It’s often said that Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst essentially stumbled into discovering the musical chemistry they show as the duo Shovels & Rope.
In fact, for more than a decade, Trent and Hearst (who married in 2009) had pursued separate careers. Hearst released her first solo CD, Dust and Bones, in 2006 and followed that with 2010’s Are You Ready To Die, and Lions And Lambs in 2011. Trent, meanwhile, spent years in a band, the Films, until it split in 2009 and also made a pair of solo albums along the way – a self-titled effort in 2007 and The Winner in 2010.
While trying to decide their next moves musically, they started playing shows together around their hometown of Charleston, S.C., and found they liked their scrappy sound as a duo and that they could earn enough money to make ends meet.
But one thing that wasn’t casual about Shovels & Rope was the couple’s decision to get serious about making music and turning their group into a career.
“We took a good, hard look at it before we decided to do this thing in the beginning,” said Trent, who joined Hearst for a recent phone interview. “And both of us were like ‘Well, if this gets to be too much, then it’s OK to quit and go do something else.’ We’re like ‘Really, we’re going to be a married couple band? That sounds insane, and it never works.’ But I think just establishing that before we got into all this …
“We were real honest about ourselves,” said Hearst, who has a way of completing her husband’s thoughts in ways that are humorous and insightful, as well as succinct.
“I think that worked to our advantage,” Trent agreed.
“We realized it wasn’t a good idea, and then we did it anyway,” Hearst said. “We were just hoping it works out in the long run.”
So far, so good. The couple released Little Seeds, their third album of original material as Shovels & Rope last October, and the creative chemistry and spirited personality that has impressed many music critics seems as strong as ever on the new album. And not only are they still happily married, in September 2015 they welcomed their first child, Louisiana Jean.
Trent and Hearst waited until after Louisiana Jean was born to record Little Seeds. Like their previous albums, 2012’s O’ Be Joyful and 2014’s Swimmin’ Time (as well as the 2015 covers album, Broken Jukebox Vol. 1), Little Seeds was made at the couple’s home studio. And they quickly found that parenting threw twists into making music.
“Babies don’t pay attention to schedules,” Hearst said “Newborns don’t care that you have a session scheduled at 10 in the morning.”
But Little Seeds got finished and shows growth both musically and lyrically.
“I think every time we approach a new record, we want to expand the sonic landscape. We just want to try and do some new things,” Trent said. “So I think we’re stretching out a little bit more on this record and we’ve got a little bit more hair on it.”
Trent and Hearst will be performing at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22, at Jessye Norman Amphitheater, 1 Ninth St. Tickets are $20 advance from GluestickMusic.com or $25 the day of the show. The duo said they plan to play a good number of the new songs in their shows, but fans can expect the tunes to take on different dimensions live. That’s because they tour as a twosome switching off playing guitars, drums, harmonicas and other instruments, and some songs need re-arranging to work with the limitations of having only two musicians on stage.
Trent said they like what the two-person format does for the songs.
“I feel like it keeps it fresh for us, and more fun,” he said. “We have more instruments to pick from now that get thrown into the mix. But you can do a lot with very little to make really interesting arrangements. I think we dig that.”