

Maddy: “We recorded the album over the course of a week but there were songs we had been working on and playing live for several years. It felt like we had been practicing these songs for a while.

“But some of these songs, like Orange Cat, I worked on a week before we left. We created the arrangement on the spot.”

Like many of us, Maddy was a college student during lockdown. In turn, the COVID-19 pandemic played a large role in this album.

Maddy: “I took a year off of college, and in that year I wrote a lot. Many of the songs you will hear on the album will be from that experience.”

It is during this time Heide reflected on moving away from her home state of Wisconsin for the first time ever, and experiencing what it’s like to live on your own. Listeners will be greeted by a story of departure on the album.

Maddy: “This album is a representation of my whole life in Portland. It feels like letting a chunk of myself go; it feels exciting to let go of a huge thing and making way for something new.”

Though the album won’t be released until November 17th, Heide released one of the songs,Orange Cat.

Available now to listen on all platforms, Orange Cat is a soothing lament about the fluidity of memory and the nostalgia of return.

Maddy: “Orange Cat was inspired, in part, by my cat Clementine, who is orange;”

Clementine responded to this by jumping up to the phone. Sadly, I couldn’t reach Clementine for a comment. She’s a tough woman and I had disturbed her nap— we at KWUR respect such a code of silence.

Maddy: “I was writing Orange Cat right before I graduated from college. All these big life changes were emerging alongside rapid everyday changes. But I would go home after school and Clementine would be there.”

“I noticed the constant of the cat and all these other things were changing. That’s kinda how I always write songs: Something grabs hold of me and I then tend to spiral it to other things.”

“Orange Cat, like a lot of my songs, is centered around this idea of home. Like this feeling of distance, but also how can I feel close? How can I feel close which feels so far away? One way I do that is by remembering moments and people.”

“With Orange Cat, I felt some sort of connection to coming home to Clementine and this feeling of coming home to Wisconsin.”

Orange Cat feels like a memory. Nothing is necessarily linear about the song, but a spiderweb of moments catches the listener in its grasp. It’s sticky and it’s not always a joyous experience. We struggle in its grasp but it’s home.

The production echoes, rooting Heide’s lyrics to her gentle guitar. Slowly, the song builds, but we aren’t really sure where it is headed. Just like a memory, we trust it to guide us.

After hearing Orange Cat, you’ll have a taste of what the rest of the album’s themes will be like.Maddy: “The themes in Orange Cat are some of the dominant themes in all the songs. I

think the feeling of home and distance and memory permeates through all the songs.”

Canary Room has produced other songs across the years, some of which will make a reappearance on the new album.

Maddy: “Four of the songs are from my first EP that I put out in 2021, called Christine.”The themes of Christine will translate well to the themes of the upcoming album.

Maddy: “The Christine EP was just my guitar and myself. We recorded them on a cassette player outside.”

“Christine was specifically about me and my family: bits of family history that were coming to light later in life, these things I was discovering. That history relates a lot to home and memory.”

“All of the songs look back to and also connect with the things that are right next to me now in life.”

Canary Room began as an independent project by Heide in high school. As she entered college, it morphed into a band and will continue taking on new phases as time passes.

Maddy: “Canary Room is me, I write the music, but this album is a project that was made possible by the three people in my band. My friend and our drummer moved away right after we recorded it.”

“Now Canary Room looks different. So the album feels like a times capsule of the years we were playing together while in Portland. […[ Involving different people in my music made me feel so many different emotions. Euphoric and emotional. It was also stressful and overwhelming because it was the first time I had ever [recorded a full album].”

Again, Heide has only recorded shorter and smaller projects before. Christine was a casual recording process, with no intention of creating a full EP. Her single Arms Wide Open was written and recorded within the span of a week.

When it came to the album, the stakes were higher. The goal of a proper album was more intentional.

Maddy: “But we had been playing for so long, I trusted them to do the right things,”What makes this particular project so different for Heide is the scale.

Maddy: “I just feel excited that the album is going to invite more people in, more strangers like you,” [referencing my Missouri state of life being very far from her finishing the day’s preschooling duties in Oregon] “and connection into my life.”

Though she is excited to share with an audience, Heide does not pursue music for fame or recognition.

Maddy: “Regardless of if no one listened to these songs, or if a million people listened, I would have to write the songs. I have never had any expectations for my music, so I always feel like they’re being surpassed.”

Canary Room’s self-titled debut album releases everywhere on Friday, November 17th.