Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst joined forces as the duo Shovels & Rope after having pursued separate careers that earned each of them good reviews, but not much in the way of commercial success.
So the couple (they married in 2009 before teaming up musically) didn’t carry any grand dreams of platinum albums, arena tours and armloads of Grammys in starting Shovels & Rope.
But after just one album, 2012’s O Be Joyful, Shovels & Rope has already exceeded anything Trent and Hearst accomplished separately.
The duo will perform in the Friday, May 22, lineup of the sixth annual Papa Joe’s Banjo-B-Que & Music Festival at Evans Towne Center Park, 7016 Evans Town Center Blvd. Tickets are $35 Friday and $40 when the music festival continues Saturday, May 23. See banjobque.com for more details.
Their album O Be Joyful – which followed a 2008 album that was titled Shovels & Rope, but was billed as a Cary Ann Hearst/Michael Trent release and is not officially considered part of the Shovels & Rope catalog – earned the duo rave reviews and acclaim as one of the brightest new acts on the American music scene.
The media attention has put a spotlight on Shovels & Rope that Trent and Hearst never anticipated. So far, Hearst feels she and her husband have done a good job keeping things in perspective.
“It’s definitely taken a little getting used to,” Hearst said in a recent phone interview when asked about the exposure that has followed the arrival of O Be Joyful.
“I’m grateful that we’re maybe a little older and wiser, that we’ve been able to navigate pretty well and insulate ourselves from a lot of the attention. The attention from our fans is always welcome and wonderful. It’s a funny thing. Attention can be a little bit of a loaded weapon. I think if you get used to getting attention and then one day the attention goes away it can really mess with your mind.”
Trent and Hearst may well encounter more media adoration – and possibly greater popularity – now that their second album as Shovels & Rope, Swimmin’ Time, has been released. It debuted in August at No. 20 on Billboard magazine’s all-genre Top 200 album chart.
For Swimmin’ Time, the couple added new elements to the mix, including piano, organ and some unique low-end tones created on a special keyboard setup. But the album remained a spontaneous endeavor, with a good chunk of the material captured in first takes.
“I feel like there’s something that happens that’s very special when it’s the first time you record a song,” said Trent, who joined Hearst for the phone interview. “So we just try to go in when it’s fresh and lay it down and get all of the ideas and inspirations right then as it comes and lay it down instead of having to go back and re-do it later on or over-thinking it or anything like that. That’s sort of proven to work best for us.”
One goal Trent and Hearst did have for Swimmin’ Time was to capture the energy and force of a live Shovels & Rope show – something that should help the new songs translate well to the stage.
“Last time (for O Be Joyful), we weren’t really thinking about it,” Trent said. “The songs were new and we also hadn’t really been touring (for long) and we were still sort of figuring ourselves out, which we’ll probably always be doing. But for this one, it was just, I feel like the live energy is matched a little bit more on the recording.”