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Baltimore, Maryland, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2001 | SELF

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2001
Band Alternative Acoustic




"“Recovering journalist” Heather Aubrey Lloyd finds her true voice"

Nov. 2017: It’s the Saturday night after Thanksgiving in Ashburn, Virginia, and kids are out with their parents in the shopping center parking lot, getting horse-drawn carriage rides from Santa.

Meanwhile, Heather Aubrey Lloyd is tuning her guitar in the center of Parallel Wine and Whiskey, preparing to set the place ablaze.

“I have a hard time reducing her to a sound bite,” said a fan who would only give his name as David. “She is the type of artist who you don’t find often. So, I come to hear her play every time she is here.”

Lloyd started her set with Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in The Dark,” using a setup as basic as it gets: a microphone, amplifiers and a simple soundboard. If the DNA of Melissa Etheridge, Carly Simon, Janis Joplin, José Feliciano, Anthony Kiedis, Cass Elliot and Joni Mitchell could be blended together and injected into a sparkplug with curly black locks, you might come up with something like Lloyd strapped in behind a microphone.

Lloyd is not a newcomer to the world of music. She co-fronted Baltimore’s ilyAIMY (i love you And I Miss You) for 15 years. According to her website, they played anywhere from bars to bait shops to clothing-optional resorts. After a solo stint backing Dar Williams, Lloyd started work on a solo album that was released earlier this year.

“I’m in the midst of an existential crisis about music a little bit because the industry has changed,” said Lloyd during a set break. “I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make a living in this day and age of music. There was a time that you could make a living with CD sales, but now things have gone fully digital. So, I am going to have to explore Patreon and other platforms to continue to be a working musician.”

The restaurant has filled up with the late-dinner regulars who have come to enjoy the live music. Like David, many have come just to see Lloyd.

“I used to work here for four years so I used to see Heather all the time,” said Nick Bishop of Ashburn. “Not only do I love her music, but we share a common love of gin. Her music is the best though. That’s why I’m here.”

Lloyd refers to herself as a recovering journalist. She majored in the subject at the University of Maryland, graduating in May 2002. The previous year, she struck up a friendship with a group of musicians she ran into at a cafe near campus, which evolved into a professional collaboration. She taught herself percussion and guitar, and started to write lyrics. Fifteen years later, about half of her sets are her own songs.

“I was a choir nerd when I was young. I did a lot of singing, a lot,” said Lloyd. “So, even though I paused to be a journalist, I was always a performer.”

While she was at Maryland, Lloyd worked as an administrative beat reporter and summer news editor at The Diamondback. She worked for The Baltimore Sun as a reporter for a summer following graduation and was published 19 times.

“There are some things that never leave you. I remember that when I first started songwriting very avidly, I had a really hard time writing something that was absolutely explicitly true. It took time to break myself of that and express myself poetically,” said Lloyd. “I find myself fact-checking my songs.

“I recently wrote a song about (a) wall with graffiti on it in Aleppo from an image that was circulating the internet. And, I wrote a very clichéd line that alluded to the fact that they never see snow there. But, then, the journalist in me had to fact-check to see if it ever snowed there. And, of course, it does. My education paid off. Journalists make good songwriters.”

With that, Lloyd released her infectious, joyous laugh. It was almost time for her to start her second set.

The music business is constantly changing and the changes are coming faster than ever before, said Lloyd. Nevertheless, she said her future looks bright.

“I am looking forward to recording more original music and diversifying my offerings,” said Lloyd. “I wrote a poetry book a few years ago, and I am going to digitize it. I am also going to invest in more merchandising. These are the things you have to do in order to stay relevant and viable in the business. But, the music is always first.” - The Montgomery Caller

"Quick Q & A With Heather Aubrey Lloyd"

her singing is, indeed commanding. However, Heather’s talent goes beyond her vocals. She’s an incredibly gifted percussionist and rhythmic guitarist. Her songs are inventive and very clever. Her stage presence is warm and engaging. Heather came into my orbit when I first witnessed ilyAIMY (I love you And I Miss You) at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. They were a breath of fresh air and raised the proverbial roof at the festival, bringing a whole new era of folk music to the fans.

