A Conversation With Keith Harkin
Mike Ragogna: Hello, Keith!
Keith Harkin: How's it going?
MR: It's going very well, thanks. So it looks like you're traveling around the country playing all sorts of dates right now.
KH: Yeah, been on the road since the middle of August and I'm on the road until Christmas. I'm out with Celtic Thunder at the moment, who I also sing with. I'm also doing lots of promotional stuff, radio interviews, television every other day for my own self and the Keith Harkin album.
MR: This is all pretty terrible, isn't it. You hate doing this, don't you.
KH: No, actually I don't! I'm doing solos for Celtic Thunder and for myself for five or six years, so it's all I kind of know how to do, to be honest.
MR: Just kidding. Keith, let's actually give everybody a history lesson on Celtic Thunder. Can you go into how it started?
KH: Celtic Thunder actually started with our producer Sharon Browne; she is also my manager. Sharon was holding auditions over in Ireland for a show for five solo artists to sing, five male solo artists from Ireland or Scotland to sing at her show with a full band and full orchestra. I auditioned for the show right at the start and I've been in the show since the band happened. We've toured Canada, Australia and America for the past four years, a couple of double platinum records, a couple of gold records in Australia, America and Canada, so it's been just flaming ever since. We have seven albums, each one reached number one on the world Billboard charts, last year number one in the world on the Billboard chart of music, so Celtic Thunder's been doing great and I've been there since the very start and I'm still doing it at the moment. I've been writing music for Celtic Thunder also, I have three different singles out of all the albums that have been sold, so it's been an interesting ride.
MR: Now, interestingly you say you wrote a lot of the music for Celtic Thunder, but I also want to throw out there that the solo album includes covers. How did you decide what was going to go on this album?
KH: Well, really, the album's actually fifty-fifty, it's six originals and six covers. We originally thought about doing an album of covers, which we were supposed to do, and then the guys asked me--David Foster and Jaymes Foster and Jochem van der Saag who produced the album--they all were looking for maybe a few more originals that I wrote, so when I was on the road in Australia in February and March, I wrote a few more songs and recorded seventeen in total. So now, there are six originals and six covers on the album. The covers are "Have I Told You Lately," by Van Morrison, Colbie Caillat, a very famous singer, is doing a duet with me on that one; "The End of Innocence" by Don Henley; "Everybody's Talkin'" by Harry Nilsson; and "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles. I also have "The Heart of Saturday Night," the Tom Waits tune, one of the classics, favorites, and then I put six originals in. The guys asked me if I could write songs as good as the six originals they would put them on the album and they picked six songs so I was more than happy.
MR: I wanted to get into "Orange Moon," one of my favorites on the new album. Can you go into its backstory, maybe let us in on your writing process and how you wrote that song?
KH: Yeah, well, I think most people can sit down and just write a song. I can. I just sit down and purposely write a song. I have no technique or formula to it. Some people write the melody first or some people come up with lyrics. Some people write the guitar part first and then do whatever. I just sort of sit down with a guitar and keep playing until the first line comes out, and then once I get a first line I just build the rest of the song on that line. How "Orange Moon" actually came about, I was actually on Fox-TV in March this year, it was four in the morning and I was calling from Buffalo, I was on TV in Buffalo at night and we had to get to New York for a six AM start on Fox-TV and I couldn't sleep. I just finished a show in Buffalo at like two in the morning and I was on the bus driving with our old driver. I was sitting up front and the sky was bright orange with a bright orange moon, hence the inspiration for the song "Orange Moon." Driving into New York, and that's what it's all about, really. It was a song that came about in about fifteen minutes.
MR: Fifteen minutes?
KH: You know, it's not even fifteen!
MR: And on the same album is your cover of "Here Comes the Sun," the total opposite.
KH: Yes, of course, "Here Comes The Sun." "Orange Moon" and "Here Comes The Sun," two different concepts.
MR: You have a double duty with Celtic Thunder and your solo career. That's a lot of work.
