The Head and the Heart, an indie folk band that returns to Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica
on Tuesday, Sept. 10, has already enjoyed a career full of high points in its 10 years.
“We got to play a show with Tom Petty in Hyde Park in London about six months before he died, which is just an incredible yet horribly sad thing all at once,” says singer Matt Gervais. “We got to experience that and see him perform at the same venue we were playing.”
The Seattle-based band also joined Willie Nelson on his tour last year.
“How can you top that?” says Gervais.
Gervais is the husband of the band’s violinist/banjo player, Charity Rose Thielen. He joined the Head and the Heart in 2016 when co-founder and singer-guitarist Josiah Johnson left the band.
He picked a good time to join too. This year’s Living Mirage
is quite possibly the band’s most innovative record to date and Gervais says the shows in support of it have been great.
Even though the band has played for thousands of people, Gervais says he still enjoys playing for 300.
“It’s the funnest thing, in small sweaty clubs,” says Gervais. “It feels like how it was before anybody had ever heard of the band.”
The Head and the Heart has also played some memorable shows at Colorado’s infamous outdoor amphitheater, Red Rocks, with “really beautiful, natural, landscapes.”
Toronto’s Massey Hall is also at the top of Gervais’s list, because he loves what the band can do with a theater show.
“We don’t usually play our full-out rock sets at a theater. We reserve that for the balls-to-the-wall sort of rock ’n’ roll shows [at outdoor venues and festivals],” says Gervais. “There have been a couple times where we ended up sort of opening for ourselves with an acoustic set before our full band set. Those are always really fun and special. The more we are discovering that we can do that, the more we do that. It makes for an easier show for the band.”
embodies that Mumford and Sons, soft rock, folky vibe that the Head and the Heart have mastered.
Gervais says that his favorite track on the album changes from day to day.
“I think everyone is sort of surprised, not that anyone was expecting differently, but this album has come across really well live,” says Gervais, “It’s been really fun to see how the audience reacts. They warmed up to the songs way quicker than the band has seen in previous record releases. They became familiar with the songs really quickly, so they became staples of the set really fast.”
“See You Through My Eyes,” a stripped-down confessional ballad in which one lover is craving the understanding of another, is one track that Gervais keeps coming back to. Singer, guitarist, percussionist and co-founder Jonathan Russell brought the concept into the studio to share with the band after developing it with co-writers Anastasia Whitacre and Michael Busbee.
“We all came together to see how it was structured and complete the lyrics together, but John had had that hook from the get-go. And it [lyrically] made so much sense with what the band was going through at the time and in a personal relationship,” says Gervais. “Jon has a very nice way of getting to the point concisely, which is a different sort of talent. So, a lot of the songs have a very direct and simple message. That comes across really well and that helps people relate.”
The lyrics for tracks with less serious themes were also carefully-crafted.
“There are other songs that are more light-hearted, which was another avenue the band wanted to explore,” says Gervais. “Songs like ‘Brenda’ where it’s more like a narrative. Like a little vignette of a story that you saw in a movie or something where you can kind of come along with, and it’s not quite as heavy subject matter.”
But no matter the subject matter, Gervais knows that the band cannot take its words lightly.
“Lyric writing is always the most difficult aspect of being a musician or a songwriter,” says Gervais, “When I was a kid, I remember noticing how much my mom actually paid attention to the lyrics of a song. She has this encyclopedic memory of all of these lyrics from obscure songs that were hits back in the day. And she knows them by heart, thousands of them. So, early on I was very aware of how important lyrics are.”
Gervais says Thielen has the complete opposite perspective from Russell on lyric writing, and that helps to diversify the band’s catalogue. Melodies come easier than lyrics for the six-piece band, so collaboration is key when it comes to finding words to accompany the music.
“[Thielen] has a more literary approach to things which people can warm up to in a different way and have a different appreciation for,” says Gervais. “It’s an obvious analogy, but it pulls head and heart.”
The Head and the Heart, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, 2014 Sycamore St., 216-622-6557. Tickets: $40-$80, livenation.com.
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