To learn more about Heather Aubrey Lloyd, check out her website.

For a peek at Heather as singer-songwriter-guitarist, here’s a video of her singing “To The Girl Who Shared the Siege with Me.”

For a peek at Heather as singer-songwriter-percussionist, here’s a video of her singing “Can You Love a Girl (Gone So Long).” Watch John Gorka and Cheryl Wheeler enjoying her performance at the Lounge Stage at Falcon Ridge.

Heather Aubrey Lloyd is playing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, December 8, 2017.

Your bio states that you’ve had a wide range of experience revolving around the written or spoken word. Did you always have a love for the English language? Did you always lean toward storytelling — whether as a reporter or a poet — or songwriter?

I am obsessed with stories. I always thought of myself as kind of odd, and I consumed stories to show me all the simple things about being alive I didn’t seem to understand (rather than reveal that by actually asking someone to explain). In my formative years, this took the form of fairy tales (I have a massive collection). In high school and college, it turned to journalism and a focus on non-fiction. What did the experience of others have that might illuminate my understanding of being alive? I worked briefly for The Baltimore Sun and did some freelance work. The hardest thing about becoming a songwriter was shedding the most important rule of my journalism education: Don’t fill in the gaps with what you don’t know. It took me a long time to break the habit that everything had to be completely true, well-sourced or witnessed directly be me. Some of my earliest songs were drawn from news stories I heard. As a substitute teacher, I borrowed stories from my students. I started keeping a notebook, curating the best eavesdropped, unconsciously brilliant lines I’d overheard in public. A lot of them found their ways into my songs. And when I’d get burned out on songwriting, I’d head into Baltimore City and glory in the slam poetry scene, which brought a lot of rhythm and slant rhyme into my writing. I love it all.

When did music first start to grab you? Did guitar or percussion (or something else) come first?

Music predates memory for me. I grew up singing to the radio, and voice was the first instrument. Mimicry is where I started, like most. Could I sing as high as Mariah Carey? Could I match all the improvisations of En Vogue? I was in every choir my high school had. I picked up a guitar for the first time at 17, as a vehicle to accompany the voice. I learned Indigo Girls songs my father introduced me to. I took a huge leap forward four years later when I met Rob Hinkal, my bandmate in ilyAIMY. He expanded my understanding of the instrument by leaps and bounds, and opened the floodgates of my songwriting. It was necessity that brought me to percussion, which has become my soul instrument. We were playing a lot of bars starting out, and two acoustic guitars weren’t cutting it. We needed to rise above the noise and grab attention. We had a hand percussionist (Rowan Corbett, who is also a Carolina Chocolate Drop) in our band at home, but not on the road. I learned from him about a decade ago.

Have you been inspired by any musicians in terms of music and advice that they may have provided you with?

The first personal connection with a musician that made a defining impact on me obviously was my bandmate, Rob. He exposed me to such a flood of new music and techniques as I started with ilyAIMY. He also brought me to my next great influence: Brian Gundersdorf from We’re About 9. My bandmate, Rob, and Brian had come up in the same open mic scene in Baltimore as all the bands were forming. Brian’s writing was unlike anything I had ever heard, and the academic in me studied his songs like sacred texts. I decided there was a certain subversive quality to his folk that I liked and wanted to emulate in my own way. I attended one of his songwriting workshops, and I sought him out for advice as we first started touring.

You’ve toured as Dar William’s percussionist. Did that give you insight into the folk world in a way that you hadn’t really observed before?

