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Change Is Good: The Head and The Heart showcase growth Fillmore Philly

The Head and The Heart | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
The Head and The Heart | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Coping with change has been a constant theme of The Head and The Heart‘s music since the beginning.

Some of the final lyrics to ring out in The Fillmore last night during the Seattle roots rock band’s headlining show dated back to their 2011 debut: “My family lives in a different state / If you don’t know what to make of this / Then we will not relate.”

Founding member Josiah Johnson is originally the one who sang those words — he has since stepped back from the band to focus on his mental health, though that isn’t the only change facing The Head and The Heart as they tour in support of Signs of Light, their third and finest album to date.

The band — the family, if you will — does in fact live different states now, and as my interview with singer-guitarist Jonathan Russell detailed, Signs of Light is The Head and The Heart’s first record on a major label (Warner Brothers), and its first record working with a major producer (Jay Joyce). If last night’s Fillmore gig is anything to go by, the band is working with change admirably, adjusting and growing and thrilling a capacity crowd along the way.
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Interview: Finding universal parallels and Signs of Light with The Head and The Heart’s Jonathan Russell

The Head and The Heart | photo by James Minchin | courtesy of the artist
The Head and The Heart | photo by James Minchin | courtesy of the artist

After a long run of supporting their breakout sophomore album Let’s Be Still, Americana rock luminaries The Head and The Heart needed a breather.

The bandmates had been on the road together practically nonstop for two years; beyond that, they’d been at the grindstone since emerging from the Seattle coffee house community in 2009 with their self-titled Sub Pop Records debut. Stepping back for a year was essential, and some of their experiences in that time off were liberating and joyous – frontman Jonathan Russell embarked on nonprofit work in Haiti, and found himself teaching music alongside Jackson Browne; pianist Kenny Hensley learned to fly planes, and vocalist Charity Rose Thielen wrote songs for Mavis Staples. Other experiences were more serious, and co-frontman Josiah Johnson took a hiatus from the band this spring, announcing that he was battling addiction and needed time to focus on recovery.

At the end of it all is a tremendous new record called Signs of Light. It’s The Head and The Heart’s major label debut, and even though a heavy-hitting producer helped bring it to life — Jay Joyce, whose resume includes Cage the Elephant, Amos Lee and Emmylou Harris — the music within sounds refreshingly true to the band’s life-affiriming spirit, just on a somewhat grander scale. From the out the gate anthems “City of Angels” and “All We Ever Knew,” to the nuanced and reflective “Library Magic” and the deeply personal “Signs of Light,” it’s a striking blend of pop accessibility and emotional connectivity. This Sunday, October 24th, The Head and the Heart’s tour in support of the album comes through Philadelphia at The Fillmore.

Earlier this year, I caught up with Russell via phone to unpack the new record, and our wide-ranging conversation touches on The Head and The Heart’s gradual growth into theater headliners, Russell’s empathetic songwriting tendencies, ideas of collaboration versus autonomy, the absence of their friend Josiah on this run, and how they aim to pay forward the opportunities they had in their career. Read the interview in full below; tickets are still available for Sunday night’s show at The Fillmore, and more information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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The Head and the Heart open up about life on the road with new single “Library Magic”

The Head and The Heart
photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | Jeremy-Zim.com

Book-lovers know the whimsy and wonder felt when entering an old library — there’s so much history to explore and aisles to get lost in. Seattle folk outfit The Head and the Heart channel a piece of that energy with their new single “Library Magic,” that all-encompassing awe musicians also experience when embarking on an expansive tour.

And that’s exactly what The Head and the Heart will be doing soon. Releasing their new full-length Signs of Light on September 9th, the band will set off on a full U.S. tour in the fall with a date at Philly’s Fillmore on October 23rd. Despite the starry-eyed expectations and excitement, life on the road can really take its toll on musicians. Fortunately for us, however, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Charity Thielen expressed all those feelings on this new track. Continue reading →

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Watch The Head and the Heart play “All We Ever Knew” on Jimmy Kimmel Live

The Head and The Heart | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN | jeremy-zim.com
The Head and The Heart | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN | jeremy-zim.com

Following a stellar showing at NonCOMM last month, which included the debut of new single “All We Ever Knew,” The Head and the Heart stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live! for a performance in support of their new album, Signs of Light. This appearance really shows the band for the rockstars they’ve become, owning the stage and confidently jamming on to the new track. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: The Head and The Heart will play The Fillmore in October

A photo posted by @colleen42711 on

The last two Philly gigs for The Head and the Heart have been anything but simple. Really, hectic might be the perfect word to describe them.

At NonCOMM, the Seattle folk rockers battled through jetlag-induced exhaustion, as they had just returned from Sweden hours before. Last night, after being told their appearance at Festival Pier had been washed out, the band found out on their way to the airport that arrangements had been made to host them at The Fillmore in a last-minute effort.

Jonathan Russell and his friends made due with the new plan and dazzled a hardly-filled Fillmore. They played new songs, like “All We Ever Knew,” the first single off their forthcoming third LP Signs Of Light, due out September 9th on Warner Bros. Records. They even dusted off some favorites from their 2011 self-titled debut, such as “Ghosts” and “Sounds Like Hallelujah.” Continue reading →

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NonCOMM Recap: Jetlagged and all, The Head And The Heart dazzle

The Head and The Heart | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN | <A href=http://jeremy-zim.com target="_blank">jeremy-zim.com</a>
The Head and The Heart | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman for WXPN | jeremy-zim.com

As The Head And The Heart took the stage at NonCOMM, you could sense a bit of exhaustion on their faces. Vocalist Jonathan Russell admitted it too, as he greeted the crowd by saying “Good morning.” The band got off a plane from Stockholm, Sweden hours ago, and it was not 9:25 p.m. according to their bodies.

But weariness didn’t seem to factor into the Seattle band’s set — they absolutely killed it. For most of the crowd, it was the first listen to three new songs off their upcoming album Signs Of Light, due out on September 9th. If those three new ones are any indication as to what the full record will be like, we all are in for a treat. Russell told the crowd they worked on the songs in Virginia, where he’s from; El Paso, Texas; a small town north of San Francisco; and then moved on to Nashville to record. All that relocation was recognized in the range of sounds that came from the new songs. Continue reading →

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Rivers and Roads: The Head and The Heart at the Tower

The Head and The Heart
The Head and The Heart | Photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

“Summer’s gone, now winter’s on it’s way,” cooed Josiah Johnson, lead singer of The Head and the Heart. “I will miss those days we had.” Friday night was rainy and cold, far removed from the days of summertime. Making the chilly trip out to Upper Darby to see Johnson’s Americana-storytelling folksters at the Tower was a great reminder that winter is indeed right around the corner, just like the lyrics of “Winter Song” mournfully recall. Continue reading →

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Governor’s Ball Day 3: Banks, Earl Sweatshirt, James Blake, The Head and The Heart and more

Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

Yesterday wrapped up our third day exploring Randall’s Island and the sights and sounds of this year’s Governors Ball Music Festival.

Skaters | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Skaters | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

New York City rock band Skaters turned up the heat on an already scorching Sunday afternoon.

Earl Sweatshirt | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com
Earl Sweatshirt | Photo by Rachel Barrish | rachelbarrish.com

Rapper Earl Sweatshirt emerged on stage decked out in beachwear while fans sang along to the lyrics from his latest album, Doris. Continue reading →