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 →