Two years ago the Charleston husband and wife duo known as Shovels & Rope were playing tiny clubs like Plaza-Midwood’s Snug Harbor. But since releasing “O’ Be Joyful” in summer 2012, the harmony-driven roots duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent has seen its star rise.
They supported Dawes and the Lumineers on tour, appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman” and “Austin City Limits,” and have a song in a Zale’s jewelry commercial.
In May the duo will perform during Spoleto, Charleston’s renowned international arts festival.
“It’s cool we can float between the gutter and high art,” she laughs, discussing their placement alongside ballet, opera and chamber music.
Shovels & Rope opens fellow Carolinans the Avett Brothers’ New Year’s Eve show Tuesday at Time Warner Cable Arena. It marks the band’s first Charlotte show since the release of “O’ Be Joyful.”
Despite their recent success, Trent says, “Not a whole lot has changed for us except more people come to the shows.”
“And it takes more people to put on the shows,” adds Hearst.
Shovels & Rope wasn’t banking on a big break.
“The point we were in our careers, we had given up all our expectations. (But) not giving up what we were doing. We were going to tour behind it. We had a great manager working real hard with us. We sold our own merch. We were fine doing that. That’s what we expected to do,” says Hearst. “An opportunity came knocking in terms of having a relationship with Dualtone Records (the Lumineers, Guy Clark). That opened us up to casting a bigger net. We weren’t taken by surprise, but we weren’t anticipating it. We were going to go out and work the record either way.”
Hearst and Trent were solo musicians, touring and releasing albums independently. The band sounds fated, but it was more of a means to stick together.
“We started it more out of necessity than anything else. It was a very utilitarian way to approach both of our careers. We both had solo records coming out, and we didn’t want to be away from the other one because we happened to be married,” says Hearst. “There was only two of us. and we had to get creative with it and find solutions. That goes for financially as well. We’re just two people. We turned our van into a hotel room and managed to stay out on the road for a few years, partially because we didn’t want to be apart.”
Shovels & Rope strikes at the right time – as folk-based, foot-stomping, acoustic music is considered mainstream in a big way. But career longevity and creative freedom matter most to them.
“You look at people’s careers and say, ‘I want to have a career like that.’ …,” says Hearst. “There’s Elvis Costello whose entire life has been in show business. He’s made every kind of record he wants. No one tells him what kind of record to make. We look to someone like that.”
Courtney's blog: cltsoundbites.blogspot.com
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less