The array of jovial and sober tunes American folk music possesses tap into a part of our nation’s culture that either enliven or prompt reflection among its listeners in a way few other genres can engender. Charleston-based husband and wife duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst make up Shovels & Rope, which will be providing some melodic Americana to a local audience when they visit Leesburg’s Tally Ho Theater next month.
Trent and Hearst were living out parallel existences before they finally synced up into the folk powerhouse they are now. The two were originally in separate groups who’d tour together on and off and even released solo albums. Once they married in 2009, Trent and Hearst seemed intent on continuing their own individual projects, but it wasn’t long before they realized combining their talent might be the better option.
“Right as we were set to take these separate directions, we paused and thought ‘If we were so successful and these things take off, we’re going to be physically separated,” Trent said, noting that they had already experimented with a joint act when making 2008’s album titled Shovels & Rope prior to being married. “And we kinda just dove in and said ‘Let’s see if this works.’”
The harmony of their matrimony was successfully transferred to the stage. Shovels & Rope was a logistical dream for venues who’d be open to hosting them. Trent and Hearst can concoct most of their tunes in a pared down set that includes a three-piece drum kit and an acoustic guitar. On top of that, they were agreeable, business-like, timely and most importantly, damn good performers who knew how to play to a crowd after years of touring. Hearst’s voice resembles a folksy Dolly Parton while Trent’s command of the harmonica goes well with their shared capacities to play the guitar, drums or take lead/back-up vocals. It allows their shows to blend simple, unique combinations into homestyle masterpiece’s.
Even with a great end product, though, there was a learning curve when it came to synchronizing their individual approaches.
“[Trent] and I had a whole process of removing our egos from our own projects and learning to work together and think and operate as one thing. That took a little bit more time,” Hearst said, before Trent added, “Yeah, it was just so many years invested in our previous projects that it was hard to fathom scrapping it and starting something new…but if we had [continued as solo artists] things would have gone a lot differently and I’m glad we didn’t.”
After finding their groove, the two now bring a great charisma to the establishments they visit. It fits in with their general view of the music industry, where Trent claims that having a sense of humor about the business is a must since inexplicable, and often, ridiculous things will happen behind the scenes. But even as the Trent and Hearst have grown together both in and out of the spotlight, it’s really about staying true to who they are and the family they’ve created as the ultimate prize.
“To be the best parents we can be is the most important thing in our lives and to be the best artists we can be is the second most important thing in our lives,” Hearst said. “It’s important to stay grateful for the fact that we can do this as a job for now, and like [Hearst] said there’s a lot of real life stuff going on all around us, but just keeping that perspective is A-1,” Trent added.
Shovels & Rope plays Oct. 18 at the Tally Ho Theater (19 W Market St., Leesburg). To purchase tickets for their show, visit tallyhotheater.com/shovelsandrope101817 and for more information on Shovels & Rope, visit shovelsandrope.com.