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“When this wheel of life is turning/All that’s left of us is yearning/We can stand against this time/We follow blindly into night/But where’s the sunrise.”
In this complicated world, it's easy to become overwhelmed by bad circumstances and find yourself uttering the old adage "life is hard" over and over again. One of Birmingham, Alabama’s newest talents, The Heavy Hearts, might give the impression that their music revels in sadness. However, the songs begin, and the band refuses to leave their listeners without a chance to realize that hardships refine a person, not define them.
“We want people to know that just because our band is called The Heavy Hearts, we don’t want our fans to leave feeling helpless,” says lead vocalist and guitarist Lauren-Michael Sellers. “We are optimistic and trying to find peace. We don’t want to be depressing and only concern ourselves with things that are sad or morbid.”
The band presents an americana, folk-rock sound on their 13-song debut album, Keep Your Light On, that is accentuated with a soulful sound from Zac Baldwin’s electric guitar which floats effortlessly from alternative to blues and is accompanied by Brian Hippensteel’s percussion that steers the album to deafening crescendos in one moment and to soft sonic whispers in another. Throughout it all, Sellers’ voice captures, comforts, and refuses to let the listener go. The powerful a cappella introduction of their song “Into The Fire” (referenced above) is just one example.
Turbulence played a part in shaping the lyrics and constant echoes of turmoil and reconciliation appear in intervals throughout the album.
“I have a bit of a soap opera past,” Sellers admits. “I was forcibly removed from my family at a younger age. I had to start my life all over again as a ninth grader in a completely different state with a completely different family that I had never known before. After those four short years of high school, I had to attend college in a different state and start again from square one. As soon as I graduated from Birmingham-Southern College, I lost touch with my family for the final time because of certain battles and differences. It wasn’t until this past year that I started talking to my mother after a 10-year absence. I lost my dad after he couldn’t understand my pursuit of a music career and a life of my own in Birmingham, which triggered a lot of reflection on my part to see things from a brand new perspective. I found God and Jesus for the first time in my life, and I knew that something good had to come out of this. So, a lot of songs reflect on my past and the struggles that they presented me as I continue to grow up.”
Baldwin and Sellers began dating in 2011 after they met in the music program at Birmingham-Southern. Even before their romantic relationship, they played several shows together around the Birmingham area. Baldwin saw firsthand the struggle and constant resilience that Sellers displayed.
“She moved out of her dad’s house, and my parents graciously allowed her to live in the spare room in our basement,” he remembers. “We continued to play and record. She was always writing songs about what happened to her. It was really inspirational through all the heartache, pain, and confusion that she could create something beautiful out of that.”
The couple began by performing solely under Sellers’ name. Sellers and Baldwin knew they ultimately wanted a complete band, and they tried performing with several different musicians for about a year. However, nothing stuck and they decided to become The Heavy Hearts. They played as a duo until they found the right person to amplify their sound. Sellers and Baldwin started to record an acoustic album with musician and Elagante Studio manager Lester Nuby III, and they invited a handful of musicians to play on their tracks. When they started to play with Hippensteel, everything changed. The couple invited Hippensteel to be a permanent member of the band in 2013, and thus changed their stripped-down sound into the way Sellers and Baldwin always intended The Heavy Hearts to be: a folk-rock mix with a Southern twist.
Keep Your Light On will be released digitally and on CD in late March 2014 with a music video directed by Alan Collins of Elegy Films preceding the album release.
“A lot of the songs Lauren wrote are about very sad and personal experiences, but there is always hope and light at the end of it all,” says Hippensteel. “The theme of Keep Your Light On is to shine through the darkness.