By Tracy Dietlin
There are many reasons that warrant Josh Heinz and Linda Lemke-Heinz as being a Power Couple. For starters they perform together in two of the valley’s favorite bands: Blasting Echo, where Josh, 42, is the Frontman and Linda, 46, plays keyboard and backing vocals; and 5th Town, where Linda shares Frontwoman duties with Chelsea Sugarbritches, and also plays a mean flute.
They also produce the Concert for Autism Benefit, which Josh started 10 years ago. The benefit grows every year, raising money for the Desert Autism Foundation. This charity is close to their hearts as both of them have autistic children from previous marriages. Linda’s son Christopher is 15, and Josh’s son Harrison is 17. Linda also has two daughters from a previous marriage: 18 year old Jillian and 12 year old Katy. Together they have 4 year old Jack. Aside from being in two bands together they also have day jobs; Linda, originally from Texas, teaches music and Josh, hailing from Memphis, TN, works at an Art Gallery on El Paseo.
“Linda and I met because we both have Autistic sons from previous marriages that were in school together. Linda had actually been to a few Blasting Echo shows before we officially met with a few other parents that have Autistic children. Blasting Echo at that time consisted of me, Jeff Fortson and Armando Flores. All of us have Autistic kids, so we were kind of known as ‘the Autistic father’ band in the Autism circles. We didn’t officially meet until one night at a parent’s support meeting that took place at Pump it Up. Harrison and Christopher were chasing each other around and we happened to be sitting on a bench beside each other when they came running by. Both of us were telling our boys to be careful. We had been told by their teacher that the boys had been friends in class, which is a rare thing in the Autism world. So at that moment I think we both became aware of who the other person was. We had that exchange of ‘Oh, your Harrison’s dad,’ and ‘You must be Christopher’s mom.’ In my mind I was thinking: ‘Wow! This woman’s beautiful! No way! I’ve got to get to know her!’” shared Josh with a smile.
“Funny thing,” chimes in Linda, “years before that a special education teacher who taught both of our boys at different times said that I needed to meet Josh Heinz, too!”
I asked what it’s like not only having a blended family but raising two autistic children together.
“Having a blended family has been fine for us. Linda’s daughters are really great and it is a testament to what a great mom she has been to them that they have turned out so caring for their brothers. Jack was a miracle child. Totally unexpected, but such a great blessing for us,” shared Josh.
“When our two severely autistic boys are together, it is wonderful. They seem to calm each other. Josh is an amazing father and stepfather and seeing how he is with the children makes me love him more. Jack was a complete surprise baby and has brought us even closer together. Josh is definitely the fun parent. He’s loving, energetic, funny and playful. I’m a lucky wife and mom,” boasted Linda.
I wanted to know how they deal with juggling being in two bands together.
“It’s great for a lot of reasons. We both have such a passion for making music, so we enjoy it immensely. We each get to compliment and lift up the other person. For us, making music is tremendously therapeutic. It helps take away the stress day to day life brings. We both need and want it. I think that is a special thing to share. If only one of us was playing music, the other may not understand the passion. But since we both do it, we both understand it,” shared Josh.
Linda concurs: “We love making music, songwriting, bouncing ideas off each other. It’s a necessary outlet for our busy, stress-filled lives, and the fact that we get to do that with our close friends is the icing on the cake!”
“I’ve learned a lot from him. I don’t consider myself a front person. He’s so natural, so real, so genuine. It is not an act or choreographed in any way. He’s like an open book on stage and loves connecting with the audience through his music. I still have a lot to learn from him. We make beautiful music together, literally and figuratively. It’s never about egos. We are a good team now, but not at first. Ask Josh about taking voice lessons from me,” Linda said laughing. “We are both strong people with our own ideas, but we really work well together now.”
“We both get to try and lift the other person up. In 5th Town, I just want to support her and the band to make the songs better and I think in Blasting Echo it is the same for her. There are no egos involved with it. I think in the bands, in music and in life, we collaborate great together. As far as music goes, it is a very cool, natural thing. Sometimes I might be walking around the house playing a new riff or song and she will tell me what she likes. It gives me confidence. When she introduces a new song to me, I’ll give her some feedback. But generally, I try to see where she is coming from and what she is trying to achieve. Then I just try to add to it to make the song even more exciting for her. There are always times each us may say ‘I wouldn’t do that’ or ‘I don’t like that,’ but at the end of the day we have open minds. We try it the other person’s way and then see what sounds best to the original author. Sometimes we bounce lyric ideas off each other as well. For sure, she has contributed a line or inspired me to write lyrics on several occasions. And honestly, that is not limited to just us working that way. For the most part both bands are lucky in that all the members work that way,” insists Josh.
