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Local Musicians Aim to Launch Studio

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Jacky and Jason Heistad have put down roots in Niverville. Sara Beth Dacombe

After individual music careers touring Canada and the United States, husband and wife duo Jason and Jacky Heistad put down roots in Niverville and are ready to launch a creative studio.

A mix of country, gospel, folk, and rock, they are a seasoned, professional recording act with a distinct sound.

“Our sound has always had more of a southern flavour,” says Jacky. “It’s like country southern, a Blue Ridge Mountains kind of style.”

“It’s also hybrid,” adds Jason. “We can throw a Métis sound in with country or bluegrass or gospel. And then you can throw an electric guitar in the mix and it totally sound like today’s country or pop. We’re trying to keep it more acoustic, more pure, but of course I love the electric guitar. Whatever the song needs, that’s the instrumentation I’ll turn to.”

Their sound has evolved over the years as the two combined their unique styles. After growing up in Margo, Saskatchewan, Jacky—performing as Jacky Belle—went on to travel internationally as an accomplished singer-songwriter, lending her rich and powerful voice to original songs and covers spanning pop country, contemporary, soul, and blues.

Her musical experience and accomplishments are extensive. While living in Tennessee for several years, she received the Tennessee Songwriting Association Award, performed at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, and made a guest appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. She also toured extensively with Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers as a back-up vocalist and percussionist. Jacky helped represent Saskatchewan in the Bud Country Music for Canada, and was once chosen to sing the Canadian national anthem in front of 70 nations in Israel.

Starting out on drums, piano, and championship fiddle player, Jason’s multifaceted musical career is also extensive. He was named the Saskatchewan Junior Fiddle Champion at the age of 13, cut his first CD at 19, and that same year hit the road as bass guitarist with Canadian country artist Ronnie Prophet.

During the early 90s, Jason played fiddle and cowrote songs with the Canadian recording artists Against the Grain. House fiddler for the CTV show Number #1 West, Jason backed up numerous Grand Ole Opry performers. He toured as fiddler with Brian Sklar throughout Europe and also performed with the bands Justice and Electric Cattle Company.

From 1994 to 1999, Jason won the Saskatchewan Country Music Fiddle Player of the Year and received Canadian Country Music Award nominations. He also won Saskatchewan Best Instrumentalist of the Year in 1998.

Ironically, the two musicians grew up about 10 minutes from each other, but they didn’t meet or fall in love until later in life, marrying in 2004.

Jason’s work had brought them to Regina where he produced and recorded six CD projects for Saskatchewan artists while also employed as sound designer for the CTV hit series Corner Gas, as well as other film and television projects.

The couple remained committed to creating art and pursuing their gifts while juggling married life and raising their son. As a team, Jason produces the music and acts as musical director. Jacky is the vocalist and songwriter. She also plays the guitar and blues harp.

“With my contacts in music and television, we kept going back to it and feeling drawn back to it,” Jason says. “It was just on the weekends and stuff, so I would work with TV and compose for some films, some in L.A., some bigger productions, but I also always wanted to support my wife. When you’re born to sing, well, my wife has a gift. We sound different than everybody else, which is scary, but it’s also good at the same time. We don’t blend in with the pavement… and when you’re breaking new ground, you look to your left and your right and there’s nobody there. So you kind of wonder if you’re on the right path.”

The commitment paid off, however. As a duo, they recorded an album called The Sounds of Heaven in 2008 and continued to travel and perform throughout Canada and the U.S.

In late 2019, they had been feeling the need for change, and in 2020 they up and moved to Nashville with their then-14-year-old son, Judah.

“Jacky had lived in Tennessee in the 90s before we were married and had friends down there,” says Jason. “So we said, let’s move to Tennessee and just figure it out. We’ll see what doors open.”

The couple says it was an incredible experience that gave them a lot of opportunities to develop as artists and take the next steps in their careers. It also gave them a unique insight into studio work and how to work with artists.

“When we went to Nashville, some crazy doors opened for us,” Jacky says. “We got to connect with people that just finished producing Dolly Parton, Mark and Wanda Burchfield. And they heard our music and took us under their wing and recorded a CD with them.”

When COVID hit, however, the family had to regroup fast.

