Three and a half years have passed since the now trio of Tara Wilcox, Chess Whiffin and AJ Dean-Revington shot to the forefront of the Americana scene in the UK with their debut release “Wild Silence”, where The Wandering Hearts quickly gained a large number of big fans on both sides of the Atlantic which has taken them stages at the Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee along with some of the biggest festival stages on this side of the Atlantic. The long-awaited follow-up to “Wild Silence” is now on the way with their self-titled sophomore album being their first release under a new deal with Cooking Vinyl, which will be available on August 6th and you can pre-order HERE. We recently caught up the trio to hear all about the upcoming release.
Releasing an album brings different places in a story based on your position. For fans it is the beginning, whilst when releasing a project, it is the end of a chapter for an artist. It is something that has been worked on long in the past but is only able to be digested now by the receiver. How does it feel to finally be able to get this record out and for people to hear the project? AJ- “It’s really funny talking to people, we’ve been saying this quite a lot recently, particularly with some of the songs on the album where people have been saying that they are so relevant to the current time that we are in and over the last year. What’s interesting and kind of fun for us is that these songs in some cases have been sitting with us for years and we’ve wanted to do things with them. The band has gone through a lot of changes in the last five years and we’ve been itching to get this record out for quite some time and even before the pandemic there were delays and setbacks as there so often are and you kind of get used to that but nobody was ready for 2020 but we are very ready for 2021, getting out and the possibility of doing live shows again.”
The project of their second album has quite a delay from following on from their debut. How much of this was impacted by the last eighteen months during the pandemic and how significant has this been in regard to the plans of bringing it out? Tara- “It took a long time to get to the point that we got to. Finally getting the producers that we loved and wanted to work with, got everything lined up and our last day doing anything on it was in late February or early March when we were at the Cash Cabin with Marty Stuart just putting down some of the final bits on that track. Then a couple of days later there was going to be a travel ban set into place where if we didn’t get out of Nashville there and then, we were going to struggle to get home. The idea that when we went out in March was that we were going out there to do the record then it would come out in April, we had discussed all the artwork, the photography and we were like we have waited so long, with everything that had gone on we were ready to go and then the world had different plans.” We looked at how there has been an absence of touring along with how these songs have been poised and ready to be shared with the world. Given the time off the road and potential extended time to be creative and write songs where newer shiny things may have emerged, we talked about whether there was any thought to rework or reconsider songs for this project? Chess- “I think we were so set on the songs for this record where we had a list of maybe fourteen that we took to Woodstock which we narrowed down so we had a handful that we were toying with but we were so proud of these songs so in my mind nothing compares because we hadn’t even started with this record, hadn’t toured it or done anything yet. It’s only starting to come to life after recording, so with new songs we are writing, you kind of have to have two heads where this is done, this is recorded and there is no changing that yet it’s not even out yet but we’ll have to start thinking ahead a little bit and go into that headspace, so it’s quite separate in that sense.”
AJ- “With this album, because some of the songs that we had narrowed down were written a pretty long time ago, well over the last couple of years. As you get nearer and nearer to knowing you want to get the album recorded, we were still trying to get as much writing as we possibly could at that time but the closer you get, you kind of get into this headspace of trying to write the song that you think you need. There is that trap sometimes when you just finish a session and think something is so great that it has to go on the album but what made it really easy was songs that we had written two years before which we loved but hadn’t used were still the ones that were sticking with us. They were strong enough that we didn’t question them being included. We knew we had made the right decision and when we reflect on new stuff in the context of the definite choices we had made, it makes that decision really easy for you!”
One of the standout things on this eponymous sophomore release is the way that the trio explore different ways to project their three-part harmony sound but have yet stuck true to the beauty of what they deliver. Chess- “I think that’s the benefit of having two female voices and a male voice in the band. There is so much space to play with different harmonies, different tones and the ranges of our voices so having all this space is quite a fun part of it really. Once you have written the song, you can work out where does it sit, who’s voice does it fit and how do the others go around it. That could be like the Fleetwood harmonies, could be just static notes all the way through or more like the First Aid Kit type sound. That’s definitely how we have evolved, grown as a band and what we’ve found works. The first record was an amazing springboard for us and an amazing platform to make an entrance into the music world but now we really know who we are. We were pretty much strangers when we first met and known each other for maybe a year when we made that first record, now it’s a very different story and I think that comes across in the music.”
With the debut album coming out four years ago and you have evolved as a band, there will be some tracks that even considering the pandemic, you have been able to play these songs in front of an audience and also people have been able to hear them through the realms of social media, are you finding that people are connecting with or leading more towards certain tracks? Tara- “I think it makes it easier with the accessibility if people have heard the track. We played a live stream gig which a lot of artists were doing, where we played “Delores” and “I Feel it Too” then “Gold” and “Over Your Body” had been in our set for a while before the year. In my head they almost sit in this imaginary album and a half where it’s not “Wild Silence” but been around longer than these new ones. What is really nice is when people are familiar with songs, which is what you want as an artist, they attach their own meaning to the song. What is happening with songs like “Delores” and “Gold” now they have been released is that that we are getting these lovely stories from people about how it has touched them and how it has moved them. I read something from someone the other day that said they were a huge Chester Bennington fan and how “Delores” made them think about him and his life. That made me go Wow! Everyone’s taking it and it’s moving them in such a way, where when you write songs you have no idea of the impact or will anyone get it, so the fact you are getting people being able to bring their own connection to songs is really exciting.” Looking ahead to the future, the trio head back out on to road through August and September (full dates and ticket information HERE on their website) in support of the album release on August 6th. These dates have almost entirely sold out but they have just announced an extensive full band tour for May 2022 which will include dates at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire and Concorde 2 in Brighton with tickets to go on sale on July 30th. We talked about how they were the last people I actually saw live during 2020 at Battersea their late summer bandstand tour of outdoor acoustic shows and we all reflected on how that felt so long ago along with how the year 2020 was a strange time paradox where we discovered that both me and Chess had only finally got round to binging Game of Thrones within the last year along with all agreeing on how time had always been the perceived factor of why people couldn’t do things and in a lot of cases 2020 proved that it wasn’t always the case. AJ - “It’s definitely had its challenges during the last year, just sort of breaking the norm that we were used to and the way the we worked. Obviously, the last year has given everybody some perspective which maybe is one positive that has come out of this where people have had the opportunity to focus on some perspective, reflect on everything and not really doing the thing that is the culmination of all the work that you do. It’s strange, it’s been like getting ready to go to a party every day and then not going, making all of the effort in the build-up and it doesn’t get realised. In some ways, where we have managed to make things work for us, I guess in the best ways that we can. When we get back out there it may feel a bit like learning to walk again but it will come back really quickly that’s for sure and it will be great to be stuck back in and playing shows.”
Tara – “That’s the wonderful thing about being in a band. I just can’t imagine doing this on my own. I always say it but for me and speaking for me, it’s so nice that if I’m overcome with emotion, if I’m not feeling it. I’ve done gigs where I’ve had the flu (and the giggles as Chess pointed out) or the giggles and when there is stuff going on, to have two people where we know each other so well now that we now have this almost kinaesthetic perception of each other, which is totally not the point of it but so wonderful to have that. To be able to have all of those emotions and know that whatever happens two people covering you and that goes for everyone, it’s going to be intoxicating! As will the alcohol!”
The new self-titled album from The Wandering Hearts will be released through Cooking Vinyl on August 6th which is available to pre-order HERE, and will be released on CD, vinyl, cassette and digital formats. For ticket information on their upcoming tours or to keep up to date with Chess, Tara and AJ socially, you can find them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or their Website.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks