Spencer strikes gold with "Matches and Valentines"

Her local rock icon father died when she was only nine years old. Her grandma bought her a guitar at a flea market. She has lived and traveled all over the country. All of this said, it seems inevitable that Heidi Spencer became an artist, specifically, a musician.

Recently, the quirky and likable Spencer, 28, released her first album, "Matches and Valentines," a collection of acoustic-based songs that are as lovely as the title. Ranging in mood from the beautiful, melancholy "Daydreams" to the upbeat "Trouble," Spencer's phenomenal voice is the one constant, providing a layer of soulful emotion, both dark and light.

Her lyrics, like her voice, has an incredible range, from tradition love pinings like, "I remember the love in the cold north night/I remember the love in the motel light," to the offbeat and humorous "I stayed up all night/avoiding TV/I tried out/mental telepathy."

Spencer's words also remind us that we are continually coming of age. She talks about wanting to feel needed, reckoning with patience and wishing dreams could be exchanged for reality.

Recently, we interviewed Milwaukee's Heidi Spencer and learned some pretty interesting insights about both her professional and private life.

OMC: Did you grow up in Milwaukee?

HS: Yes. I was born and raised in Milwaukee. I lived on Cramer Street until I was nine in an East Side flat with my mom and sister, sometimes my dad. My dad had an apartment on State Street. I remember books. A lot of dusty books. Then we moved to Shorewood in March of 1983, a couple of months later my dad died in July; three days after my 9th birthday. But I lived in Shorewood through high school.

OMC: Wasn't your dad a famous local musician?

HS: My dad, (the late) Jim Spencer, had several albums. People from Milwaukee tell me more about him than I actually know, or remember. I have a huge amount of articles about him from after he died, some say he was legendary in the Milwaukee scene, but the people I meet who knew him just stress that he was so good of a man, creative and crazy. And for me, and my sister's sake, it simply sucks that he died. No father figure, no musical mentor in our adult lives.

OMC: Any other musicians in your family?

HS: My sister. And family has Kentucky roots, which influenced us musically. My dad's mom and her brother taught my dad guitar, giving him some country blues in his music, giving me whatever that odd twang is I sometimes have.

OMC: So were you into music as a child?

HS: I twiddled with my dad's guitar young, until he died and it got put away, so to speak. I always sang, but found his guitar again when I was 17 I think, and my grandma bought me and my sister our first shared guitar at a flea market when I was 18.

OMC: Who inspired you when you first started playing guitar?

HS: As a child, I loved, loved, loved Dolly. When I was 18, it was Edie Brickell and Joni Mitchell. Also, I loved Cyndi Lauper.

OMC: Who are your musical inspirations today?

HS: Still Dolly, Joni Mitchell, Edie Brickell, Tom Petty, Radiohead, Cat Power, Sinead O'Conner, Will Oldham, my sister, my dad's records, a lot of people. I like raw musicians, who give emotions. And that's a lot of people. Anybody who's really giving something.

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