Steven Heighton releases debut album 'The Devil's Share'

The acclaimed author and poet discusses the creative challenges of songwriting.

Music is Heighton's current creative pursuit.
Credit: 
Supplied by Steven Heighton

Steven Heighton, Queen’s MA ’86 and accomplished author, had no interest in performing his own songs until the owner of Wolfe Island Records heard him play.

Heighton’s latest work, The Devil’s Share, is a delightful change of pace—a full-length studio album that recalls the style of greatsinger-songwriters like Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen.

While Heighton is quite acquainted with doing public book readings, he told The Journal that taking his songs to the stage will be a different beast.

“I’ve played guitar in front of people at parties and I used to busk and played a few small gigs, but this’ll be a new thing,” he said.

Heighton doubled-down on writing when he graduated from Queen’s with a Masters in English, allowing his passion for music to fall by the wayside.

In dusting off his guitar, he discovered that his inner songwriter never truly left.

With his debut album, Heighton is opening a new creative chapter in his life—one that he finds deeply rewarding because it’s daunting.

“It’ll be scary the first time, which is a good thing. I believe as a creative person you have to walk in the direction of your fears.”

Wolfe Island Records originally planned a fall 2021 tour that would’ve taken Heighton across Canada and parts of Europe. 

Even if the pandemic allows him to play in Canada this fall, The Devil’s Share won’t be performed abroad until 2022.

Heighton’s music career has been gestating for a while, dating back to his first gigs at The Queen’s Pub during his time at Queen’s from 1981-86.

Despite that, this album likely wouldn’t have happened without an annual hockey tournament on Wolfe Island called the Lake Ontario Cup. Heighton organized a team of writers to take on some of Kingston’s musicians. At the
after-party, he met Chris Brown of Wolfe Island Records.

In the years that followed, Heighton’s musical inclinations rose to a fever pitch.

“I finally decided about a year and a half ago, I have some new songs,” he said. “Songs are coming, they’re spilling out of me one after the other as if they’ve been there for years just waiting to emerge. I’ve got to do something with it. It’s now or never.”

Fueled by this urge to share his music, Heighton called Brown and played him some songs that now have a home on The Devil’s Share. While Heighton initially wanted to turn his songs over to more experienced guitarists and singers, Brown ultimately convinced him that only their creator could do them justice.

The results speak for themselves. The Devil’s Share is a terrific blend of folk, rock, and blues built on the foundation of Heighton’s tender-yet- searing poetry.

Finishing the album proved to be a harder challenge than writing one of his many books.

“The album was a bigger thing,” Heighton said. “It’s always an ordeal to get a book done and you always feel relief when you hold the book.”

“It always feels nice—never as good as the first time. You know, in 1989 when I held [my] first book in my hands, that was a very special thing. But finishing this album was a bigger thing for sure because there was hardly ever a moment during the whole process that I didn’t think the whole thing was going to fall apart.”

Where his vast experience with writing poetry and prose has given him a sense of security, this new musical endeavour required Heighton to completely leave his comfort zone.

“This is something I basically put off for most of my life. I wanted to do this when I was 18, 19, 20 years-old […] There was a greater sense of relief when finishing it.”

The Devil’s Share has allowed Heighton to fall in love with songwriting.  He promised more records are to come.

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