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Cristina Espinosa of The Heated/ Image: Jenny Rinzler

Cristina Espinosa of The Heated/ Image: Jenny Rinzler

In the post Lilith Fair era, discovering singer/songwriting women who actually rock, and aren't just another contrived  overly quirky pop-tart, can be difficult. So when we happened on The Heated, we were intrigued. Can this be a woman who actually plays her own instruments (several), writes her own songs, and is completely free of cutesy quirks and gimmicks?  We sat down with front woman Cristina Espinosa to find out more.

SW: When did you first get into making music and what made you pick up a guitar for the first time?

CE: I have three siblings and as kids, we used to play in this room full of instruments my dad had set up, listening to the radio and playing along with what we had: drums, vibraphone, bass, guitar. We made all kinds of noise. My whole family is very musical. Everyone plays at least one instrument. Most of us play more than one and we can all carry a tune.

At ten years old, my hands were too small for a full-sized guitar so I had to compromise on something a bit smaller but with a similar string set-up. Ukulele was my gateway to guitar. The first songs I ever wrote were on the ukulele. These songs were really dark, probably some of the darkest songs ever written on the ukulele. At around age twelve, I graduated to guitar and started taking lessons.

SW: What other instruments do you play?

CE: The three that I feel I can play strongly are guitar, bass and drums. All percussion, really. I took piano lessons but don’t play much at all. There was also an ill-fated attempt to play the violin. That did not turn out to be my instrument. Oh, and let’s not forget, I can play the ukulele.

My musical history involves hardcore marching band geekdom. I was in the drumline, the orchestra and the jazz band. My guitar solo on Stairway To Heaven in the jazz band blew the cafeteria away. In my senior year, I was co-drum captain so, you know, I was awesome amongst my fellow geeks. Queen of the nerds.

Image: Jenny Rinzler

Image: Jenny Rinzler

SW: Your 12 Songs Project sees you releasing one song per month in 2010, how did you come up with the idea to do a significant release in this way?

CE: The 12 Songs Project really came about because I wanted to do something to connect with people more frequently and to always be releasing music. I have a full time job and another small screen-printing business on the side on etsy and doing one song per month fits my schedule. What I really love about it is that it gives me a chance to engage people month after month with free music. As an independent artist, it’s tough to find both the means and time to do that and I think the 12 Songs Project is an excellent way to stay connected with people.

SW: Is there an over-arching musical theme for the project that will unfold with each release?

CE: So far, I’ve definitely noticed that I mention cars in nearly every song. There’s this paradox with the automobile where it gives you a lot personal freedom but it can trap you too whether it’s with car payments or with how you act inside one. I’m a little obsessed with the way that people behave once they’re behind the wheel. People become so short-sighted and so easily enraged. I’m fascinated with the way that we all change, in an instant, given the right set of circumstances.

That’s certainly explored in these songs. Cars as a metaphor for the circumstances of life.

SW: Do you plan on releasing 12 songs in it's entirety at some point?

CE: Definitely. I’d love to re-package, re-title and re-sequence all twelve songs with a whole slew of artwork. Whether I do this myself or with a label remains to be seen. Once the year is done, I will re-release the lot of them as a full album.

SW: What else can we expect from The Heated in 2010?

CE: Shows! Dang it, I want to play a ton of shows behind the 12 Songs Project. I have plans to completely conquer the West Coast for the rest of this year. I’ve got some local, San Francisco shows booked, an Olympia date so it’s a slow conquering at this point but hey, I’ve got all year. Also, I’d love to get a few more videos out there.

The 12 Songs Project can be found on Bandcamp or via The Heated online. You can also keep up to date with The Heated's latest news via TwitterFacebook, or Myspace.

For a sampling of  The Heated's music check out the video below.