PHOTO/DAVID ROBERT: April Higuera.

April Higuera has been many things in her life. For starters, she’s a published author, a private investigator focusing on violent crimes and murder cases, and a licensed tile contractor who flips multi-million-dollar houses in Lake Tahoe.

But ever since she was 9 years old, what Higuera really wanted to do was make music.

“I wanted to be a famous singer,” she said. “I used to come home after school almost every day and put records on and sing to them. My mother bought me a guitar when I was 13, so I started learning acoustic guitar and writing songs. And then when I was 17, I was good enough to play out solo and make money.”

Originally from the New York metropolitan area, Higuera went from singing along to James Taylor, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell especially, to spending her 20s playing acoustic originals at big nightclubs and bars all over New York and New Jersey, garnering recognition from the National Academy of Popular Music and Broadcast Music, Inc. She eventually relocated to Nashville, where she spent 10 years performing and writing new music. She also enrolled at Belmont University on a partial academic and golf scholarship, where she graduated from the business program with an emphasis in music business.

“It’s funny, because when I was in New York City, everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you should go to Nashville; your voice is kind of country,’” she said. “I’m like, ‘Country? I’m not country!’ I wanted to be a raspy rock singer, but I just never had that throaty voice. … When I went to Nashville, I wasn’t country enough. I was too progressive for them.”

Higuera has cut albums with producers who’ve worked with stars including Jewel, Celine Dion, Joan Osborne and the Scissor Sisters. She’s also achieved some commercial success, with tracks from her albums Watercolors Fade and Unpainting Portraits finding placements on network and cable TV in the U.S. and abroad. These songs still bring in modest royalties to this day, she said—but soon after her time in Nashville came to an end, Higuera grew frustrated with the realities of the music business and found herself ready to put her guitar away.

“I was tired of banging my head against the wall and being poor,” she said. “After, you know, two decades of—well, 2 1/2 decades, really—of working at, I basically quit.”

She didn’t completely abandon music; she still recorded albums but eschewed any live performances. Meanwhile, she found her aforementioned careers. She has lived in Reno for the past 8 years, a mountainous change of scenery that she appreciated. But she noticed a change within her as well—an anger at her keyboard and computer, and the daily grind of life.

“I was like, ‘Wait a minute; I shouldn’t be this angry,’” she said. “So I just dusted off my guitar, and I started singing, and I felt so much better. I’m like, ‘Wow, I should be doing this again.’”

Soon after, she returned to her musical journey—and she’s been busy. Higuera currently fronts three musical projects with different genres, goals and members. The first is a cover band called Sierra Roc, where she and a rotating cast of local musicians (except for her professional partner and guitarist, Kevin Jones) put their spin on the rock hits of the ’70s and ’80s, à la Heart, Pat Benatar, Scorpions and Led Zeppelin. Higuera said the pandemic slowed the trajectory of the band.

“When we got Sierra Roc going, we were just taking off like a jet,” Higuera said. “I mean, we had some great shows set up in our first six months, like big shows, opening at the River Fest. … And so all that got shut down.”

Sierra Roc has again started playing shows around town. But Higuera is also performing her originals as a solo acoustic act—she recently performed as one of the openers for Night Ranger—and gigs as part of a ’70s folk/soft-rock duo with fellow guitarist Sheldon Felich, in an act aptly named April & Sheldon.

“All of them are great outlets for me, because I enjoy each genre, you know?” she said. “I enjoy my original music. I enjoy the ’80s rock, and I love the ’70s—the acoustics. So it’s really a great emotional outlet for me to be singing all that.”

She has the chops for each of them. Higuera’s genre-spanning discography is a credit to her vocal dexterity; she lives in the lilting, melancholic moments of her folk work and dishes out soaring, powerful ballads from the heyday of hair metal in equal measure. She cites contemporary influences like Kelly Clarkson alongside Paula Cole and Heart’s Ann Wilson.

With three different musical vehicles at her disposal, Higuera has also dipped her toe into the promoter and organizer pool as well, with the recent addition of her Reno Writers in the Round Local Songwriters Showcase Series.

“I pick and choose singer-songwriters in town who want to be involved and put together either a show that has three or four different genres of artists, or all the same genre,” she said. “We do one song each, and go down the row, and then go down the row again. We tell the back stories to each song so the audience gets to know us and what the song means to us, why we wrote it—that kind of thing.”

The next performance is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 19, at Peavine Tap House.

Higuera said her music goals are different this time around. Instead of chasing the life of a touring musician, her goals for her solo work are to take bigger and better stages and open for the greats. Sierra Roc, in the meantime, is looking to maintain its festival-ready momentum, while April and Sheldon, she said, is a fun side gig that keeps her busy on the weekends.

For as long as Higuera went without playing live, it hardly seems fair to call her return to the stage a second act; it’s more like an encore.

“People who are creative musically, they can’t stay away,” she said. “It’s in our blood. I mean, it courses through your body, and you can’t really stop it—nor would I want to.”

For more information, visit www.aprilhiguera.com.

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