Sneak 'Peak' From Heather Nova: Listen Now to 'Girl on the Mountain'

There's something magically mysterious about Heather Nova and her measured musical climb.

Her poetic phrases, vivid images and moving melodies transport you to another world in another era, and the lovely sounds of her voice backed by the musicians' tasteful accompaniment make it seem like everything's going to be all right.

Pay closer attention to some of the embedded themes, though, and discover depths that few pop artists have dared to explore on their own over such a protracted period of time.

I know how the winter takes you down /
All of the colours gone to ground /
White out white out it's hard to see /
You've got the courage buried deep /
Hold on you're going to get there /
And oh I know it's hard to see it now

Despite its harsh opening lines, the gorgeous "Girl on the Mountain" that premieres here today at The Huffington Post -- one of 12 relaxing yet revitalizing songs that appears on her latest album The Way It Feels -- ultimately leads to a promising conclusion. But the adventurous journey, like Nova's life, can include a detour or two.

"I wrote this song for a friend who was going through a particularly hard time," Nova answered thoughtfully to one of a series of email questions in June about her ninth studio album and a career that spans more than 20 years. "It was winter and she was stuck in the cold north with a man who was making her life miserable. I wrote it as a song of hope for her because I could see she was going to come out the other side but I knew she couldn't see that yet."

Give a listen now to "Girl on the Mountain." Then find out more about the
woman -- dubbed "one of pop's most enduring enigmas" recently by the London Evening Standard -- who wrote the song and the new album, which will be released in the U.S. on Friday (July 24) after coming out in Europe on May 29 through a successful PledgeMusic campaign.

Born Heather Allison Frith on July 6, 1967, in Bermuda, Nova has lived an exotic life since childhood, her connection to the sea fortified by the sailing adventures she took with her family.

In her formative years, Nova said Patti Smith and Kate Bush were pivotal guides because, "Both are poets. And they have always had total dedication to their individuality. That's the key, and it's so simple -- authenticity. Basically, be you. Be as 'you' as you possibly can. Unashamedly. Because ultimately that is the only thing that will set you apart and make you an artist, and no one can take that away from you."

Admittedly an "intensely private" person "even though I bare so much in my music," Nova has challenged herself through recordings since even before Glow Stars, her first full-length album, was released in 1993.

"For me, the key is to keep taking risks," she said. "I think when you stop doing that, you aren't an artist anymore. So it means pushing myself to share truth. To be raw and real every time, even when it feels unsafe or too exposed. And it means always following the voice inside, even if others say it won't work."

But every little thing, every little thing'll be good again /
Stars come out they'll light your way, you're going to be that girl on the mountain /
Every little thing, every little thing'll be good again /
Wind is strong but don't you sway, /
You're going to be that girl on the mountain top

She released an EP as Heather Frith in 1990, but took on another name -- dictionary definition: "a star showing a sudden large increase in brightness and then slowly returning to its original state over a few months" -- after an unexpected discovery.

"When I started out, I lived in Europe and all the journalists were tripping over that double 'th,' " Nova said. "I also felt I wanted to preserve my privacy by having a 'stage name' and keeping my real name private. That was before the Internet. Now you can't keep anything private. But I still like stepping in and out of my professional life."

The indefatigable indie wordsmith and Lilith Fair-haired beauty of the late 1990s was in high demand, playing major festivals in America and beyond. She also appeared on soundtracks for major U.S. releases such as the John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale romantic dramedy Serendipity (2001, with her song "Like Lovers Do" from South), and covered "We Can Work It Out" on the record for the Beatles-infused I Am Sam that starred Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer.

While remaining active with three albums in seven years after the birth of her son Sebastian in 2004, Nova's presence had diminished in the States while she scheduled tours across the pond (a series of European dates begins Oct. 21 in Zurich).

It would be nice to hear these new songs -- The Way It Feels is her first album since 2011's 300 Days at Sea -- played in intimate American settings occupied by some true-blue fans who have missed her dearly. What are the chances?

"I love playing live, and tour regularly in Europe, but around the time my son was born, my U.S. record deal came to an end, so I haven't toured the U.S. in a while," Nova said. "I'm hoping all that will change with this record, and that I'll be able to do some shows there very soon."

Showing her gratitude in the liner notes "for all the love and the fun, for being the wonderful person you are, and for allowing me the time and space to write and record," Nova obviously remains devoted to raising Sebastian.

"It's the most challenging and fulfilling thing I've ever done," she said. "It's forced me to seek out and try to live my best self every day. And the immense love I've experienced kind of cracked my heart open in the most amazing way."

Thankfully, Nova sounds passionately committed to her profession, too.

"Writing songs is something that comes from some deep source ... and as long as I remain open, they keep coming," she said. "But the recording is a different journey each time. This time I had a very strong feeling of what I wanted to do, and once you know that, things kind of fall into place to make it possible."

She called her producers Jay Clifford and Josh Kaler "amazing musicians ... who really helped bring my songs to life just as I had envisioned. It wasn't always this way.

"In the early days I was often swayed by others' visions. That's one of the good things that comes with getting older I guess -- a stronger conviction in your own vision."

You gave the little bird her wings /
That strength you called on is the reason she sings /
Now is the hardest time of all, it's gonna hurt no matter how you fall /
But you'll be flying in the spring /
And oh I know it's hard to see it now

"Thematically, this is a record about figuring out what to fight for and what to let go of," she said. "I was trying to find a way to save my failing marriage, and at the same time I was feeling the poignancy and sweetness of my son's childhood and how it's all too brief. Songs like 'The Archaeologist' and 'Lie Down in the Bed You've Made' are about trying to hold on, whereas 'Treehouse,' 'I'm Air' and 'Moon River Days' are about learning to let go."

But every little thing, every little thing'll be good again /
Stars come out they'll light your way, you're going to be that girl on the mountain /
Every little thing, every little thing'll be good again /
Wind is strong but don't you sway, /
You're going to be that girl on the mountain top

"I think this might be my best record so far," Nova initially wrote when asked to describe The Way It Feels. "Maybe for the first time I feel the sound and production is just as it should be to complement the songs; richly atmospheric, while still maintaining the organic integrity of the songs."

Looking back on a career that's far from over can be tricky, but Nova has a sense of humor when presented the chance to rewind and review what she would have done differently.

"Well, I did turn down an invitation to Michael Schumacher's go-kart-racing birthday party once because I was too shy," she said of the legendary Formula One driver from Germany. "But in all seriousness, while self-doubt and self-criticism have helped drive me creatively, they can also be the things that hold you back. I guess if I could have done something differently it would have been to say 'fuck it' a bit more often, and taken more chances. I'm there now, but it would have been nice to get here sooner!"

With songs like "Girl on the Mountain," though, Nova deserves to be applauded for taking her sweet time to reach that peak.

Publicity photo by Sacha Blackburne.