KH: Yeah, I've been juggling a lot of work for the past year and a half. I had two weeks off last November and I got the call to go to L.A. to record for two weeks, so everybody else had two weeks off from the tour with Celtic Thunder and I went to record and actually haven't stopped working since then. I recorded the whole album. Also I've been touring with Celtic Thunder all year. I did a solo tour in March, back and forth to L.A., in between, trying to record, and I've done a month's residency in a casino up in Atlantic City and since then, I've been literally juggling everything now since I came back on the road. I've recorded maybe sixty songs this year in the studio, so it's been a crazy year to say the least. Being on the road now is the easy part. Believe it or not, all the hard work's been done.
MR: You're somebody who's very focused as well as busy.
KH: I'm kind of glad I'm on the road at the moment, because if I wasn't on the road and doing something and I was kind of waiting on doing whatever else with my own album, I'd probably go up the walls waiting. So I'm kind of glad that I'm kept busy and kept my mind going.
MR: Tell us about the early days of Keith Harkin, what got you into music, and what your inspiration was from.
KH: What got me into music is probably my mom and my dad. They've got great taste in music. I've been singing since the age of four, started playing guitar when I was eleven. My dad got me into Tom Waits when I was like fourteen or fifteen, all of my favorite artists are stuff my dad got me to listen to like Neil Young, Tom Waits, Harry Nilsson. I'm a huge Glen Campbell fan, Crosby, Stills & Nash, all the really old-school sort of artists. I just love that kind of music and that's kind of what gave me the inspiration, because back in the day, those guys were just either a band, or on their own, so I kind of aspired to do the same kind of thing myself, the same sort of music because nowadays, I think people have too many smoke and mirrors to cover what they're doing. I think what's happened nowadays is not as many people are artists on their own and do their own kind of thing and have really good songs. I think that's what this album is about. They have twelve of the best songs we could think of, so that's really what I came up like. When I was seventeen, eighteen in London for a year with producer Andy Wright, I worked out there for a year with Andy. He produced the likes of Natalie Imbruglia and Mick Hucknall and Simply Red, then I worked with BBC for a year back home in Ireland doing bits of Irish music, so it was written in Gaelic, which is the Irish language. It was music for them. And then I auditioned for Celtic Thunder when I was twenty years old, and I've been doing that now since I was sixteen. So I've been busy since I left school, really, I've just been engrossed in music, you know?
MR: And you're the ripe old age of what, about twenty now, right?
KH: Twenty, I wish I was twenty. I'm actually twenty-six at the moment. I was twenty when I joined Celtic Thunder and I've been touring the States and Australia and Canada since I joined with these guys, so I've probably seen more of America than most Americans have seen over the past five or six years. So I wish I was twenty.
MR: Keith, beyond your history, your song choices indicate your working knowledge of classic songs and artists. For instance, "The Heart of Saturday Night" goes back to the album by Tom Waits The Heart of Saturday Night where every song is an amazing original and totally coverable because he was an incredible songwriter. You mentioned that your dad turned you onto Tom Waits, but how did you come across that song?
KH: Oh, "The Heart of Saturday Night," to me, when it comes to Tom Waits, that was one of his more easy-going songs. The first album I heard of Tom Waits was actually The Black Rider, which is one of the more insane albums, and I was like fifteen when I heard that album and my dad had that CD in the car when I was fifteen, so that was the music that I really grew up with. Then my father put me into "The Heart of Saturday Night." I'd been playing that one on my own in bars and clubs, so really we just picked songs on the album that I love to perform and that were proven, you know?
MR: You also did a cover by fellow Irishman Van Morrison, "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?"
KH: Yeah, well that's a beautiful song. I don't think many people can argue that that's an absolutely amazing song, and then when we had the idea to do it as a duet with Colbie Caillat, it completely fell into place and I'm so happy we'd done it. I'm a huge Van Morrison fan and I always will be.
MR: Your album features "The End Of The Innocence," which Don Henley wrote as kind of a reaction to the Reagan years. It had more of a political message, but on the other hand, the song also resonates with everyone for various reasons. What does "The End Of The Innocence" mean to you?
KH: Well, I think that he mentioned what "The End Of The Innocence" means to most people when it first got released. To me, in simpler terms, it means kind of the same thing but on a different topic. The name itself--"The End Of The Innocence"--I think it means a lot of things have changed in comparison to the way people used to see them, you know? Simple things, like the way kids are, the way things happen at school, everybody's just so different, nothing is innocent anymore, and I think to me, that's basically what the song's about. The chorus sort of sums it up for me.