A New Dream

The Heistads originally planned to relocate temporarily and return to the U.S. when COVID had passed.

“It was great for a season, and then our visas expired,” says Jason. “All our shows were cancelled. We had 70 shows booked.”

The couple had friends in Manitoba and wanted to be close to the border. They also recognized that their son was tired of moving and wanted to get him into a good school.

So the pair talked to Clarence Braun, who they knew through a mutual friend. After being introduced to the idea of moving to Niverville, they quickly realized that it would be a great fit.

In 2021, they found a home in town and set up a studio which they affectionately dubbed “the nest.” It wasn’t long after that they decided the timing was right to launch their next dream: a studio and communications business.

Their new business will be called Bluebird Communications and they are excited to serve southeastern Manitoba.

“I read that Niverville is number one in Canada for population and economic growth,” Jason says. “It was even in The Globe and Mail. So there’s something going on here. I believe that Niverville is the place to open up a world-class studio.”

Jacky says that Jason is gifted in being able to connect people and bring them together to produce powerful sounds. He sees his role as directing a team of creatives from videographers and writers to photographers and musicians.

With more than 30 years of communications experience, Jason is putting together a team that will be well positioned to serve anyone looking for corporate video work, training videos, commercials and advertising, and website materials.

“My time with CTV has refined me, in a way,” he says. “I’m focused on more than video and music, but more importantly, relationship and community.”

Bluebird Communications will launch their website in December 2022, and the couple say they are open to new creative collaborations. Their ideal clients would be those who want to achieve the highest standard in content creation, like law offices, home builders, and the service industry.

Jacky and Jason have also continued to create music. They have a new album in the works with a launch date of spring 2023. The songs will feature collaborations with many local sounds and artists

“We are interested in mixing an intergenerational sound, with young people who are into rap or dubstep or whatever, and incorporate fiddle or a more traditional instrument,” says Jacky, who is writing lyrics that deliver a hopeful message. “We’d like to give hope to people and says, ‘Don’t give up on your dreams and it will get better. Find what your gift is and find those who will lift you up.’ We want to lift people up, if their gift is music, or sport, or art, or whatever it is.”

Helping Others Dream

Aside from launching their new business, the Heistads are transparent about where their passion in life lies.

“We really want to be here and pour our hearts into other musicians,” says Jacky. “There are so many musicians in Manitoba. We’re getting more acquainted with them and it’s not just us. Everybody seems to be coming out of their shell a bit more and rediscovering each other.”

Jacky says that people in the arts are being real about the trauma of the lockdown and how it was devastating to people’s livelihood. People want something to connect to and something to believe in again.

“We’re having more jam sessions now and revisiting from the past season, and we’re seeing there’s a need and a sound that people are looking for, from just recovering from what they’ve gone through,” she adds. “We’ve still had friends who are going through the trauma of wanting to go out.”

The Heistads feel strongly about talking openly about people’s mental and spiritual health. Their album, Coming out of the Desert, is all about hope.

“We produced it as a family,” says Jacky. “[It has] a message that says, ‘No matter what you’re going through, if you stick together and don’t give up, you can come out of your desert.’ And we don’t give up. We’re Canadians, we’re from Saskatchewan. That all comes out in the music.”

Collaboration

“Now we just know people who are looking or open to having us,” Jason says. “When a door opens up, we walk through it. We believe in that, because at one point in our lives we were connected with a church, and we find now that there’s a new thing happening. We can’t go back to the old thing.”

The Heistads say that it’s not about spreading a religious message, but about hope and freedom from lifestyles and systems that keep us in destructive patterns.

“When you listen to the music of Johnny Cash, when he said, ‘Let’s bring it home,’ well… let’s bring it home. People don’t just want to hear gospel music. They want to hear something real and a real sound.”

Jacky describes herself as being much more motivated by the heart and relationships.

“Our hearts are to reach the unloved and a lot of people have been hurt by religion,” she says. “If I can sing and be an influence to someone who is working hard on themselves out there, I would say we can change people’s lives by just reaching out. We all can. We can uplift each other. And if it’s a song, great. And if it’s pointing people to where to get resources or take their next step toward using their gifts, that will help them get where they need to go. I know where I get my gift from—it’s God. if I can spread that message, too, I will.”

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