The Head and the Heart down in the Wenatchee Valley
Thursday, September 13, 2012
If you go
What: Curtains for You, The Head and the Heart acoustic
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Cost: Sold out, but tickets were $15 advance, $20 at the door
Information: caffemela.com, 888-0374
WENATCHEE — The Head and the Heart found magic on a flight of stairs the last time they played a show in North Central Washington.
The Seattle band abandoned all microphones and amps to end their set with the song “Rivers and Roads” last February at Stevens Pass. They led 100 people into a glass-enclosed stairwell and made time stand still with nothing but six strings, a three-part harmony and their stomping feet.
“There’s a way the three of us like to play that song, it’s very close and intimate,” said Josiah Johnson, guitarist and vocalist. “We’d been going up and down that stairwell to go to the Foggy Goggle, and it sounded really good in there. It felt like there would be magic in it, and there totally was.”
It’s that basic, raw talent that propelled The Head and the Heart to the national spotlight in just three short years. The band met at a Ballard bar’s open mic night in 2009. Within a year, they sold 10,000 copies of their first and only album, “The Head and the Heart.” They’ve toured around the world with artists like Dave Matthews, The Decemberists and My Morning Jacket.
They turned down a feeding frenzy of record labels and managers to sign with Seattle’s Sub Pop Records in November. Their popularity still soaring, they’ve made seven television appearances, including a performance Monday on the Conan O’Brien show.
As a full band, The Head and the Heart is a sextet with keyboards, drums, violin, guitars and an array of percussion. For acoustic shows, it’s just Johnson, Jonathan Russell — the group’s songwriting core — and Charity Rose Thielen.
In an interview with The World last week, Johnson said the band included Wenatchee in their latest tour at the suggestion of music promoters Scott and Jenny Erickson, a Wenatchee couple with extensive ties to the Seattle music scene.
News of The Head and the Heart’s acoustic set at Caffé Mela drew a horde of people online for tickets. The demand overwhelmed Mela’s ticket vendor, ticketfly.com,, as soon as sales opened at 10 a.m. Aug. 31. Fans wrestled with error messages and slow connections until the last ticket was gone at 10:48 — the fastest sellout in Mela’s history.
Here’s what Johnson had to say about the shows at Stevens Pass and Caffé Mela, and their plans for a second album next year.
Go!: I’ve heard so much from people who saw the Stevens Pass show. Do you remember the feeling in that room?
JJ: Oh yeah, definitely. When we’re touring as a band, the band plays the songs the same way, but every night has a different feel. Jon and I have written more songs but when you’re touring that much, the band doesn’t have time to learn them. You stick with what you know. Acoustic shows in general are always really cool because we get a chance to show people these new songs we’ve been writing. That was the first time we’d done that in a year.
Then all those guys who helped put the show together were super nice. I remember Chris (Rudolph) was so excited about the show, and he was telling us about all the cool stuff they’re doing on the mountain. It was his energy and excitement that made the show really good. And being able to go in that stairwell and have that moment, it doesn’t happen all the time. That was definitely memorable. We were home the next week and got a text from someone about the avalanche. It was crazy. He was one of those people you’d think the world was his.
Go!: Do you have any new songs in mind for the Mela show?
JJ: We don’t normally get to play the song, “Virginia” but I love playing it acoustically. With the full band it doesn’t work the same way. The song “No One To Let You Down.” We’ve never come up with a full band version of it but we can play that song acoustic.
Go!: After the Mela show, you’re playing a show nearly every day through mid-October. How do you balance a hectic tour schedule with producing new material?
JJ: You have breaks like the one we’re on. As a songwriter, I can come up with snippits. The band, there’s not a way for us to write songs together when we’re on the road. That all happens during our time off. From mid-October to mid-December, our plan is to treat it like jamming together is a full-time job.
Go!: Your first album was so successful. When you think about producing a new album, what goes through your mind? It’s a tough act to follow.
JJ: It is, and it freaked me out a lot for a long time. What if we don’t play to as many people? What if we don’t sell as many records, or get put in a commercial? All these crazy things that have happened, it’s totally nuts. But I think my brain shifted a little bit. I’ll know personally whether we improved as songwriters, whether we like the way it sounds as musicians and if we tried things we were uncomfortable with or that we haven’t done before. I used to be worried about it in terms of success and sales, and now my brain is excited to see how good are the songs we write.
Go!: How did that shift happen?
JJ: It happened once I started writing songs again. All of a sudden, I realized the reason why I’m doing this is because I just want to write songs. All of the things that you think about when you’re touring, is all just the payoff. That’s where the brain focuses, how many people came to the show and did it sell out, whether we sold a bunch of albums this week. Once you get away from seeing those dividends and go back to writing songs, you remember why you’re doing this, and it was to write songs and not make a ton of money.
Rachel Hansen: 664-7139
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