MR: Keith, do you prefer roadwork, do you prefer studio work, is it equal?
KH: It's both, equal. The feel on the road, I've been doing it for so long, gigging and stuff, that it's actually very easy. For me, it's pretty relaxing. Sometimes I have to fight myself to get on stage; I get nervous, but seldom do I get nervous. Being on the road's quite easy, and I love being in the studio. I actually do a bit of producing myself, I work with my sister Rebecca Harkin; she's a very fabulous pianist and singer and songwriter. I've been producing her album all year on top of everything else, so I love being in the studio and I love working with amazing musicians like Jochem van der Saag--he produced the album--getting to work in the same room as David Foster who recorded the piano on "Rosa" on the album... So just to be working with those level musicians and their craft is amazing, just to be in the same room with them.
MR: Let's chat about "Rosa" for a sec.
KH: "Rosa"... I wrote all the words and a guy named Brian Byrne, an Irish guy, wrote the piano. It's about my Goddaughter from back home and every time I've played this song, I haven't seen a dry eye in the house, in the best possible sense.
MR: Sweet. Who are your favorite artists right now?
KH: I actually saw a band playing in The Living Room in New York after I played my launch date there, they're called Barnaby Bright. I don't know if they're huge or what's happened but I saw them and they were lovely, this husband and wife. I really enjoyed them. She had an amazing voice, she almost sounded like an Alison Krauss or a Joni Mitchell kind of thing going on. I like those guys, I don't know if you've ever heard of First Aid Kit. I love Bon Iver... There are a few artists at the moment that I'm really interested in.
MR: Nice. If you like Bon Iver, do you like Fleet Foxes?
MR: Keith, you're going to love Lord Huron, Ben Schneider's group, a cool project. Being a fan of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, when I found this, I was like, "Oh, there's even more of this out there, that's great."
KH: Perfect. That's not a bad thing.
MR: All right, I have a traditional question I ask, which is what is your advice to new artists?
KH: Don't stop. Just keep on going. As long as the gradient of work keeps going up and doesn't come to a plateau or goes the opposite direction of the way you want it to be, even if it's going slowly, if it's going slow, it's going good. It's never easy. I'm twenty-six now, I left school at seventeen; it's taken me nine years to get this album finished. You just have to keep plugging at it, there's no easy way to put it. It's never going to come overnight. It's not easy work, you know. If you just work at it hard, something good will happen.
MR: Nice. You have this new solo album, you're still with Celtic Thunder, what does the future hold for Keith Harkin?
KH: Hopefully, next year, I'm going to be doing more solo tours, I've been doing solo tours for the past three years now in the United States, as of February and March. I'm probably going to do a bigger tour with my own band, which is going to be amazing; normally I just do acoustic. My album is a great album, I'm not afraid to say it. A lot of work went into it, there are a lot of great players and good songs on the album, so if you like music at all, it's a good album to have a good listen to, there's a lot of stuff there that'll keep you interested and for next year I just want more and more people to hear the album and enjoy it as much as I did.
MR: You've got it. We wish you very good luck with your new solo album and continued luck with Celtic Thunder, and amazingly popular band. You must have a lot of pride in all your hard work.
KH: Yeah, I mean Celtic Thunder, I've been in everything it's ever done since the start. Only one show that I ever missed was the day of my album launch, the eighteenth of last month and that's the only thing that's ever happened in Celtic Thunder since it was invented that I wasn't a part of. I'm more than proud of Celtic Thunder, and I'm more than proud of everybody that's worked with me at Verve Records. I'm just really happy with everything that's happening at the moment and everything that comes in the future is just a bonus.
MR: Right, with David Foster as Verve's Godfather, you can't go wrong.
KH: Well, hopefully so.
MR: All the best, Keith. Thank you for your time.
KH: All right, thank you very much.
1. The End Of The Innocence
2. Daisy Fields
3. Have I Told You Lately That I Love You
4. Everybody's Talkin'
5. Nothing But You & I
6. Here Comes The Sun
7. Tears Of Hercules
8. Orange Moon
9. Take It Away Boys
10. Don't Forget About Me
12. The Heart Of Saturday Night
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Video Exclusive of Larry and His Flask's "Hobo's Lament"
Larry and His Flask have a new EP out on Paper + Plastick Records titled Hobo's Lament, and this exclusive, innovative video is for the title track. The project involved just what the EP's title suggests, and this video documents the authenticity in front of and behind the lens. LArry and His Flask just wrapped up two months of touring this week including a month on the road with Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. The band toured almost nonstop during the past year traveling everywhere from Europe to Alaska to Hawaii.
