Joey Heins remembers well the summer after sixth grade when his mom signed him up for guitar lessons, and he didn’t want to do it.
“I was kind of resistant to the idea. But I think she thought that I had some performer qualities. I guess I sang a lot. My mom always thought I would be an artistic person or a musician. She just saw it in me,” said the 17-year-old from North Wilmington.
Mom Peggy Heins, head of Serviam Girls Academy, saw early musical talent in her son. “Joey was the kid in the back of the car who would listen to the music on the radio and say, “Did you hear that? Instead of remarking about the lyrics, he would always comment on the specifics of each instrument and the chords in the songs. He always had a creative bent.”
Joey’s first guitar lesson sparked the beginning of his deep appreciation of music. “I learned a few things that first day and fell in love with making music. I actually came home and taught myself a song that day, Wake Me Up When September Ends. I sounded terrible but of course, I thought I was amazing!”
Turns out that Heins, who is releasing his second full-length-album this month with three of his high school buddies, was indeed pretty amazing at making music. Their band, Rusty Blue, has three performances lined up already this month, starting with a headlining gig tonight at the Ernest & Scott Taproom as part of Wilmo Wednesdays.
The original Rusty Blue band formed four years ago when four 8th grade friends teamed up for the P.S. duPont Middle School talent show. They didn’t win, but they loved their newfound fame. Heins remembers, “We thought we were so cool being in a band in school!”
Its current makeup — with Greg Stanard on vocals, Clayton Milano on guitar, Joey Heins on bass and Damien Pace on drums — gathered in 2015. Heins says he discovered a couple of years ago that his talent was better suited to playing bass. So the band pulled in Milano to play guitar. “Clayton’s much better than I was on guitar,” says Heins. Rusty Blue plays very hard rock/alternative, riff-oriented music.
The self-produced sophomore album ‘Between Green Acres’ marks a jump in sophistication since their first album, ‘Life’s Good,’ yet still packs the hard grunge/rock punch that Rusty Blue is known for.
Their days at Mt. Pleasant High School served as the inspiration of virtually all of the band’s songs. “School – the people, the bike rides, the parties, the girlfriends – definitely provided an environment for us that inspired a lot of our songs and gave us material for our writing. There was a time where literally everything about life, and school, was pure bliss,” said Heins.
Stanard and Pace are seniors at Mt. Pleasant, Milano graduated in 2018, and Heins finished up his high school degree outside of school.
Rusty Blue released their first album with 13 songs in 2016. The band has a few key songs they love on that album, but they look back on it now as more or less having ‘great sentimental value.’ The musicians have all matured and refined their skills since then.
The band won the Wilmington-based band competition ‘Musikarmageddon’ in 2017 and hit the road in 2018, building followings throughout the North-Atlantic region. Successful shows in New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston have led to new opportunities along the east coast and here in Delaware.
The teens put many hours of work outside of school into their newest album release, and they are looking forward to performing their work in front of larger crowds. Heins has taken the lead on making contacts, booking shows, and doing PR for the band. “I think this new album is really, really good,” said Heins. “The album has raw emotion behind it. The songs represent extremely special moments in each of our lives as individuals and as a band. It’s kind of like our high school experience of ‘growing up’ captured in music.”
Rusty Blue will release ‘Between Green Acres’ on Friday, and they will celebrate with a release party at The Queen in Wilmington on Saturday, September 15th.
Peggy Heins is also proud where her son and his friends have taken their dreams. “Their band is incredibly talented, and they all bring unique gifts,” she said. “Joey’s effort is amazing. Not only does he have ambition, but he has the work ethic and the drive and the people sense to make it all happen. He’s very inspiring.”