What I'm Listening To: Tell You in Earnest

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Oct 03, 2014 / 0 comments

Music is an integral part of life, this we know is true. But what happens when you find a cd so spectacular, so full of goodness and truth and beauty? Well, you tell the world. I’m so happy to share the new cd by Matt & Shannon Heaton, Tell You in Earnest. You’ve seen the Heatons here on Wandering Educators before – our music editor, Kerry Dexter, has shared many articles about their great music.


What I'm Listening To: Tell You In Earnest, Matt & Shannon Heaton


But what about Tell You in Earnest? Well, it’s a cd full of surprises, stories, catchy songs (I bet you’ll be humming them all day), international goodness, and the usual Heaton trademark of excellent singing and musicianship. 

The cd starts with my favorite tune, Cruel Salt Sea. I’ve been singing it for weeks now. Gallant Hussar is a song that curls around your ears and weaves its way into your heart – the music and singing are so lovely that I have to make myself focus on the story. The third song, Mon Rak Dawk Kam Tai, is a lovely mix of Irish and Thai music from the traditional Thai song, The Enchanted Flower of Kam Tai. Heaton’s voice shines with love for her second home.

Easy Come Easy Go, which Matt wrote, is a twist on both Tam Lin and Gift of the Magi – take a listen! Demon Love reminds me of the old selkie tales, but in reverse. It’s a cautionary tale of love, history, and holding on to what you have. Mantle of Green is an Irish street ballad with a fun tale of the recording process on the site, and how it enhanced the song.

1952 Vincent Black Lightning shares a tale of a motorcycle, a guy, and a girl. Edwin of the Lowlands Low is an old song that tells a sad story beautifully.  Mrs. McGrath is another sad Irish street ballad about some of the costs of war. The harmony on this song is chilling and tear-inducing – just beautiful. The last song, Lovely Annie, comes from Nova Scotia, and is a touching story of love, travel, and war.

I’ve never listened to a cd that is so full of stories, lives, traditions, history, and place. Shannon’s voice soars and pulls you into each story. Matt's  harmonies (and lead vocals) are strong and sure. Backed with lovely traditional instruments (guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, flute, whistle, accordion, cello, drums) and lively and masterful playing, this is a cd for the ages: one to savor on a rainy afternoon, during long road trips, on dark evenings, or in snatches all day long. It’s that good, and you’ll cherish it for years.


We had a chance to catch up with Shannon to talk about the cd, backstory, recording, traditional music, the Thai connection, and more. Here’s what she had to say…


Matt and Shannon Heaton. From What I'm Listening To: Tell You in Earnest


How did the album come together?

We are ALWAYS writing and arranging new material. For "Tell You in Earnest," we started to notice that were coming up with quite a few conversation songs--songs whose plot advanced via dialogue, songs in which two central characters were named. We set that as our creative filter/limit--to include only dialogue ballads. We came up with 16 songs, recorded 12, and ended up with the 10 that hung together best for the album.


How did you and Matt rehearse and record it?

Focused rehearsal is out while our kid is zooming around, demanding attention, and saying hilarious and beautiful things. So we set up a weekly duo rehearsal with a sitter. More regular rehearsals than ever before! By the time we went to record (in our own basement studio), we were so well rehearsed that we were able to track very quickly. We'd take any time that our son was out of the house (at a friend's, at a sitter's) or asleep and track songs--we did a lot of late night recording!


Matt & Shannon Heaton. From What I'm Listening To: Tell You in Earnest


Why do you think it is important to put new/original spins on traditional music out there in the world?

When people hear "Celtic" or "Irish" they sometimes think of leprechauns... or the Irish Spring commercial. In fact, there are some achingly beautiful, tragic, dark, and timeless traditional songs that I think a lot more people could grab and make sense of, with a bit of contemporary, clean arranging and production sauce. Why not add a weird (subtle) electric guitar loop into a murder ballad? Why not add sweet, simple snare drum on the outro of a Thai/Irish mash up? Why not reach for grooves and sounds that can sit alongside more modern recordings, as a way of bringing OUT the great stories in these songs?


How do you get your music out there--sell it online? at shows?

In the past, we used to distribute the majority of our CDs via sales at live shows and teaching weeks (where we lead Irish music classes for learners of all levels). Of course, digital downloads are a preference for many now. And though the profit margin is much lower when selling online, there is no delivery/printing cost there. And with multiple album titles, the downloads add up. Airplay is another important way we share our music. We have a stable of knowledgeable, supportive DJs around the world. It's great to connect with these kind people each time we release a new album. And online folk/trad magazines and groups are also increasingly amazing places to connect with listeners and fellow musicians.


What's up with the Thai connection on this Irish CD??

As we explained to our indiegogo supporters:
"Before we spent our  time traveling to Ireland to play tunes and songs, there was Suphanburi, the Thai village where Shannon spent her first year in college. She was taken in by the Thai music crowd there and learned of the power of being part of a community dedicated to a tradition much bigger and older than any one person. (She also learned to speak Thai fluently. Go ahead: ask her to say something in Thai!)"

So even though we focus on Irish music now, it was in Thailand where Shannon first got the trad music bug. And we have featured a Thai song (arranged in an Irish style, but still sung with the traditional Thai words and melody) on our last two releases.




Where can people find your music?

Right here:https://mattandshannonheaton.com/


Matt & Shannon Heaton. From What I'm Listening To: Tell You in Earnest


What's up next for you?

Many of our fans are also musicians--a lot of them are learning music, or their kids are learning to play. Shannon is putting together "First 50," a collection of simple yet TRULY BEAUTIFUL traditional tunes for newer musicians who want to play actual music from the start; and for more seasoned players to share with their students or to round out their own repertoires.






Big thanks to Shannon for sending a review copy of the cd (yes, I play it all day long). Artist photos courtesy and copyright Matt & Shannon Heaton