The video's director, Lewis Smithingham, shared some thoughts on the making of the piece.
"The idea for the video was really a collaboration between the band and myself. I wanted to create something that would express the bands DIY aesthetics/ethics visually. I've been a huge fan of VHS ever since I saw Harmony Korrine's 'Trash Humpers' (which is shot on VHS), and I thought the gritty, muddy look of VHS would look great with Flask, so I decided I wanted to shoot on VHS. Larry and His Flask are a band that is incredible to see live, so I wanted to capture that by shooting a video that was really heavy on performance footage. However, I still get really annoyed by music videos that use performance randomly, i.e. love story narrative that's set in the city, but random footage of the band playing in front orange cabs in a grassy field is thrown in.
"So I came to the band with the idea that I wanted to shoot on primarily VHS, but I wanted to have the use of VHS be motivated by narrative. So we thought, who shoots on VHS these days? Where would you even find a VHS camera? The answer was hiding in the song title, "hobos!" I thought it would a great idea if I could get a hobo to direct a video and I would just document the process. Despite knowing a great deal of unemployed, hipster 'filmmakers,' none of them really fit the bill, so we got the Flask's buddy, Willy 'Tea' Taylor, who is also an incredible musician, to play the part. We aren't in any way shape or form trying to be exploitative of the homeless. I'm pretty sure every member of the Flask has been homeless or a hobo at some point in their lives.
"Shooting the video was insane. I came down to Boston the night before so their manager and I could scout locations. Based on a tip, we started looking in this really sketchy area, where there were abandoned buildings and tons of feral cats. It was super dark, and if I'm being honest, there were a few locations that I was afraid to scout.
"The following morning, we showed up at the most intricate and advanced hobo camp I have ever seen. It was abandoned, and had been for quite some time. There were newspapers from the early 2000s, and a huge collection of beer cans from the seventies, all of which had been shotgunned. I even found an unopened bottle of Surge. He had a kitchen, he had two separate bedrooms, one that was complete with a foyer and locked door, he had a tool area/work bench. It was amazing. Acoustic guitarist Dallin Bulkley was super-helpful with finding places to shoot. He was climbing up trees, crawling down hobo tunnels through trash; it was impressive. It turned out the area that I had picked for the band to perform was where the toilet used to be. It was brutal. You have no idea how bad blankets soaked in ten-year-old hobo poo smell. We only had a few hours to shoot, so we got down to business right away.
"It was fun, and the band picked up lip-syncing pretty quickly. We threw together a fake ego riser for mandolin player Kirk Skatvold and vocalist/guitarist Ian Cook to stand on during the solos. They're both humble dudes so I had to coax them up there by telling them to channel Scott Stapp. We were yelling "Stapp it!" whenever the solo's happened. Shooting the narrative stuff was fun too. Willy, who played the hobo, was such a good sport. We found this pearl necklace buried in hobo garbage, I wanted to show him finding them, and getting weird with them. Before I even asked him, he was running them through his mouth and beard; it was gnarly. All in all, it was a really fun time, fast paced, great energy, really great dudes."
1. Closed Doors
2. Big Ride
3. My Name Is Cancer
4. Hobo's Lament
6. So Long
A Conversation With The Pines' Benson Ramsey & David Huckfelt
Mike Ragogna: Hi guys, let's dive right into your new album, Dark So Gold. It kicks off with the song, "Cry, Cry, Crow." Can you guys go into it?
Benson Ramsey: It's the first song on the record, and it helps kind of drift into the record. It's just sort of a meditation between the rural and the city.
David Huckfelt: It's also the first song that we've ever done a music video for. There's a an official video up at http://www.thepinesmusic.com with that song featured, made in Minneapolis.
MR: Yeah, what's going on in the video?
DH: There are some really talented filmmakers up there and they wrote a plot for it, and we got to help out with it and be on set. It's just sort of a fairytale-vision-adventure that this woman goes on during the song. It's worth checking out, I think.