The tour I did with Dar is an insane story: I played a disaster gig in Baltimore, where half the other band wound up broken down on the highway hundreds of miles away …. everything that could go wrong, ya know? We cobbled together a show. A couple months later, I get a phone call: A really good friend of Dar’s was in attendance that night, and thought of me when Dar said she needed a singing hand percussionist ASAP. Dar’s percussionist had contracted a debilitating version of Lyme Disease, and she needed someone immediately for a month. Management called and asked if I could be in Manhattan the next day for an audition. I went, figuring this would be a cute story I told some day of how I auditioned for Dar Williams that one time. We hit it off, and before long she was saying “when we” instead of “if we.” They overnighted me live recordings of the set, and I met the tour in Boulder two days later. No rehearsal. I met the rest of the band for the first time at soundcheck. It was a beautiful 26 days. She talked about Joan Baez taking her out when she was starting. I watched her deal with people and fame, and managing the expectations of fans. She does it with incredible grace, which was something I kept in mind after. Shawn Mullins was the co-bill on that tour, and on the tour bus with us. I remembered thinking of him as the one song he’d had on the radio. As a live performer, he blew me away. It was a good reminder: Success is incredibly relative.

You’ve been a member of ilyAIMY for many years. How would you compare your contributions to that group to your solo projects?

ilyAIMY was a great education for me. When I joined, I had written almost no songs. I had limited instrument and composition skills. I had never played with a band. I’d barely recorded in a studio. So, it got the gears turning for me. Rob and I don’t write together, but add to each other’s work after it’s considered done. For his songs, I add harmony and try to complement his very percussive style with slightly more sparse work on my percussion. That side of me has always been more rocking, including the songs I wrote for that project. I wanted a chance to play things that were a little more nuanced and sparse, maybe a little more folky and narrative. Tell the story not just with the words, but with the music. Serve the song instead of trying to find a part for every member of an existing band. So, I put out A Message in the Mess, finally, this year.

Tell us about your most recent album. A Message in the Mess. It’s an awesome recording that highlights so many of your talents. How did you come to record it with The Novelists?

I am incredibly proud of my solo CD. I went all the way to Reno to record it because of a friend, Justin McMahon, and how much I loved his CDs. The CDs were backed by a local band there, The Novelists. Joel Ackerson (who actually lived for a while in the Northeast and knew all the people I did!) pushed me vocally into neglected ranges and helped me arrange the songs and just go for it with ideas I worried were a little out there: using actual bubble wrap as percussion and a kazoo orchestra, for example. He also helped me unify the songs, which are a bit schizophrenic as a collection, hence “A Message in the Mess.” They were all the thoughts and stories I was collecting while touring the country with ilyAIMY … the ones I didn’t think fit in with the band. The time a girl gave me a piece of her tooth. The time I lost my voice and started thinking about all the ways nature’s singers express themselves without sound. My love of found objects. And a kind of aspirational recovery from a world-ending breakup. A lot of the songs were a kind of “fake it ’til you make it” of healing. I sang them before I had achieved them … before I totally believed them. They were the message in the mess: a collection of a little weird and little broken beautiful things that had a right to exist. “Good Heart,” which is undoubtedly the single, was actually written well into the recording process, having been inspired to find this new voice and this aspiration toward healing.

How would you describe your music in one sentence?

What happens when a weird kid finds her voice, trades her fairytales for news stories for songs, and completely sings her soul out to the listener (while sometimes banging on stuff). - Everything Sundry

"WPSU Radio Show (Jan. 2016)"

"Chemistry among the three is on display vocally, instrumentally and with their shared sense of humor. Lloyd has a commanding voice that does justice to her substantial songwriting skills, and Hinkal shines .... The warmth and spontaneity of a live concert is seldom fully captured, but in this recording from the Center for Well-Being in Lemont, Pa, you might feel like you're right there." - The Folk Show Road Show

"ilyAIMY at MusikFest"

Lloyd's voice has a powerful emotional and technical range, using everything from a delicate whisper to a bluesy growl to breathe life into the folk narratives ... As first-time listener Meg Lemieur of Philadelphia told me: "She's got some voice on her!"

