Local Music Makers
Spotlight on singer-musician and songwriter Reggie Headen
By Peggy Ratusz
Everybody falls in love with Reggie Headen
With a magnetic, approachable personality this vocal virtuoso garners friends and fans wherever he goes. He’s a beacon, he’s a mentor, he’s a student, he’s an empath, he’s vulnerable, he’s loud, he’s soft-spoken, he’s emotional and he’s controlled. And you can get all this about and from him, practically from his first hello and certainly when you first witness him in performance.
The simple fact that he is who he is, allows those who meet him, and those who are fortunate to be friends with him, to just be ourselves too. And it’s refreshing and it’s a relief! Where did he gain such charisma and learn such kindness? It’s in his DNA.
A native of North Carolina, Headen’s musical destiny started around ten years of age. His entire family at that time was involved in the church. While sitting and waiting through a rehearsal for the church’s Easter play that year (where his grandfather would play the role of Jesus), the band started to play a song that Reginald knew very well, “I am a Living Testimony.”
Upon hearing it, he began to sing along with the principles. And he just kept singing louder and louder until those in the room could not ignore him. “I just overpowered and dominated from where I was sitting.” By Easter Sunday, the elders decided to have him “open” the program with two solo songs. At 10 years of age.
Learn more about Reggie
“I knew at ten years old that singing was my future because I could feel even then that the reason I wanted to sing was because I simply could not help myself.” And he repeats that statement to me, “I simply…..COULD NOT…… help myself.”
He was given a walkman CD player for Christmas and the first album he bought and played on it ad nauseam, was Toni Braxton’s first record. “No matter where I went, I took that Walkman with me, played that CD and sang all the songs on it, at the top of my lungs.”
As we delve into inspirations beyond Toni Braxton, Reggie tells me how influential Byron Katie was to his evolution. “Her teaching and writing brought me out of the religious sink hole I found myself in.”
He tells me how in 2007 he’d come back to his hometown of Asheboro, NC from New York where he’d spent the previous 2 years completing studies at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy of NYC. Being away instigated a transformation he couldn’t deny.
“I come from a family of preachers. And everyone told me that being a preacher was what I was supposed to do too. Instead I got a wild hair and decided to leave home to attend the conservancy in New York.” His family and church friends were perplexed as to why he’d choose to pursue musical theater over the ministry, when in reality he’d been interested in the stage since before high school.
“I became a singing actor because I was insecure. The academy was like a boot camp teaching us the ins and outs of auditioning. We were expected to land auditions during the day and come to school in the evening to work out the kinks. And though it was an experience I wouldn’t trade, the dream crumbled.
So while he was trying to dive into a career in the church for the sake of his family, at the same time he was struggling with his sexuality. “I was doing my best to pray the gay away. During that summer of 2008, I did everything quote unquote, right, but by the end of the summer I’d realized I can’t change who I am.” He goes on to describe how a distinctive thought came into his mind that wouldn’t stop: ‘don’t be afraid of what you’re thinking.’
The next day he saw an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Byron Katie that moved him to the core. He immediately went out and bought Bryon Katie’s book, Loving What Is. The book “changed my life” he says with steadfast resolve.
The oldest of a slew of siblings, Reggie is blazing a trail for anyone coming up who is gay, young, black and gifted. Since moving here in 2018, he’s hit the ground running with renewed vigor and a feeling of truly coming home; not only to the mountains, and to the welcoming community of musicians, but to Jazz music. New dreams are now being met, while he’s becoming a household name in our area.
For the past year, he’s been in and out of the studio putting tracks down for a release of original material, some of the songs he’s been sitting on or working on for years. He’s fittingly calling the record “Blossomed.” With the encouragement of his friends and music partners, Jason DeCristofaro and Connor Law, the arrangements are sure to be spectacular.
“I owe it all to the Jazz jams because sitting in or being featured has allowed me to fully become myself. I feel more myself and more embraced than I have during any other point in my life. And that feels right on time. Jazz music will continue to be at the forefront of my life because it connects me to ancestors;
"I feel like it’s ancestral. It can be a challenge trying to figure out what connects me to the past, like slavery and civil rights. It’s hard to find sometimes, the things that are outside of those things. They’ll always be part of my past. But in Jazz music I find the joy of being part of Black America in art form. Jazz always asks me, ‘who are you now?’ and I find freedom in that.”
The vocal prowess, power and the raw emotion that comes from this diminutive human, is palpable. From tender nuanced notes to full growls, groans and moans, he commands our attention by the shear and unabashed righteousness of his delivery. His dedication to his dream now manifesting before our eyes and the discipline he initiates within himself, lights up his path and he’s taking it.
He’s putting himself out there in order to make a difference in people’s lives and to keep blazing that trail for those coming up behind him. He’s a preacher, just like his family always wanted him to be. Preaching, singing-style, to the choir and the choir is us. It’s the sum total of why he wakes up grateful every morning.
Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach,
song interpreter, and songwriter.
For vocal coaching email her at