MR: Now, you're both from Iowa, and Benson you're the son of the amazing Bo Ramsey. Despite both being from Iowa, you guys ended up meeting in Tucson. Can you go into how that occurred?
DH: Yeah, sometimes, likeminded individuals end up in a place for random reasons. About eight years ago, we had each moved to Tucson from the Iowa City area, and though we didn't know each other in Iowa, we met each other and started playing music together right away. It wasn't too long before we started to write our own material together, and eventually, we came back to the Midwest to make our first record and really get to work on things.
MR: You're first record was Sparrows In The Bell?
BR: That was our first Red House record.
MR: So, you guys had some projects before that?
BR: A little bit. We had a collection of songs that we recorded.
MR: Now, you guys ended up playing together through your discovery of blues and fold, right?
DH: Yeah, we had a lot in common musically, but also it was kind of like a constant introduction. I learned a lot. There were a lot of artists I wasn't aware of. I learned a lot through Benson, and we would trade material. We listened to a lot of Chess records and early country blues records. Then, certain songs, we would both kind of gravitate toward, so we would start to do our own versions of stuff like Howlin' Wolf songs, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James--you know, everything was kind of fair game. Then we started to do a lot of the early American, public domain songs, songs by Woody Guthrie, Doc Boggs, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen songs.
MR: So how did those influences apply to your own writing?
BR: We were just playing the songs as we discovered them, and not really trying to play them like they played them, but kind of how they fell out. We did that for a couple years before the songs started to kind of grow out of doing that. All the while, we were kind of working on our own songs, but it felt like if the song is speaking, it doesn't have to be yours. It was speaking to us, so that's what we were playing, and then it comes time where you're digging deeper and deeper, and you need some time to fill these spaces. I think that's where our songs started to come from.
MR: Does the music come before the lyrics?
BR: I don't think we separate the music from the lyrics. I feel like they're the same thing. It's the space between the notes and chords, and it's the feeling that that generates. I think it's that space in there that keeps the songs exciting for us. I think that's what we were trying to get at underneath it all.
DH: Yeah, a marriage of music and lyrics. I can remember even when we set a couple of poems by Frederico Garcia to music, just as an exercise of trying to develop melody and have the marriage of lyrics and music in the songs.
MR: You both are pretty proficient on your instruments, having watched you before. How did you both get so good?
BR: I think it just came from playing all those songs, playing together, and playing in different kinds of rooms and situations. I think we kind of got our own style through that. It was a really intuitive process. I think we're both really into that intuitive art and the folk arts--just a guy in the woods with a Crayola and what comes about that. It's that real primitive reaction to an instrument, but also that combined with the craft. Those two worlds are infinitely fascinating where they meet, and then juggling those is really fun.
DH: Also, I think we were interested in blurring the lines between what a duo does. Usually there is a lead guy and a side guy, or a singer and an instrumentalist, and we've got two songwriters, two singers, and so the style of playing together is not necessarily so cut and dry. Just finding out what makes a song come across was, I think, our goal.
MR: You're getting accolades across the board, from Rolling Stone to Goldmine. Has it gone to your heads yet?
BR: Not at all. I haven't really attached that to the process.
MR: I'm interested in what you guys have said about regional music, in that it isn't about becoming big, it's about living your life within your craft, and you're doing it regionally. Can you go into that a little bit because you're not just romanticizing this idea, you are actually jumping in the car and going place to place and living the life in that area. What is this like?
DH: When we encounter an artist, a musician or a band, we want to know where they're from. People that come from a place have an intrinsic connection, and it used to be that way so much more back before the internet, when regions of the country were known for their musical styles. I'm not saying that progress is bad in any sense. We love to travel far and wide, and we love to go to a new city we've never played before; it's exciting. But also, the towns in between the cities, and the smaller communities that are maybe more tightly knit, I think that's part of our process. We perform for the sake of itself. I think it's its own reward. So, playing in a small room in someplace that is a little more rural feels great to us because you can have a really deep connection in that setting. The cities are also fantastic for different reasons.
MR: Are some of the places you're traveling to inspiring some of the music?
