Another Story

Head and the HeartWhy interviewing The Head and the Heart was one of the best moments of my life.

by Lindsey Lowe


No matter who you are—whether you’re a musician, a music enthusiast, or just a fairly normal person—music is everywhere in your life. We find ourselves lullabying while we rock our babies because it soothes them; we find ourselves dancing just a little when a favorite song comes on in a store. We find ourselves humming jingles we heard and turning it up because “I love this song!” 

And for some of us—many, I’d say—music does more than show up in our lives; it colors them. Last week, I was riding in the car when alt-J’s new song played on Birmingham Mountain Radio, and I immediately plugged my phone in to play “Matilda,” because it was “Matilda” that I listened to over and over and over last summer as I packed up my life from my last city and drove into Birmingham, my new one. It took about seven seconds for me to be taken back to those days, when everything was unsure and exciting. Music can do that for you.

I say all of that because this month’s band, The Head and the Heart, has given me music that does that very thing. Three years ago, an old friend introduced me to The Head and the Heart’s eponymous first album. I listened to “Winter Song” over and over that fall as I waited for the cold. And then, as spring came and gave way to summer, I kept on, with “Sounds Like Hallelujah,” and “Honey Come Home” and “Down in the Valley.” I introduced my best friend to them, and last year, when they were touring for Let’s Be Still, I bought her tickets for Christmas.

So when I saw they were coming to Birmingham, my heart swelled. Sure, lots of people love them—they have 170,000 followers on Spotify—but this is one of those bands that feels like they’re mine. Do you have these kinds of bands? They’re the ones who live your life with you. The Head and the Heart have sat with me on benches while I read Keats for my next class. They’ve walked with me back to my car in the rain. They’ve written blog posts and stories with me (in fact, I have a blog post called “Another Story” after their song of the same name on my blog, They’ve cooked dinner with me and gone on road trips with me and watched sunsets with me. I emailed their publicist and asked if, since they were stopping in Birmingham (at Iron City on Oct. 8th), I could feature them in my column. When she wrote back and asked if I’d be OK with a phone interview, I almost fainted. (But don’t worry—I played it cool.)

I chatted with Tyler Williams, who plays drums and percussions. The other members of the band, which was born in Seattle in 2009, include Josiah Johnson (vocals, guitar, percussion), Jonathan Russell (vocals, guitar, percussion), Charity Rose Thielen (violin, vocals), Chris Zasche (bass), and Kenny Hensley (piano). Interestingly, the members of the band met through a series of open mic nights at a pub in Seattle; Williams moved to Seattle to be a part of the band after hearing a demo of “Down in the Valley” that Russell sent him. When they began handing out self-burned copies of their first album, Seattle couldn’t get enough. In 2010, they were signed to Sub Pop Records and have toured with the likes of Vampire Weekend, The Decemberists, and Iron & Wine.

Williams says that music has been a part of his life for his whole life, and that making it is what he’s always wanted to do. “The dream was to make a record. And it’s a dream to be able to do so,” he says. He’s (obviously) one of those people whom music lifts up and carries. “It’s a way to get out emotions that you have no other way of expressing,” he says. “I don’t what I would do if I didn’t have that.”

As someone who has been affected by this particular band’s music, who has used to make sense of the world, it was extraordinary to be able to ask what it was that they intended it for. Did they mean for “Let’s Be Still” to take me on walks around the city during the golden hour, reminding me how to breathe? Did they know “These Days Are Numbered” would remind me to fall in love with life? “I don’t want to taint the process of making music…as long as we are making music that’s making us happy and that’s honest, we hope other people will gravitate toward that,” Williams explains. “They’re looking for something honest or more real. People are really into the transparency in what we do.”

Of course, one of the most incredible things about live music is that the makers of the music and the livers of it stand in the same room and share it, and all of this—what’s theirs and mine—crashes into itself, and just like that, you have an experience that reminds you of something important. Sometimes it’s that we’re all humans, forging ahead toward the unknown. Sometimes it’s that it’s OK that you feel some certain way. Sometimes it’s just that things like music can connect us. “Playing music live for other people is the best part,” Williams says. “You kind of just get into the zone where you feel like a super version of yourself. You find this thing inside of you and you blow it up a thousand times on stage every night. It’s so fulfilling to play musical for people and watch their reactions every night.”

After that, there was nothing left to say but, “Thank you.”


Upcoming Events

10/25: Lowland Hum at Sound & Page. For fans of Seryn, Chris and Thomas, and The Lower 48.

10/26: Jimmy Eat World at Workplay. For fans of Death Cab for Cutie, The Get Up Kids, and Plain White T’s.

11/24: Flogging Molly at Iron City. For fans of Jasper Coal, the Dropkick Murphys, and The Mahones.

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