Duo known for great stories

‘Shovels and Rope’ coming to The State Theater

Courtesy photo / Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent of Shovels and Rope became more than collaborators when they married in 2009.

Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent met in Georgia while in separate bands, but they started collaborating on music and cut an album together, called “Shovels and Rope,” under their individual names in 2008.

“We made that record as an excuse to get together,” Hearst said in a phone interview with the Mirror last week. “We both really respected each other and wanted to hang out and be friends.”

They’re more than friends now, having gotten married in 2009, and they joined forces for their own band in 2011, aptly naming it after their first album. Shovels and Rope recorded its fifth album a year ago and has taken its music on the road, with a stop at The State Theatre in State College on Oct. 15.

“This is a dynamite American folk duo that will please everyone,” said Karen Gregg, executive director of The State Theatre.

Gregg said she was first introduced to the band when it made its network television debut with the song “Birmingham” on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in 2013.

“I personally love” that song, Gregg added.

The two are known for their harmonic voices and their instrumentation. Both play the drums, keyboards and guitars, and they entertain audiences by effortlessly switching back and forth. And, they are clever, having figured out that “shovel and a rope are the minimum things necessary to get into or out of a sticky situation.”

Based in Charleston, S.C., for 11 years, Shovels and Rope tells stories using a blend of folk, rock and roll and country rock, and the latest album, “Little Seeds,” is deeply personal. About the time it was written, they’d had their first child and were coping with Trent’s father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“It reflects our overall life experiences; a lot of big stuff happening while we were stepping up the record,” Hearst said. “The song writing process seemed to be a bit more cathartic, and we were addressing things that were going on in our lives.”

The album also includes a poem they wrote together after the shooting of nine African Americans in a downtown Charleston church by an avowed white supremacist in June 2015.

“Black lives, white lives, yellow lives, red. … Let’s all come together and share the bread.

Let’s all join hands and share the dread. … Too many dying, too many dead. … Let’s all come together and bow our heads. … Talk is talk when nothing gets said. …”

“BWYR” is a meditative drone without a lot of melody, Trent noted.

“It was a poem not intended to be music,” he said. “One day we just kind of experimented with it and thought … maybe this could be something we put music to. That’s what we do. That’s the form we took. It was a thing we did to help us process what had happened in our town. We decided to put it on the record. I think it serves a good purpose and the message is one of unification.”

Hearst said their fans are a varied lot.

“We see old hippies and young punks in our shows,” she said. “We see people who love folk songs; I call it serious songwriting, storytelling.

“But I hope (our audiences) are full of like-minded folks who want to move the conversation forward, accepting the struggles that people are experiencing in this country, and be uplifting.”

Hearst and Trent had something of a scare this summer when a hurricane headed toward their hometown during a scheduled break from their tour.

“We were going to be home for about a week, but the hurricane cone was right there,” Trent said. “We were home long enough to board up the windows” and head for family in Chattanooga, Tenn., for a few days before resuming the tour that winds down on Oct. 19.

They’re looking forward to an “incubative winter” with another album in the works, and a new recording studio “to play in,” she said.

“And figure how to navigate a two-year-old,” he said with a laugh.

Hearst added: “I always wanted to do this. We’re real excited we could parlay something we love to do into our profession. It comes with its challenges, but it’s great to go to work.”

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.


If you go

What: Shovels and Rope

When: 9 p.m., Oct. 15

Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College

Admission: Starts at $27, plus fees

Tickets/more info: www.TheStateTheatre.org, 272-0606