BR: Sure. We're inspired by everything from the travel itself--just the view out the window or people you meet. You realize pretty soon that it's a pretty small world. If you're in the Midwest or on the East Coast, people are people. The more you get deeper in writing, and just be honest about it and let it grow out, there is a comfort in that, and the escapism is interesting when you take it out. It's comforting when you take songs from the Midwest to another region, and it's equally as comforting to perform them in the Midwest. It kind of feels the same wherever you go, in a certain respect.
MR: Have there been areas that you've been to that have affected you in a really specific way?
DH: I think maybe our first time going out to the East Coast. We went to upstate New York, to the Ithaca, Syracuse area, and it was like we'd found a place familiar. People there had already been familiar with our music, and the very first time we went, we felt welcomed. Ithaca reminded me of Tucson, of Iowa City, of these little places where passion in the arts and music are valued. Any place like that feels good to play.
MR: And they do love their folk festivals in upstate New York.
DH: Yeah, our trip to England was like that too.
MR: Tell me about that.
DH: I think we both agree that it was really enjoyable to play in London. We had really great crowds in our London shows, and then we got out North into Scotland, and you would find little communities where people were really excited that we were there. It was a good connection.
MR: That leads us back to the title of this new album, Dark So Gold, which was inspired by a trip, right?
BR: Yeah, it sprang out of a tour we did when we found ourselves way up in Northern Scotland in the dead of Winter. The sun would kind of come up, and it was like a sunset at noon. I think day after day of that for a couple of weeks started this feeling, and then Dark So Gold kind of arose out of that night and day, and kind of losing that perspective. It was just a feeling where you're kind of nostalgic. I don't know what it is. You think of home, but the beauty of traveling and being where you are is kind of where that came from. It's sort of like being in the city if you grew up in the country or vice-versa. I think there is a multitude of layers to that, and it's something you can't just articulate, but you can almost articulate in a song; it's subconscious and sort of surreal. You could sit down and write a thousand books about it, but it's something you can get closer to in a song.
MR: Over the years, you've had some very talented opening acts play with you, but you've also been the opening act with other groups. What are some of the acts you've opened for?
BR: Well, of course, we always love opening for like Iris DeMent, or Greg Brown and our Iowa roots. We've been fortunate to open for people that we really love and connect to their music. It's heavily inspiring as songwriters, just seeing how people live their lives and how they perform. Then there are more current acts that went from playing little small rooms like us to being on top of the world like Bon Iver, and that's super interesting to us.
DH: When we did two nights with Emmy Lou Harris, it was such an honor, and just a top-notch band. To see an artist that has a stature like that still try to push the envelope, incorporate new material and take the show somewhere, that's very inspiring.
MR: When you've finished opening for an act like Emmy Lou Harris, that feeling watching from the backstage must be awesome?
DH: For sure. In my mind, there is nothing that has come close to watching Mavis Staples just light up a room in Minneapolis when we did two nights with her. It was just powerful. We just felt lucky to be within a hundred miles of that.
BR: That's one of those moments where you break your thing down, and like my grandpa would say, "Just play pretty." We'd play our songs and it worked really well. To see her, and how she grew out of The Staples and The Civil Rights movement and just how heavy that was, it was really inspiring.
MR: Are there any other songs on the new album that have a specific story as to how the song came together?
DH: Well, track five on the record is called "Rise Up And Be Lonely." That song started off as three or four pages of a blues lyric that I had put to a pretty simple blues format, you know? By the time I played it for Benson, he had the mind to see the song and be able to take it someplace else and how to draw out the essence of it. It didn't have a name and it didn't have a chorus, and he brought those things to the table when we got together and worked on it. It's a great example of how a song benefits from collaboration because it's stronger as a result of that. You never know where things are going to come from. The tiniest scrap, or some kind of recorded demo might catch each other's ear, and in a way, open it up. That song has some political stuff in there, it's sort of a rant, and it doesn't have a very overt message, but it's a feeling of contemporary dread a little bit, you know?
MR: Is that how your writing process works usually? Both of you bring material and compliment each other's offerings?
DH: Yeah, to a great extent. You talk to any songwriter and they'll tell you collaboration can be difficult. It's hard to find someone who you trust and respect, and it's hard to get in there and work on the song from the inside out. I like to think that we have no rules in the way the songwriting happens in The Pines. Finished songs can be brought in. You can sit there with nothing on the table and pull something up from scratch. You pull something you wrote maybe eight years ago that is ready to be reborn or something. Sometimes I toss an idea by our band and the other musicians and we play with it to see how that develops that way. Sometimes one of us will write a song at home in the middle of the night, bring it to the table and it's already done.
