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Grand Forks man records first album since 2001

DuWayne Heyd, a country music singer, performs a song with his wife and singing partner Rhonda at their home in Grand Forks. After releasing a few hit songs in the late 90's, Heyd took a break from recording, but recently released a new album with Rhonda. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald2 / 4
DuWayne Heyd, a country music singer, stands in the back yard of his home in Grand Forks. After releasing a few hit songs in the late 90's, Heyd took a break from recording, but recently released a new album with his wife Rhonda. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald3 / 4
DuWayne Heyd, a country music singer, and his wife Rhonda stand in the back yard of their home in Grand Forks. After releasing a few hit songs in the late 90's, Heyd took a break from recording, but recently released a new album with Rhonda. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

When DuWayne Heyd met Rhonda, the spark came back.

After more than 10 years away from the music business, he didn’t think he would ever perform or record music again.

But when he met Rhonda, that itch to make music came back. He wanted to make her dream of recording an album, and visiting Nashville, come true.

The now married pair recently released a new country album, titled “I Love You Because.” The album is DuWayne’s first since 2001.

The 13-track album is also Heyd’s first collaboration project, with Rhonda singing with him on the album and co-writing some of the songs.

“This time it’s a little more exciting because I have a partner, so to speak,” he said. “And it’s probably more fun for the listener too, because they can listen to a male voice and a female voice.”

DuWayne Heyd was a mainstay in the Grand Forks music scene in the late 1990s and early 2000s with his Opry Style Band playing countless gigs around the country and in Grand Forks, including the Chester Fritz Auditorium and at the Alerus Center’s opening in 2001.

Heyd soon started gaining national and international attention after he released his first album in 1997. After that, he received major accolades, including his album “Goin’ Country Style” being awarded the 1998 “Country Album of the Year” by Airplay International and winning Country Song of the Year for “Your Jealousy” and getting a Gold Album for “Burning Bridges” in 2001.

Musical aspirations

Heyd fell in love with country music at a young age. He remembers hearing those sweet sounds on the radio, and immediately took an interest, starting his first band when he was still in junior high.

Music remained a constant in Heyd’s life as he played shows in and around the Grand Forks area.

In 1996, Heyd began making little tapes of his music for his own personal keepsakes to try and remember the hundreds of songs he had written. When a friend heard Heyd’s tapes, he encouraged the musician to cut an entire album.

Nashville radio promoter Butch Paulson released Heyd’s songs to 1,600 radio stations, and Heyd walked away with his first song charted in the top five of the independent country charts.

“From there, I was hooked,” Heyd said. “I couldn’t believe I had a song in the top five of the charts.”

After the song’s success, Heyd was invited in 1998 to cut an entire album in Nashville. That album, “Goin’ Country Style,” was named the “International Country Album of the Year.”

Heyd followed with successful releases, including the “Gold Album” he won for his 2001 release “Burning Bridges.”

The country musician also developed shows under the name DuWayne Heyd and the Opry Style Band. With musicians from the Red River Valley, the band played the type of traditional country music that would be played at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry to local audiences.

Taking time off

Following the “Burning Bridges” release, Heyd put his career on the backburner.

Heyd’s then wife, Kathy, became ill with recurring medical issues. The two had married in August 1962 and had three children together.

Heyd quit the music business to be a full time caretaker and provider for Kathy, while still running the construction business the two founded in 1972.

“Even when she was sick, I would still write songs, but I thought I was done performing and recording,” Heyd said.

Kathy passed away from cancer in 2011 at the age of 67.

Following her death, Heyd said he was heartbroken. He remained working at his construction company and continued to write songs in his spare time; he never thought those songs would see the light of day.

It wasn’t until Heyd’s chance encounter with Rhonda that he found that passion to write and perform music again.

“I didn’t think I’d get into music again,” Heyd said. “Then, I met Rhonda through music and wanted to help her with her dream of visiting Nashville and recording an album.”

The two fell in love through music, and nowadays, the couple is always surrounded by melodies, playing music together in their spare time, and eventually recording “I Love You Because.”

“It makes business fun,” she said. “We come home from work, and if we feel like it, we pick up the guitars and sing on the patio. We sing in the car when we’re road tripping. It provides leisure and entertainment for us.”

‘I Love You Because’

The Heyds recorded their new album in Nashville, with some of the city’s prominent musicians performing on tracks, including one of George Strait’s background singers.

Most of the lyrics on “I Love You Because” are written by DuWayne with Rhonda providing the music. The album does include one cover song, the title track, “I Love You Because,” which was made famous by Johnny Cash.

DuWayne said he often finds inspiration for his lyrics from other people’s experiences or stories that he’s heard. He said he always tries to carry around paper and pen in case a song pops into his head. Heyd said he has hundreds of songs written down that he hasn’t recorded.

“I’m a contractor in real life,” he said. “And (making music) is all like this. It’s a building process, and you watch it all come together.”

The album was a dream come true for Rhonda, who had never been featured on a professional recording.

“By the miracle that we call it, when he and I met, he was able to open up doors and exposure,” she said. “This whole thing has been a blessing for both of us, both personally and in music.”

When not in the studio, Heyd has a job working at Heyd Construction, a company he founded 42 years ago. Rhonda works at Noridan, dealing with Medicare issues.

DuWayne and Rhonda Heyd’s new album is available at Home of Economy and on their website at duwayneandrhondaheyd.com. “I Love You Because” will also be available on iTunes in the coming weeks.

Call Rupard at (701) 780-1122; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or send email to wrupard@gfherald.com

Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

(701) 780-1122
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