Five Questions With… The Hearts' Jeff Stuart
Following up on their acclaimed 2018 EP, Sunshine, Edmonton roots rock collective The Hearts released Give It Back on Nov. 15, the first in a series of singles in collaboration with Grammy-winning, Nashville-based producer/mixer Vance Powell, best known for his work with Jack White, Chris Stapleton, and Arctic Monkeys. The song reveals a sense of depth and refinement to The Hearts’ blue-ribbon brand of Americana, and combined with Powell’s sonic stamp; it showcases the group at its very best.
Fronted by singer/songwriter Jeff Stuart, The Hearts also include Alex Vissia, Dwayne Martineau, Gavin Dunn, Christopher Quesnel, and Brad Tebble, who together deliver memorable melodies and moody harmonies that have equal appeal in soft seat theatres, dive bars, or on festival stages. What sets them apart is how naturally their down-to-earth songwriting rests against a dreamy backdrop of custom-made textures—six captivating musicians blending into one unshakable sound.
Highly regarded for delivering a live show that mixes equal parts glitter and grit, The Hearts’ music has also been featured in HBO and MTV productions, received international critical acclaim and charted on radio all across Canada. Since the release of their 2015 debut album, Equal Love, the band has performed at SXSW, Edmonton Folk Fest, Calgary Folk Fest, Interstellar Rodeo, and other noteworthy festivals.
Give It Back is available to purchase at CD Baby or via thehearts.ca. We spoke with Jeff Stuart about the band’s new direction and plans for the coming year.
Give It Back follows up on your previous EP Sunshine. What was happening in between?
Since Sunshine came out last year, we’ve been writing, extraordinary new material, recording, playing shows and festivals, traveling, going on various adventures, walking dogs, et cetera. A drummer/producer friend of ours recently built a recording/rehearsal space out in the country a couple of hours away from where we live, and we’ve done a few sessions out there. That’s where we tracked the bed tracks for Give It Back.
Do you see this song as a preview of other new music that's in the works?
Yeah, the other new material is similar in style and flavour. We’ve experimented a lot over the years, and we’re conscientiously trying to evolve and improve as songwriters and musicians. It takes time to learn how to get out of your own way in that regard. Unsurprisingly, we find that we do our best work when we don’t force it. We naturally tend to gravitate toward this kind of indie-Americana vibe, with our own twist.
Give It Back was mixed by Vance Powell in Nashville, whose resume is pretty impressive. How did that relationship happen, and where do you see it going?
We really got into the Phosphorescent album C'est La Vie, which Vance mixed. We knew of Vance by reputation, and as we looked a little further into his work, we discovered he'd been a part of a lot of projects that we really dig from a production standpoint. We sent him a demo of Give It Back, and he got back to us that he loved the song and was keen to get involved. We’re pleased and excited about what he brings to the table. He’s going to mix a few more of our new tunes. We hope to keep that relationship going and growing. If the sky were the limit, we’d love to have him on board as producer.
It's difficult to keep bands together these days. How do you manage it with The Hearts, particularly when other members have solo careers?
A big part of what makes playing in a band fun and rewarding is that it not only provides a space to do what you love, but more importantly, it provides an opportunity to do it with people that you love. Anyone can be a solo artist and hire the best players to get behind them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sometimes that’s the right thing for a person to do creatively or professionally, but it just isn’t the same as working with people you’ve grown close with and shared so many laughs, tears, and special experiences with over time. A band becomes a thing that you build and grow—and grow along with—together with over time. We all value that, so we make the space for it. Also, we’re proud of the music we make together!
What are some of your goals, professional or personal, for the coming year?
We intend to keep writing, recording, and releasing material. We’re working on lining up a busy schedule of festivals and dates for next summer. Sometime in the next few months, we hope to announce a really exciting international endeavour. I can’t speak to that any further until some details are confirmed. Stay tuned!
We all have plenty of other projects and goals to keep us busy beyond The Hearts. Gavin has a number of gigs producing and playing guitar. Brad plays drums in a few other bands when he’s not busy being a local culinary captain. Chris runs sound at gigs galore, and Dwayne is working on some exciting projects in visual art, music, and film. Alex is working on new material for her main project, VISSIA, and her other band, Bad Buddy, continues to melt people's faces off wherever they play. I’m collaborating on a project with singer/songwriter Lindsay Pratt and I hope to ski as much as I can this winter.