You can't love without getting hurt. It's a conclusion that soul singer Heston has found inevitable over the past three years. His new release, Warm Human, Cold World, is a testament to that. But writing from personal experience had him a little worried about what might happen when his former flames discovered he'd been mining his real-life relationships to create such an intimate soundtrack.
"One in particular is just finding out," he says. "I think for the most part the response has been positive. Sometimes it's just hard to have something so personal become so public. But no one is naming any names."
Therefore, no tires have been slashed. Yet.
All jokes aside, Heston — who has proven himself a perceptive songwriter/producer in the eight years since he emerged from Atlanta's soul scene with his self-titled debut EP — hasn't allowed his broken heart to make him bitter. Instead of becoming cynical, he says the breakups actually made him fall deeper in love with being in love. For Heston, there would be nothing worse than closing himself off to being vulnerable with a woman again.
"You know how sometimes you can be alive, but you're not living? If you're open to love, you're open to hurt," Heston says.
Which is why he didn't go out of his way to create what he calls "pretty" love songs on Warm Human, Cold World. Armed with session musicians who accompanied him throughout the creation of the 10-track album, he explores the darker side of love with such songs as "Crazy," but still has the guts to remain hopeful on "In These Arms." Despite experiencing the pain of unrequited love, he admits he's guilty of giving it as half-assed as he's received it. At some point, Heston says, he had to grow up and admit the common denominator in his love drama was himself.
"If you're not learning then you have issues. No matter what advice you get, the most important thing is to have the spirit of discernment and choose the right people."
Surrounding himself with good people is a concept that he's actively applied to his career. A native of the Commonwealth of Dominica, he grew up in Philadelphia, where he often put a "pound of grease" in his hair in hopes of becoming the next Michael Jackson. After giving up his MJ aspirations and hopping from New York to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., he eventually landed in Atlanta in 1999. Soon after being urged by a friend to participate in an open mic at the old Club Kaya, Heston submerged himself in the city's burgeoning soul scene.
His raspy vocals and sincerity instantly set him apart. Though he admits that he was still trying to figure out who he was on the first project, a precedent had been set for the quality of his music. His second release, 2008's Storyteller, would gain more momentum, earning him a solid following, especially overseas, and a deal with World Soul Music/Dome. But when it came time to create his third album, things skidded to a halt. Money was short.
"I was frustrated a million and one times with this project," says Heston, who funded the entire recording himself.
Still, he's hopeful about this album. Due to high demand, it's already been released in the U.K., where it was No. 1 for a few weeks straight on Solar Radio and has been getting mainstream spins on BBC Radio. The album will drop May 24 in the U.S., and he's confident that the response will be similar.
In the meantime, he's hoping he can live up to the title of his groovy lead single, "Greatest Lover."
"I've found out that all love is giving," he adds. "If you know your man needs time or space, you give it. If he loves you he'll only give, he'll never take. That's what great relationships are made of — two people out-giving each other."
Consider it advice to his future suitors.
Listen: Heston - Greatest Lover