Raised on Moon, a 40 foot sailboat built by her father, Heather Nova spent the majority of her childhood exploring the Caribbean while the songs of Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and the Beatles played on the boat’s wind-powered tape deck. It was on the boat that Heather learned to play the guitar and discovered her natural ability to write songs.
When she was 18 she attended the Rhode Island School of Design where she studied painting and film-making. She soon found that her interest lay more in creating the soundtracks than the films themselves, and by the time she graduated she had decided to focus solely on her music.
After college Heather moved to London where she was soon discovered by the owner of Big Cat Records who released her debut album “Glowstars”. This led to her forming a band, releasing a live album, “Blow” and touring Europe extensively. Her breakthrough album “Oyster” went on to sell over a million copies and took Heather around the world on tour. The albums, Siren, South, Storm and Redbird followed, solidifying her as a mainstay on the European music scene.
After over a decade of touring and recording, Heather left London and returned home to Bermuda. Today, she continues to make records and tour, but has also focused on giving back to the island community; In 2005 she wrote and recorded “Together As One”, an EP supporting the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, a youth-focused organization that operates the sail-training vessel ‘Spirit of Bermuda’. In 2011 she performed a benefit concert for The Chewstick Foundation, a local initiative that gets kids off the streets by involving them in creating music and poetry. She has promoted local artists by taking them on tour as her support act, and continues to support youth-based and environmental causes on the island. Heather’s most recent release, “300 Days at Sea”, was recorded in her solar powered home-studio, and is inspired by the yacht ‘Moon’, her childhood home that was wrecked on the reefs of Bermuda.
Today, Heather lives with her husband Felix Tod and their son, Sebastian in the same area of Bermuda that her family lived 300 years ago.
What’s the best way to spend a Sunday morning?
A walk in Hog Bay Park. We take our dogs and hike over the hill to the sea. The ocean here is shallow for a long distance out, so the colors are an intense mix of blues, pale greens and turquoise. You get a sense of what the unspoiled Bermuda landscape must have looked like to the first settlers.
Where do you go in Bermuda for an authentic cultural experience?
I still get a thrill when I see the gombeys. The unique Bermudian performance art, performed by groups of 10-30 men is a colorful and intricate masquerade with dancing and drumming that reflect the island’s blend of African, Native American, Caribbean and British cultures. When I was a kid we would hear the drums from far off and excitedly follow the sound until we found the gombeys performing on a street corner. We’d then follow them as they made their way through the different neighborhoods.
Is there a special vantage point in Bermuda to watch the sunrise or sunset?
Fort Scaur in Somerset. There is a bench on a promontory on the west side (opposite the fort) and it is the perfect place to watch the sun sink below the horizon. I have seen the “green flash” from here – a very rare optical phenomena that occurs shortly after sunset or before sunrise, when a green spot is visible, usually for no more than a second or two, above the sun.
Can you describe your most blissful moment in Bermuda?
For bliss I like to go kayaking on a still day out over the reefs. The shimmering reflections of the clouds on the water and the fish swimming beneath you make for a transcendent experience. It’s like combining exercise with meditation. It doesn’t get better than this!
In your opinion, where’s the best place to take a first date?
Probably out kayaking! You can rent them at many places.
Who is Bermuda’s most famous local icon?
I still think it’s a testament to hope for the human race that a man gets up every morning to stand on the roundabout into Hamilton just to wave and say “I love you” to everyone commuting into work. Johnny Barnes took this upon himself many years ago and he is now in his 90s. He is there rain, blow or shine. As a musician I don’t often go into town at that time, but when I do I blow him kisses and shout “I love you!” out my window so enthusiastically that I probably risk having an accident.
What’s the best place to take a neighborhood stroll?
I like the railway trail in Paget and Warwick - It goes through neighborhoods and farmers’ fields. You feel like you are seeing a slice of the real domestic Bermuda.
Where is the best place to take the kids?
My son loves to go to Snorkel Park in Dockyard because you can rent pedalos (paddle boats)! He also loves going to Spittal Pond to explore and climb on the rocks.
Where do you shop for clothing and accessories in Bermuda?
Atelerie on Reid Street is my favorite boutique - the selection of clothes and jewelry is wonderful. I also like Calypso on Front Street – great for kaftans, hats and funky necklaces.
Do you have a favorite book store on the island?
I love the Bermuda Bookstore. It’s been there forever. I remember going in as a kid to buy my Nancy Drew mysteries! It’s always very crowded, but I think that’s part of the charm, and anything they don’t have they are happy to order for you. They also have a great selection of books by Bermudian authors.
Where do you go for a great night out?
On either Friday or Saturday (or both!) I head down to The Big Chill @ The Lido Elbow Beach where my hubby, Felix Tod, mixes chillout and deep house with live music on the Terrace under the stars. It's a great vibe, and they serve delicious sushi and tapas too! All with an unparalleled view of the ocean.
Can you describe a perfect scenic drive?
Pretty much every drive is scenic, but you can’t beat the South Shore in Southampton. I feel very lucky that this is the route to my son’s school. Sometimes he plays on his ipod and I say. “You can do that for half the ride. The other half you have to gaze out the window at the sea and dream!”
What’s the best place to visit for items to eat on the street?
Little Mexico. A beautiful Mexican woman called Theresa runs a little lunch wagon on the corner of Church Street and Queen Street on most days. Everything is homemade and delicious.
Where on the island do you go to hear live music?
Go to “Chewstick” on Elliot Street for an eclectic mix of local talent. Their open mic night is on Sunday and you are sure to hear something interesting. This collective started up to give local artists a place to perform. The vibe is great and it’s welcoming to all. Intimate and fun. Check out their website for up-to-date happenings: www.chewstick.org
For more information on Heather Nova go to www.heathernova.com.
Photo credit: Scott Tucker