He continues: “Linda has such music knowledge, being a piano, flute and voice teacher. So certainly from a vocal stand point, I have listened to her a lot about vocal technique, practice and good habits that help me. I will literally be singing at a show and recite little instructions she’s given me in the back of my mind.
In life I think we work incredibly well. There are always ups and downs or disagreements about how to handle this or that, but we work hard to approach those differences with understanding. The longer we’ve been together the easier I think that process has become. When you really understand and accept that your partner truly loves you, then you start to not take certain things as personal as you used to. In our crazy household – 4 kids, 1 Autistic teenager, a 4 year old and two teen age girls – taking a deep breath and approaching things calmly almost always is the best way. I think we have both gotten better about doing that.”
Putting on the Autism benefit is a lot of extra work so I wanted to know how they deal with the extra stress without wanting to pull each other’s hair out.
“She gives me the allowance to freak out for minute or two and then she gets me to calm down. The benefit is 3 or more months of lots of behind the scenes work and organization that takes up all the time that isn’t devoted to family, practice, work and playing shows, so it gets stressful. At the end of the day we just want it to be successful, so you try to see the other person’s perspective. Really, though, the benefit wouldn’t happen without all of our friends that help get gear, set it up, run the show, break it down, etc. We are truly fortunate to have such giving friends,” shared Josh.
“I stand back and let Josh do his thing and contribute where he needs me to. Next to my father, Josh is one of the hardest working men I know. He’s so organized and full of energy and deeply cares about helping others. He’s the reason the benefit has been more successful every year. I’m glad I can be a part of that and grateful that our friends believe in his vision, too,” shared Linda.
Josh says the best part of working together is when they both hear the same thing for a song. “We get giddy with excitement. With everything else, the best part is that we get to share in the journey and in the results. Doing that with the one you love is a reward in itself.” However the most challenging is part is when they hear the complete opposite things for a song. “Ultimately, whoever started the idea usually gets the last word.”
“Sometimes he gets a little down when he thinks things won’t work out the way he wants them to. That’s when I get to step in with my pompoms and say, ‘Go Josh, go!’ I’m his biggest fan, Linda said proudly.
Their two bands have also won a few awards: Blasting Echo won the CV Music Award for Best Rock Band in 2016, 5th Town won the CV Music Award’s Producer’s Pick for 2017 as well as the CV Music Showcase this year. “We are so lucky that we get to play with other people we collaborate well with: Armando Flores, Joe Wallace, Chelsea Sugarbritches, Martin Barrera, Troy Whitford, and our former bandmate Jeff Mazur. Our 10th Annual Concert for Autism was nominated for Best Charitable Event this year, too,” shared Linda.
When the Heinz’ aren’t working they enjoy getting out of the desert even if it’s just for a day trip to Idyllwild. They enjoy visiting small towns, antique shopping and traveling to her home state of Texas. “We like debating BBQ. We like grilling out ourselves and making good food that doesn’t cost us a ton of money. We like to sit back, relax and just talk and laugh. But most of all we enjoy watching Jack grow and experience things. That brings us a lot of joy,” said Josh with a big smile. “We talk about opening a BBQ restaurant with both Texas and Tennessee BBQ. We always argue about which is better. It’s Texas, just so you know,” said Linda with her famous smile.
I asked what a date night looks like for them. “Show nights are our date nights. Once Jack gets a little older it is my mission to at least do a nice ‘dinner and movie’ night once in a while. We certainly could use it,” said Josh. “Not a lot of time to go out on dates with 4 kids in the house. But it’s perfect the way it is,” added Linda.
When it comes to hobbies Josh enjoys watching movies, documentaries and basketball and tennis. Linda likes watching spooky shows with the girls, watching and learning about science stuff (she’s starting to dabble in astrophysics), playing games on her phone and wrangling lizards. (They currently have 3 small lizards.)
I asked what they feel are their partner’s best traits.
Josh: “She is a great mother. The love for her children is awesome. She also has a great bullshit meter, and as a result she is very protective of those she loves and calls friends. She also has a great deal of patience. She teaches Autistic children music and that takes a lot of patience.”
Linda: “His genuine kindness, his energy, his love for his family and friends, and his drive.”
Finally, what do they feel is the most important thing that keeps their relationship solid?
Josh: “Communication, honesty and a common desire to make the other person happy.”
Linda: “Love and a common goal. We support each other 100% in everything.”
This couple is the real deal!