Stephen Von Heyking Finds National Success in Asheville
We all know Asheville is an artist’s enclave. Makers of all mediums don’t just succeed here, they flourish; from buskers on our street corners to artisans crafting handmade wares in studios in the River Arts District, creators of all types call our town home. But by all accounts, Asheville is no Los Angeles, meaning big–time levels of success are usually unattainable for musicians looking for the limelight of show business—which makes musician Stephen Von Heyking’s success all the more astounding.
Von Heyking, a native of Canada, grew up in a musical household where he was introduced to a bevy of instruments. “I started out playing drums, and from there on I picked up guitar and piano,” says Von Heyking. Like so many modern musicians, Von Heyking earned his stripes playing in a band in high school; but whereas most teens dream of the spotlight, Von Heyking fell into the leading role by chance. “We kicked out our lead singer, and I said ‘I’ll give it a shot,’” Heyking remembers with a laugh. “From there, by default, I started singing for my own stuff and some other bands. Then I came into contact with recording—and that’s what drew me in.”
Von Heyking’s instincts were right; it wasn’t as a band member that he found true fulfillment, but in producing and recording his own music. Being able to create multi–track melodies, to control and create entire songs, was more rewarding than any of Von Heyking’s other artistic endeavors. “I was able to create ‘symphonies.’ I was able to do so much, and creatively it was a huge outlet. From that moment, I was hooked. I knew this was what I was going to do.”
Von Heyking knew he wanted to pursue a career in recording—by 2009 he was already writing and recording for film, television and commercials—but why Asheville? Like so many of us, Heyking’s arrival in Asheville was somewhat accidental, contingent upon a variety of other circumstances. When Von Heyking’s friend, who was directing music at a local church, invited him south to help with his project, Heyking didn’t necessarily expect to stay for long. But his love affair with the city was immediate. “The reason why I’ve been her so long is it’s a different feel of a city… there’s a lot more inspiration here, and I feel a lot more.”
Von Heyking’s daily habits and artistic rituals are now as deeply entrenched in Asheville as any other artist. “I love to wake up super early and go down to a coffee shop and try to work on my lyrics and drink some coffee, maybe bring my tiny little keyboard and work on some stuff.”
Von Heyking revels in the creative character that abounds in Asheville, and he certainly hasn’t been held back by the city. His success has only expounded in his years in Asheville. “The Atlantic,” one of his songs under his alias Halogen Hills, was recently featured on the hit show Dance Moms. “It was really cool because I was up here playing the song, and then I hear my wife run up the stairs, and she says they’re playing ‘The Atlantic’ on Dance Moms. I was playing this very song at this very moment… It wasn’t just background music, they had actually choreographed a dance to it,” Heyking remembers. The song is a popular one; it was also featured on MTV’s Teen Mom and the popular drama Pretty Little Liars. His son “Looking For a Light” was in a 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics commercial, “Nothing Without You” was on The Voice, and “We All” was utilized for Mercedes-Benz Fashion week. He may be based in Asheville, but Von Heyking’s music is worldwide.
For Von Heyking, Asheville is an inspirational mecca that’s helped guide him on his road to success. His is a path countless Ashevillians pursue every day, and he offers some advice for our token struggling artists: “Number one, you’ve got to feel what you’re meant to do and don’t let anybody try to sway you from that, because they don’t have to live with you not being happy.” Von Heyking also encourages artists to reach out to resources near and far, which is the impetus behind his latest endeavor: a YouTube vlog channel and podcast created with his brother-in-law as a resource for audio engineers and songwriters called “The New Producers.”
And that’s what Von Heyking is—a new producer, paving the way for what Asheville artists will follow.