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Know Your Neighbor: Heather Linn Dunlap and her musical journey

November 16, 2021 at 10:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Brian Jones

NAME: Heather Linn Dunlap

NEIGHBORHOOD: Bloomburg, Texas

FAMILY: Daughter, Kalea; son-in-law Jacob; and granddaughter Rubeigh Linn

OCCUPATION: Singer/songwriter/entertainer; server at On the Border; administrative assistant for a homecare company

FAVORITE FOOD: My grandmother's cooking (Which I miss so much.)

FAVORITE COLOR: Blue

FAVORITE HOLIDAY: Thanksgiving/Christmas

FAVORITE HOBBY:

FAVORITE AUTHOR:

COLLECTIONS: I love to paint, when I actually have time.

FAVORITE TV SHOW: Coach

FAVORITE MOVIE: P.S. I Love You

FAVORITE QUOTE: "Little girls with dreams, become women with a vision." -- UNKOWN

"Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you're proud to live." -- Anne Sweeney

Heather Linn Dunlap grew up living the small-town life with big dreams. She started singing when she was young and came into her own as a preteen.

She would sing in front of whoever would listen to her. As a child, she would go to her aunt and uncle's house to visit.

"I would just get in front of the couch and put on a show. My uncle nicknamed me 'Miss Parsons' instead of Dolly Parton," Heather Linn laughed. "He still calls me Miss Parsons."

She started getting voice lessons at 12 years old and performed on stage for the first time at the Community Center in Huffines, Texas. There were about 15 people in the audience that day, but it was a day she would never forget.

Her mom, Sheila, started booking her in county fairs and festivals.

"I sang in the Ashdown Jamboree, Texarkana Opry, and all those little festivals," Heather Linn said. "My mom was my biggest fan. No matter what it was, she was always supportive."

At 14 years old and a freshman at Bloomburg High School, she joined a band. She was enrolled in Future Farmers of America at her high school. The program is well known for its education and preparation for farming and agricultural career paths. However, each chapter dictates the classes offered within their region/school.

Heather Linn was a part of the talent portion of this organization where she and other students formed a band named Deuces Wild. They performed all over through the FFA program and eventually went to state.

"We thought we were big stuff! We traveled and even played at El Dorado Music festival. That is when the performing side of me really came out," she said. "I remember one time we performed, and I was standing on stage in front of a huge screen. Then a man gave me a cordless microphone and I was like 'I'm going in the audience.' Her singer counterpart would not leave the stage during the performance, but she had left her standing onstage and found a happy place singing in that audience. "I just knew that this is what I love to do."

After she graduated high school, she married her high school sweetheart and started a family. At 19 years old she had a daughter and named her Kalea. She decided it was time to put away the microphone and focus on her family.

She stopped singing publicly for a few years. One day while she and her family were at church, she decided to sing for her congregation.

"I learned that my voice had changed after having my daughter. I could hit some notes that I didn't hit before," she said.

Eventually her Sunday singing turned into 'Gospel Trio' formed by herself and two other church members. They began traveling to churches in the Four States Area and continued this for 11 years. Heather Linn sang with this group throughout her 20s.

During this time Heather began putting on weight and struggling with depression. She felt a great distance between herself and the world around her. One day, after a trip to Dallas, she realized that she needed to make a change.

"We had traveled to Dallas to see the Cowboys stadium be imploded, and I sat in those stadium seats. I was in so much pain by the time we left. I had bruises for weeks and I just hurt so much," she said.

She decided it was time to get her life back. She began losing weight on her own for about year but ultimately decided to get gastric banding surgery, or lap band.

In 2013, Heather returned to music. She was healed from her surgery, her confidence was greater and she was ready to get back to what she loved to do. She began singing back-up in a band named "Dixie Bent."

She and her husband had noticed some changes in each other that no longer aligned with their future and decided to get a divorce. Her daughter was a teenager at this time, and she had become a single mother.

"She was such a responsible teenager," Heather Linn said. "She has always been supportive. I told her that if she wanted me to quit then I would, and she has always said to keep going. I am so proud of her."

In 2016 she met someone who she thought was exactly what she needed. She was married for four years before she realized that she was wrong. "I just couldn't quit music," Heather Linn said. "I made that decision, and no one was going to take that away from me."

Heather decided that she wanted to go solo and sing at the front of the stage. "Dixie Bent will always be my family, but I was ready to go solo."

So, 'Heather Linn' made her debut. She knew she would need someone to play the guitar for her while she sang. "I have tried to play instruments before but when I start singing, my hands stop working," she said. "The guys have made fun of me over the years because they would hand me a tambourine and I would be good. But, when it was time to sing, I stopped playing."

She had several musicians play for her, but eventually found herself joining a band based out of Shreveport.

"They were looking for a singer, and I was looking for a band," she said. The group became 'Heather Linn and the Deacons.' Although the musicians have changed over the years, the name has stayed the same. "If I could go back, I would not put my name in front of it. They are so much of what we do," she said.

Heather Linn and the Deacons are set to record their first album in Fort Worth Texas this fall. This album will feature songs written by the band members, including Jace Bryant who will sing lead on the songs he has written.

Heather Linn knows that it takes a great deal of hard work and dedication to continue in this field. She has worked several jobs over the years so that she can continue to perform on the weekends and save money towards their first album -- which is no small expense.

Heather Linn and the Deacons have quite a task on their hands, but they won't let anything stop them from moving forward.

"It is not like it used to be. You can't just walk into a radio station, play your music and get signed," she said. "It takes a lot of hard work and money."

Heather continues to work multiple jobs during the week so that she can perform on the weekends with the band, in whole or part. She believes that if you can make a name for yourself independently, Nashville will come calling. So, she and her band spend their spare time creating their brand and performing as often as possible.

In 2020, Heather Linn became a grandmother to Rubeigh Linn Alexander.

"I have never known a love like this. She is truly the love of my life," she said.

Heather continues to push all the boundaries of how life is supposed to be lived. She loves fiercely and works hard so that one day she can look back and know that she gave it her all. Singing and performing is not her job or way of life. It is who she is.

"If you are a musician," she said, "there is no drug or feeling in the world that can give you the feeling of performing."

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