And then there's Hinkal, whose playing technique is ... something like a cross between finger-picking and slap-bass — on speed ... And that's just his right hand! With his left, he usually doesn't merely hold down strings to form chords, but instead pounds his fingers into the fretboard in what looks like a madcap sequence of what guitarists call hammer-ons. - Michael Duck, The Morning Call

"A Welcome Jolt"

“A welcome jolt in a stream of otherwise sedate coffeehouse folkies.” - W. David Work, The Rocky Mountain Bullhorn

"Fifth Circle Review"

"An acoustic attack, an explosion of percussion, joined with powerful, haunting vocals ... Live, Lloyd pounded on the djembe, belted out songs ... All this while seated with a bad leg (she came in on crutches). I can't imagine how dynamic she is when her mobility is not limited.
Fifth Circle does a great job of capturing ilyAIMY's live energy. Any band with a signature sound flirts with the danger of all of their songs sounding the same ... Whether it was a vocal harmony, a surprising electric guitar or violin, ilyAIMY shows great depth." - exurbanexile

"Churning and Percussive"

"A churning, percussive acoustic guitar attack that flows, ebbs and
builds back on itself. The loose-limbed song structures have a
definitive jam band feel ... Versatile sonics, nice boy/girl harmonies
and fleshed-out arrangements make ilyaimy (I love you and I miss you) a surprising treat." - CP, Independent Weekly (Durham, NC)

"What Emo Wishes it Could Be"

"ilyAIMY are insanely good ... Instead of the usual fingerpicking or soft-strumming you'd expect from a folky, acoustic band, guitarist Rob Hinkal seems like he's out to destroy his guitar ... It's the sound of someone about to break down in tears or start a fight, just before it happens ... there's definitely a lovesong in there somewhere, but hidden under layers of insecurity, fear and anger ... It's everything emo wishes it could be, managing to be far more powerful, unsettling, emotional and brilliant than any of the whiney angst demonstrated by those bands." - "Drove Through Ghosts to Get Here," online blog

"DC Show Review"

"[They] don't look like an obvious duo. She … is a pint-sized powerhouse of a singer ... [He] looks more the traditional folk singer, with intense expression ... But when they play together their fingers move so fast that, like hummingbird wings, they blur." - Laura Boswell, Washington Times

"Charm City Love for ilyAIMY"

“A bone-rattling acoustic act... with driving lyrical force, then male/female harmonies that lock in, lift, drop and pull ... And then they slow it down and rip you open.” - Jake Stephens, OnTap Magazine

"Fifth Circle Review"

Thriving in the Baltimore environs, ilyAIMY (i love you And I Miss You) not only have a sound that churns the obvious influences (DiFranco and grunge) into a acoustically roiling, combustible attack on the usual singer/songwriter fare ... With their vocals and guitars locked into the same inspiration, Hinkal and Lloyd give the band its focus: well crafted, thoughtful songs (In The Water, Valeri, Will). Kellogg's stately and intuitive piano give Illinois is Overflowing and Pocketing their haunted elegance ... The landscape created allows a hair-trigger vocal/lyrical integrity that you'll only hear here. - Folk And Acoustic Music Exchange

"It's an ilyAIMY party."

"What both of these highly talented folks bring to music is passion and innovative guitar playing. To categorize them is useless. Let me put it this way: If you were to buy a surprise bag, filled with music that encompassed mixed genres, ilyAIMY would be in it ... Yet, there is a subtlety about their music that counteracts the rushed, fast-paced timing and lyrics of their songs." - Shea Carver, Encore Magazine

"Charm City Radio"

"Sometimes an artist just needs to stretch her wings [and 'A Message in the Mess'] is so eclectic ... designed to showcase Lloyd's vocals, which remind you of Natalie Merchant in [her] prime. Seriously, 'The Animal Crackers Song' is freaking magical (are those kazoos and xylophones with a brass section?!?). The lyrics are delightful, and it will make you feel great - Put it on repeat." - Charm City Radio

"FreshGrass Festival 2018 New Discoveries"

"An immensely powerful, soulful voice that refuses to just be background music. She started her set off playing a cajon and singing, and after that she went to her guitar ... not to be missed." - If It's Too Loud

"FreshGrass Festival Review (Sept. 2018)"

"I ... was fully sucked into her performance. She has an immensely powerful, soulful voice that refuses to just be background music. She started her set off playing a cajon and singing, and after that she went to her guitar ... She is one not to be missed." - If It's Too Loud

"Review: ilyAIMY at SkyStage"

July 2019: This band is extremely versatile, incredibly skilled ... Didgeridoo, tribal drumming (hand drums and cymbals) ... lots of dynamics within a style that’s very much their own. Reflecting influences from indigenous tunes along with dark and edgy folk numbers, the band ultimately provides the most interesting in-your-face blend of rock...

