If, like your AMM host, you’re enamored with Aguas Frescas (parts I and II) by Wildfires, as well as their self-titled Skateland release, you may know guitarist Johanna Heilman. The Austin-based songwriter has been a part of the local scene for over 20 years, starting out as a solo artist making the rounds before joining Wildfires in 2012.
Cut to life being completely upended in 2020, just before the release of the single “Silver Grey.” As if navigating life during a pandemic wasn’t harrowing enough, Heilman was diagnosed with breast cancer in December that year. Throughout treatments and surgeries in 2021, Heilman wrote songs to process the trauma of her recovery – and the trauma of a planet unraveling around her. These observations became the ethereal tapestry of When We Were Electric, a contemplation of mortality and nostalgia. And just what is left behind after one ceases to exist? But this is not a brooding, somber portrait. Heilman’s frankness and humor about her experiences bring a kind of hopeful tone to the dark narrative.
AMM July 1 2023
Johanna Heilman album release show tonight at Chess Club, with Abram Shook and Simitree.