By Lindsey Lowe Osborne
Brother and sister duo the Oh Hellos—Maggie and Tyler Heath—hail from Texas. Evident in their music is not the country drawl or musings about cowboys that Texas is known for, but that big Texas spirit shows up brightly. Take “Lay Me Down,” off of 2011’s eponymous album. “And oh, there is no power on Earth or below / That could ever break our hearts or shake our souls,” it proclaims. “And when you lay me down, you’ll only bury bones / ’Cause oh, my heart and soul are going home.” Moreover, their website states that they are “intentionally independent, self-produced, music-making siblings.” These guys are loving making music and invite you to come along with them for the ride.
Their music, which they describe as “eclectic folk rock,” is fun and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the state of Texas or beyond who wouldn’t start tapping their toes to “Second Child, Restless Child” or “The Valley,” both from 2015’s Through the Deep, Dark Valley. And it’s clear right away that the music is fun because Maggie and Tyler are fun, too. I asked them what their dreams for their music are, and this is what Tyler said: “Before the fourth season of Arrested Development came out, I would have answered with ‘I hope our music inspires a new season of Arrested Development.’ Now, I’m not saying it did, but I’m also not saying it didn’t…. Maybe our dream now can be that our music inspires the Community movie to get made.”
Even more fun than the prospect of a Community movie is a live Oh Hellos show. Though the band is technically just the two of them, they invite a rotating cast of characters to join them for their shows; sometimes as many as 13 people gather with them on the stage. This phenomenon means that no show is the same—and it can turn into quite the rowdy event. Their upcoming show in Birmingham, at Workplay on July 22, is no exception. “When we go on tour, we pull together a big group of musicians that play with us. On this leg, you’ll see Austin Norman on drums; Joey Chance on percussion and accordion; Drew Griffith on bass, Joshua Heinlein, Chris McLeod, and Nathanael Smith on guitar; Reagan Smith on banjo; and Matthew Hagerman on viola,” Tyler says.
The two say that they’ve always been destined to a life in music. It was Tyler who began singing and playing first; in fact, he’s recorded three albums on his own, beginning in 2007. A few years later, Maggie joined him and they became the Oh Hellos. “We wrote a song for our mom on her birthday a few years ago, and had a really great time putting it together! It was two minutes of friendly inside jokes at her expense with a catchy chorus, and when we finished we thought, ‘That was fun, should we write a few more?’” Tyler explains. “We wrote and recorded our first EP not long after, and the response we got encouraged us to keep going, and here we are!”
Going the independent route is definitely not the easiest thing. In “Cold Is the Night,” Maggie sings, “Many are the days I’ve wanted to cease / lay myself down and find some relief.” I guess we’ve all felt that way at one point or another (which is the beautiful thing about music! It connects us! But I digress.) But they say that the hardest part is that their personal lives and their careers are often one and the same. “The hardest thing about being a musician is not being able to leave work at work,” Maggie says. “Yeah, it’s hard to switch it off,” Tyler adds. “That might be because we record in our house, though.”
But! Thankfully there is a “but” for almost all things that are hard. Their “but” is the way they’ve seen people fall in love with the music they work so hard to produce. “What has surprised us the most? That people would share our music with one another, or care enough to learn our songs, or cover them on YouTube, or drive halfway across the country to see our shows,” Maggie says.
And that people do. The two make music and they make music well. From here, their sights are set on simply making more. And meeting Kermit the Frog. “There are a few milestones and life goals we’re working toward, but I’d say our deepest and most fervent desire is to someday collaborate with the Muppets. Kermit, if you’re reading this—we will sing any song, dance any dance, wear any hat. Let’s make this happen,” Tyler says.
“We’re just delightedly surprised to be where we are now, so we’re happy to see where this takes us!” Maggie adds.
7/14: Givers at Saturn. For fans of Ra Ra Riot, Local Natives, and Fitz and the Tantrums.
7/21: Delta Rae w/ Liz Longley at Workplay. For fans of ZZ Ward, Grace Potter, and The Lone Bellow.
8/2: Andy Grammer + American Authors w/ AJR at Iron City. For fans of Maroon 5, Imagine Dragons, and MKTO.