Singing and playing for live public audiences has been a dream of mine since I was in grade school. I've heard it said and have stated myself that "Things happen for a reason." True or not, perhaps the story of my journey to become a self-employed professional guitar-vocalist will give you pause to think otherwise and invite me (a.k.a. hire me) to speak and perform at your next event, fundraiser, house concert, restaurant, winery, or wherever.
"In the summer of 1977,I began playing wedding ceremonies for friends from high school. Those performances led to additional bookings. For a time, I was playing two or more weddings per week, particularly in the spring and summer months. The more I played, the more "wedding gigs" I got and the more confident I became that, if and when the time came, I might be able to earn a living doing this.
High school graduation photo, 1977
In 2012, life was, shall we say, challenging. Poor financial decisions forced me to sell some personal items, including the only guitar I owned - a Martin 12 string I purchased in my early 20s for $800.00 - USED! It wasn't much good to me anyway. On two occasions, I left it in my car on hot, humid sunny days which caused it to warp. The strings were so far from the frets it was nearly impossible to play. Because I needed extra cash, I sold it for $350.00, far less than it was worth, especially for a skilled guitar craftsman who more than likely could have made it playable again.
Martin 12 string likeness
On Christmas eve, 2012, my nephew, Noah Rauch, a talented guitarist and vocalist in his own right, gifted me an Alvarez six string guitar he received in exchange for an $80.00 microphone. He said, "Uncle Chris, this is for you. No man should be without his guitar." I was reduced to tears. I began playing it in earnest. And started writing songs again. To learn more about Noah and purchase his music, click here.
My sweet nephew,
In late December, 2014 another nephew, Kevin Heider, the most accomplished and musician, guitar-vocalist, and singer-songwriter in the Heider family was a HUGE inspiration for me. Kevin is a self-taught guitarist, a gifted Christian songwriter, and earns his living doing the kinds of things I'm still dreaming of doing. He has toured professionally in the United States and overseas. Kevin taught me the basics of recording songs on my own using a program called Music Creator 5. He gifted me two condenser microphones, one for my guitar, the other for vocals. Every song on this webpage with the exception of Cocaine Crazy (Everybody Mustn't Get Stoned) and the updated and revised version of Just Passing Through are songs I recorded and mixed myself with Kevin's equipment and guidance. Without Kevin's influence, I wouldn't be writing this biography. His kindness and generosity helped transform my life.
My son, Ben Heider, somewhere in Peru!
On July 27, 2013, my son, Benjamin, arranged for me to perform at an open mic event at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. Ben was an aspiring filmmaker and photographer at the time and was working the photography pit crews at the three day event. Today, Ben is a full-time filmmaker and serves as a member of the elite staff and faculty at Noble-Greenough Academy in Dedham, MA. Since 2015 or so,Ben and some of his Boston College friends and acquaintances have participated in the Boston 48 Hour Film Project. In 2016, his team beat 72 other 48 hour project teams and won first place. In 2017, they finished 2nd. For more about my dear son Ben and the incredible work he does in the filmmaking world, click here.
Had I not accidentally discovered the location of the ferry boat that would transport me to the open mic venue at the Newport Folk Festival, I would have missed my spot in the lineup. Ben and I were on and off the phone and he helped me locate the ferry. I boarded it 20 minutes prior to "Showtime!"
The ferry to the Newport Folk Festival I almost missed!
Ben met me at the ferry crossing 10 minutes prior to my performance. I didn't even know what I was going to play. I asked him, "What do you think about 'Cocaine Crazy?' Would people react negatively to a satirical song from the perspective of a drug addict in the 1960s? "Nah," Ben quipped, "Other people have sung worse stuff. It's a great song. Go for it!"
My single, "Cocaine Crazy," available on iTunes
Once inside the open mic tent, I was surprised to see so many people in the audience. At least 200 or more. The young lady performing ahead of me was terrific and received a nice round of applause. I was thinking, "Oh boy, I would have to follow her. God help me!" From the PA, "Our next artist is Chris Heider from Dayton, Ohio. Let's give him a warm welcome!"
Me on stage at the Newport Folk Festival, 2013
I stepped out from behind the curtain, acknowledged the audience's applause, and flailed away. I was surprised by their reaction. People were cracking up. "Are they laughing at me or because they were all former drug addicts in the 1960s and could relate?" I wondered. A number of folks sitting in the back two rows stood and applauded when I finished (as they headed for the exit). Holy crap, I kidded myself, "A freaking standing ovation!!!"
I couldn't find a good photo of the audience so I chose this one
Truth be told, I got a better ovation than the young lady who preceded me. I was stoked as I packed up my guitar and headed for the exit. Ben met me behind the tent with a big smile and told me I was awesome. "The audience loved you!" As we made for the exit, a gentleman called out to me, "Have you recorded that song? I'd like to play it on my weekly radio program!" His name was Nick Noble.
Host of WICN's,"The Folk Revival" in Worcester, MA,
The business card Nick Noble gave me at the Newport Folk Festival, 2013
You can imagine how excited I was to hear a question like that. Especially from a celebrity in the music industry. Nick Noble is an outstanding folk artist himself and his love of folk music was the inspiration for his "Folk Revival" broadcasts on 90.3 WICN every Thursday evening. He rose to shake my hand and told me I did a great job and gave me his business card. I paid to have the song professionally recorded and sent him an MP3 copy.
On August 22 2013, Nick sent me an email saying he was broadcasting my song that evening. My son, Ben, who was living in LA at the time, was also listening. He recorded Nick's introductory comments and the song itself. Midway through the four hour show, Nick gave Cocaine Crazy and Chris Freeman (my stage name) the best billing of the night.
The introduction Nick Noble gave my song on "The Folk Revival" at 90.3 WICN in Worcester, MA
Chris Heider...Just Passing Through
Performing at weddings permitted me to dream of future success in the music industry. After hearing my song performed on a National Public Radio program, I started believing that if I worked hard enough I could actually make something of myself as a guitar-vocalist and singer-songwriter. While I have struggled with some issue related to my health, I'm finally starting to feel like I can get out there and make something happen. My success at the New England Folk Festival marked a turning point in my life.
I 've moved beyond dreaming the dream. If you ask me what I'm doing nowadays, you'll probably hear me say, "Oh, you know, just living the dream! Is that the freaking berries or what?!?!
The Chris Heider Band
For more information related to my story and why I've chosen to pursue a career in music, keep an eye out for my blog.