MR: When you recorded this album, you got together with your players and laid down just the basic tracks?
BR: Yeah, just that foundation underneath it all. We just cut the performances down, and just captured those real quick in one or two takes, and not allow ourselves too much room to wiggle around it. It's really focused, and it kind of helps to add to the cohesiveness of the record overall.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
DH: I think being true to yourself is something that applies across the board. When I talk to young bands, I try to remind them that it's going to be a mountain of work no matter how you slice it. People get lucky, and that's great, and you want your music to get out there, but just don't neglect what's right in front of you--where you're from, your region, the people that you can connect with. There is no shortcut to heaven when it comes to it. Luck is involved with any success, but I think that you cannot postpone the joy from playing music if you manage to have realistic goals and work where you're from.
BR: It's really easy to get caught up in the daily scheme of things, I think, but if you just follow your vision, people will come. If it's honest, it's a win-win and you don't have to worry because you're doing what you believe to be honest. Create that environment. Play places that you would go to. Follow yourself, then you can't lose.
MR: You're going to be touring for this album, right?
DH: We have been and we will be.
MR: Has it been an interesting tour so far?
DH: Yeah. It's been fascinating. We've tried new things. There was a five-piece band for the first time, and we've done a lot of support shows. The great thing about it is that everything kind of funnels toward the same goal. We've had great nights, we've had rough nights, but there is a cumulative thing going on where we're proud of the record and we love to be out working it.
BR: I feel like we're a brand new band every day. It's just learning, and it just gets more exciting the deeper you get into the songs and the night.
MR: Five years from now, where are The Pines? What's your goal?
BR: Well, we try really hard to live in the present.
DH: Our goals have to do with having music and life in harmony. I can see us living in rural settings, touring behind new records and being excited about new songs. Sustainability is the answer to so many things we face as a country right now, but it's also something that we want to do. We'd like to be able to sustain this and grow it to a point where we can do this, have a life, and say, "Yes!" to things that are exciting to us; be the captain of our own ship, choosing what we want to do and going out and doing it.
MR: You talked about sustainability for our country. Is there anything on your radar that you're sort of behind right now?
BR: Uh, yes. We'd need a couple of hours for that. We like to remember that we are on a rock in the middle of outer space. We believe in the beauty of life, getting away from the TV and connecting with your neighbors. That's what keeps us moving forward. That's why we go out and perform, just to bring people together. That, if anything, is sort of like a thesis, and there are many things that go along with that like knowing where your food comes from, what's in your water, education, kids. All those things are very important to us.
DH: And live music has a very strong role in that because the communities where live music can sustain and does well are usually communities that are very strong and have these kinds of values. It doesn't have to be a big city. It can happen anywhere. We play in the smallest little locales where they serve us six course meals from all the produce they raise, and people come early to have coffee together. You get away from your computers, you're around people, discussing viewpoints, what's important, what's pertinent to the community, and I think music's role in that is really big.
MR: What scares sometimes me is seeing two people sitting next to each other, texting each other rather than talking to one another. I know, it's fun, whatever. But to me, the impersonal thing can't be sustainable.
BR: In big cities full of people, the streets are quiet, you know? We worry about that. What people also need to realize is how much power they have with where they spend their money. That's why we like to play at places that are independent. We feel like that's the number one thing we can do. We don't like to preach too much; we just like people to be mindful and educate themselves. It is interesting times we're in.
MR: Yes, and it seems like we can choose to take it to a better place.
BR: We could change it in a matter of days if we wanted to.
DH: We need each other and we need help. A concert or an event is a place you can find allies and you can organize.
MR: This has been wonderful, truly. Congratulations on living a life that not only works but is real.
BR: It's been a wonderful afternoon. Thank you so much. We're blessed and honored to be here.
1. Cry, Cry, Crow
2. If By Morning
3. All The While
4. Moonrise, IA
5. Rise Up And Be Lonely
6. Be There In Bells
7. Grace Hill
9. Dead Feathers
10. Losing The Stars
Transcribed by Ryan Gaffney