The Lonely Heartstring Band has been hailed as one of the most innovative and cutting-edge contemporary bluegrass bands in the country. That’s no small feat in that they have only been on the scene for a handful of years. As a writer at Elmore Magazine says of the band: “These are musicians of dynamic imagination and massive musical talent.” It’s the imagination, the instrumentation, and the amazing harmonies that make this band a “must see” for any and all music fans.
To learn more about the Lonely Heartstring Band, check out their website.
Here’s a taste of what the band sounds like in concert.
The Lonely Heartstring Band plays at the me&thee coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA on Friday, May 4, 2018.
Let’s start at the beginning. Is it really true that the band was created to play bluegrass Beatles songs at a wedding?
Yes… In the fall of 2012, we were asked to play at a wedding – with the specific instructions to play only repertoire from the Beatles catalog. So we learned about a dozen songs and made sure to learn them as close to the original arrangements as possible (not just “bluegrassify” them)… So we put in quite a bit of work, and after the wedding, we figured we should probably show off what we’d learned so we called ourselves Beatlegrass and booked a few gigs… It was a bad name, I know… So we played a handful of gigs with that music as our primary repertoire and it ended up being great because having 2 sets of material that an audience knows and loves was an accidentally smart way to start off the band with good gigs. It didn’t take long to get sets at festivals and quality venues – which for a band in our first year was a boost of encouragement that allowed us to take it seriously and commit early on.
I love the fact that you actually gave a nod to the Beatles with your band name. Can I assume that all of you had some kind of respect for the Fab Four and that you enjoyed their music? Do you still keep some Beatles music in your live sets?
Yeah – we changed the name pretty early to avoid being stuck as a cover band, but we all liked the Lonely Heartstring Band as a name – that and at the time, we were still playing Beatles in every set. Once the original music started becoming our mainstay, we realized that the Beatles thing couldn’t be front and center. . . And of course, we all love the Beatles… but we really love a ton of music from Paul Simon to Bill Monroe to Ray Charles. The Beatles brought us together, but our general love of music kept us playing 6 years later.
Now, tell us about how the wedding band morphed into a real gigging band. Did you immediately click and decide to start making your own music?
As I kind of said earlier, it was natural. Our first gigs were pretty much all Beatles and traditional bluegrass, but we have three songwriters in the band, so it didn’t take long before we realized that this project was going to focus on original music. That’s what we all wanted to be playing. But in picking apart those Beatles arrangements, we learned a lot about how we could use our bluegrass instruments in different ways to sort of play different roles – you know, substitutions for organs, keys, drums, electric instruments – We pulled a lot of sounds from bluegrass, but equally, we pulled sounds and textures of the music all around us.
Do you all write songs or do you have one or two primary songwriters and you work on the tunes together?
We have three songwriters in the band – but everyone contributes a lot in terms of arranging and morphing the songs. It’s astonishing how much a song can change from the first time it’s presented to the band to the first time we perform it onstage. Almost unrecognizable from sometimes. It’s a metamorphosis. We really feel like the creative process is a democratic and equal-input creation for us. And we all write all of our own parts for all the songs –
You received a pretty amazing award from the IBMA early on. Did that kind of recognition encourage you to record and continue on with touring?
Definitely – IMA was and is a real supporter of the band. Our first IBMA especially – we walked away with half-a-dozen new festival bookings and managed to connect with so many other bands and industry folks. It was pretty unreal. And since, we’ve won the momentum award and been twice nominated for emerging artist of the year- so we feel the love! And… it’s super fun. Like the best kind of family reunion – so much picking and listening to great music. We plan to keep going back for as long as we can. I’m also excited to see where IBMA goes over the next few years. It’s been really heartening to see the real emergence of young energy and ideas. The Shout and Shine! showcase put on by Bluegrass Pride last year – and the general development towards greater diversity in IBMA feels positive and exciting. I hope that this trend continues!
You’ve been to some amazing places. Can you name one two major highlights that you’ve experienced thus far?
Well, we did a four-week tour in Germany last fall/winter with our friends the Lula Wiles and theLone some Ace Stringband… and it was totally incredible. None of us wanted it to end. That was the Bluegrass Jamboree put on by Rainer Zellner. We also went to New Zealand for three weeks this winter… As you can imagine, that was perfect. We were very warmly received, and the beauty of that country was breathtaking. Also… leaving Boston in January to go south is pretty much always a great idea.
Your first album Deep Waters was very well received. What did you learn from recording that album that was put to good use recently when you recorded your new album (due this summer)?
Well… I mean – that was our first record. And like many first records, it was full of the excitement of a new band – a new project. We’re still proud of it, but this new record has a maturity to it that we’re excited about. There’s also a cohesion song-to-song that makes it feel like a record… Although these days most listeners download one or two tracks at a time anyway… Also, on a more technical level, we learned to show up prepared to the session. We rehearsed a lot and tried to be really ready to go in the studio and enjoy the process. We can’t wait for the world to hear it.