For decades, droves of hopeful singer-songwriters have ventured to Los Angeles trying to quickly grab hold of fame. But Heather Youmans knew early on that success wasn’t measured in big breaks. She understood that finding her voice in the industry would be more successful in the long-term.
“I am in my late twenties and have been working in the entertainment industry for 18 years, but my path hasn’t been the most conventional.” explains the Los Angelese-based singer-songwriter, actress, bassist and tap dancer who lives a double life working as a publicist for Fender guitars.
Youmans grew up in the entertainment industry. She found early success in professional musical theater productions and was even the opening soloist for a UNICEF benefit headlining Sting and the late singer Natalie Cole. “That night changed everything for me,” says Youmans. “After I met Sting and watched him sing and play bass, I knew that was my calling.”
She went on to release a Top 40 radio hit, “Girl To Change Your World” and songs for 20th Century Fox major motion pictures. Then major record labels took notice. When those conversations didn’t prove fruitful, Youmans took matters into her own hands and built another career in the entertainment business from the ground up, working as an entertainment journalist, and now, as a publicist for Fender. During her time at the guitar giant, she has crossed paths with music legends like Jimmy Page, Nile Rodgers, H.E.R. and Brian Wilson.
“My intention was never to give up performing professionally, but to seek out my intellectual curiosities,” says Youmans. In hindsight, she views not getting a record deal as a teenager as perhaps the best thing that ever happened to her.
I never thought I would go to journalism school or get an MBA, but I’m so glad I did,” explains Youmans who got her MBA at California State University. “Now when I tell people I’m a professional performer, artist and publicist, they look at me with wide eyes and ask if I have time to sleep. It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t live my life any other way. After all these years, I feel like I’ve finally found my voice.”
Months before quarantine began, Youmans sang the national anthem for her biggest crowd yet. She performed before 20,000 LA Kings hockey fans who gathered at Staples Center on New Year’s Eve to ring in 2020. “Looking back, it was such a bittersweet experience,” says Youmans. “Everyone was buzzing about their 2020 visions, but we had no idea the world would shut down, drastically changing our lives in a matter of months.”
Despite the pandemic’s toll on live music, Youmans hasn’t backed down on her creative 2020 side hustles. Late last year she released a new single, “Shine” which she wrote as a love letter to her younger self.
Youmans shared more.
Jeryl Brunner: How do you balance all of your creative pursuits with your day job? Is it ever hard to be creative or motivated after a long day at work?
Heather Youmans: Balancing my day job with the demands of performing takes a lot of discipline. Working in business has taught me to guard my time, since it’s such a scarce resource. If I’m not efficient with it, I won’t have time to create. Prior to the pandemic, I would work a full day in publicity, and at 6 p.m., I’d head to a session, rehearsal or gig that could run late into the evening. Performing is just as much of a mental challenge as it is physical. Performers are expected to be “always on.” Some nights it’s easier to feel it, connect and write music, and on others - it’s just not. When I feel creative, I try to make the most of it!
Jeryl Brunner: What inspired you to write “Shine,” and why did you decide to release the song now?
Heater Youmans: I wrote “Shine” with Maria Gironas, another strong woman in the music business with a songwriting side hustle. Ironically enough, we met working at Fender together. The song is an empowering message to my younger self, everything “me now” would tell “me then.” Women need to feel empowered to embrace their inner beauty and strength, to hold their heads up and let their hair down every once-in-a-while. This song is an anthem for millennial women like myself, but also ladies everywhere. Life’s hard right now, and I just hope “Shine” gives everyone a much needed dose of optimism and happiness.
Jeryl Brunner: What advice would you give other women looking to pursue their own creative side hustles?
Heather Youmans: I suggest embracing positive, reaffirming self-talk, because no matter how confident you are, it’s easy for self-doubt to take over. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t create unrealistic expectations for yourself. Any side hustle takes time. Just take steps forward each day, and know that several small tasks repeated over time can have exponential impact.