... Another aspect that can’t be overlooked is the group’s complex and intriguing song topics. The most touching and emotionally raw track came from the female singer who presented a tale of depression about finding ways to process and overcome your own demons. A young couple danced passionately outside of Sky Stage to the song as they locked eyes and embraced the beautiful night and wonderful music under the stars. - Frederick News Post


A Message in the Mess - Heather Aubrey Lloyd solo - Feb. 2017

Cicada - ilyAIMY April 2017 (the band's 8th disc together)

Another Life/Another Live - ilyAIMY 2013

Samples - Heather Lloyd 2010




For two decades as ilyAIMY (i love you And I Miss You), Rob Hinkal and Heather Aubrey Lloyd have played everything from bait shops to biker weeks to clothing-optional resorts nationwide. They engage audiences with humor and award-winning narrative songs that pair a Janis-meets-Joni vocalist with percussive, metal-meets-clawhammer acoustic guitar. Their infectious energy and rapid-fire lyricism is softened with cello and lush harmony, making ilyAIMY "a welcome jolt in folk" and "combustible attack on the usual singer/songwriter fare." Their energetic brand of new folk has earned recognition from Kerrville NewFolk, formal showcases at the National Association for Campus Activities, the Northeast and Southeast Regional Folk Alliances and two Most-Wanted wins at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. They are repeat Washington Area Music Association Winners for Best Contemporary Folk Group.
   The last few years have been ilyAIMY's most exciting. Heather returned from backing Dar Williams' Promised Land Tour. Rowan Corbett split his time with The Carolina Chocolate Drops and toured extensively with Rhiannon Giddens. Heather released her CD, "A Message in the Mess," leading to songwriting honors from Telluride Troubadour, No Depression Magazine, the National Women's Music Festival, and culminating with the $10,000 Grand Prize Bernard Ebb Songwriting Award win. Pivoting with the pandemic, ilyAIMY rallied their community around virtual open mic nights and more than 100 livestreamed Wednesday-night concerts. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, band members used their technical prowess to keep folk series like WFUV's On Your Radar, the Institute of Musical Traditions, and FOCUS Music alive by managing those organizations' virtual shows throughout the last two years. 

   Among fans, Pat Wictor of folk supergroup Brother Sun:

"Voices this rich and emotionally hard-hitting - equal parts velvet darkness, barely contained heartbreak, and hard-won, unstoppable joy - don't come around often. Sing me the phone book - I'll ask for an encore."


2021 - Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Formal Showcase (Heather)

2020 - Silver, Adult Contemporary, "If We Come Too Late" Mid-Atlantic Song Contest

2019 - Bernard Ebb Songwriting Award Grand Prize Winner

2018 - FreshGrass/ No Depression Songwriter Award Finalist

         - National Women's Music Festival Emerging Artist

         - Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Most Wanted Artist

2017 - Telluride Troubadour (Top 4)

           Rocky Mountain Folks Fest Honorable Mention

           Mid-Atlantic Song Contest Director's Award Album of the Year

2015 AND 2016 - Best Contemporary Folk Group, Washington Area Music Association

2012 - Falcon Ridge Folk Festival Most-Wanted Artist (ilyAIMY)
         - Formal Showcase, NERFA (ilyAIMY)
2011 - Falcon Ridge Folk Fest Emerging Artist (ilyAIMY)
         - NERFA Folk DJ Showcase Artist (ilyAIMY)
         - NACA Mid-Atlantic Showcase Artist (ilyAIMY)
2010 - Lilith Fair DC Talent Search Finalist
2007 - Finalist Eddie's Attic Shootout (GA) (ilyAIMY)
Older  - Kerrville New Folk Finalist (Rob)        
  - Finalist Eddie's Attic Acoustic Shootout (GA) (ilyAIMY)
  - Semi-finalist Mountain Stage Newsong (WV) (ilyAIMY)

Band Members