“I’ve come to realize that I do this for one reason.” Aaron Howard said of his life as a touring songwriter. “I make records. I work. I get on stage, because I want to let people know they’re not alone.” Since the 2014 release of his 5th studio album, Heart on Fire, Aaron has toured extensively sharing his message of hope and connection from stages and living rooms across the US and Europe.
He was a 2014 finalist in the Kerrville New Folk Songwriting contest; and the winner of a national competition to become a “Music Groundbreaker” at HATCHfest. He performed with UK film-composer Philip Sheppard at Sundance; shared the stage with legendary Songwriter and Producer, Patrick Leonard (Madonna, Jewel, Fleetwood Mac); landed a spot on the prestigious radio show, ‘Live from the Divide: A Celebration of the American Songwriter’; a as well as opening slots for Trevor Hall, Shawn Phillips, and Timothy Schmit of the Eagles.
It’s been a long road. Aaron started on street corners and in coffee shops that didn’t pay. It was nine years before he made a living. “I’ve spent most of my musical life searching for a voice that would mean as much to the people I was trying to reach as it did to me,” Aaron said of his years of musical thrashing. “Heart on Fire is my 5th record, but I like to think of it as my first. It’s the first set of songs that is strong enough to take on the road.”
Heart on Fire has been very well received. As Greg Jones of Ear to the Ground Music said in a 2015 review: “Aaron Howard has range and depth; he shows a versatility we don’t often hear in singer songwriters. There’s no gimmick here. He just opens his pipes and lets his heart pour out in song after song.” That passion is apparent in the live shows as well. “If you haven’t seen Aaron perform, you must. His passion shines through in every note, and his songs of travel and loss and hope resonate with all of us.” ~ Music Villa.
Growing up in rural Montana, Aaron found himself in a complicated relationship with music from a very young age. His Dad played ‘60s and ‘70s folk songs from the likes of Paul Simon, Kris Kristofferson, and Bob Dylan. These iconic artists moved Aaron deeply and defined the direction of his life. He became obsessed with everything related to music, and started spending hours a day learning to play the violin. But even while music itself was the center of his life, Aaron was sheltered from most of his would-be heroes by the rules of his faith.
“I didn’t grow up with great records.” Howard said of his formative years. “I wasn’t allowed to listen to rock n’ roll.” Ironically, the absence of such music from his early life, was likely a powerful factor in the transformative effect it had on him later. “When I discovered rock ’n roll, everything changed. There was something about a three minute song that made sense of my life in a way nothing had before. It was like the world had gone from black and white to color.”
Aaron excelled as a violinist and appeared to have a real future there. He rejected the conservatory route, however, in favor of taking his first handful of songs on the road. After a lot of big dreams and empty shows, Aaron found himself in Phoenix, playing hotels and wine bars while writing songs on the side. It was an apprenticeship of sorts. He learned to be an artist during those years. He made several records that ended up being more meaningful in terms of experience than having something to say. He apprenticed in a studio. He produced a couple of records for other artists. He lived in Chicago and played on the street. He composed music for two short films and a shoe commercial. He wrote well over a hundred songs. Somewhere in all the chaos of those years, he found a sound that brought his work to life. Audiences started to respond.
It was then that Aaron had to take a leap and commit to giving his voice a real shot. He went to work with producer Chris Cunningham of veteran folk duo Storyhill, to make Heart on Fire into a record that would be worth taking to the world. He had built a loyal following over the years, and reached out to them to raise over $10,000 on kickstarter to fund the project. “It all came together in ways I could never have planned for.” Said Aaron of the process of making ‘Heart on Fire’. “It felt like magic.” As he says in the lyrics to his song ‘Leaving’: “I’ve spent my whole life walking, now I’m learning to run.”