Fun & Mayhem

June 08th, 2017
Fun & Mayhem
Tales of love and loss weave their way through The Heggarties’ debut album, but it has been a long wait for fans.

The Hills alt-country band first formed in 2009, playing cover songs by bands such as Bryan Adams and The Decemberists.

Now a six-piece, The Heggarties will launch their self-titled album at their ‘spiritual home’ the Grace Emily Hotel on Saturday, June 17.

Vocalist and guitarist Paul Heggart hopes the album captures the band’s live sound and sense of fun and mayhem.

“With this kind of music, there are stories about the struggles and emotional parts of life,” Paul said.

“Country music has a reputation for sad songs, but on this album the lyrics range from songs about depression and loss, to songs about a girl you really love.”

The band’s 2014 debut EP marked their official transition from cover band to original act – allowing them to grab more festival slots including the Americana Music Festival in Nashville.

Naturally, the next step was to write and record a debut album, placing their trust in MixMasters in Hawthorndene.

“It’s an older studio which gives the music that warm sound you hear on classic recordings,” Paul said.

“The music that we play is focused on the lyrics and stories, so we wanted something natural.”

With five songwriters and four lead singers, you could expect writing to become complicated, but Paul said that’s far from the truth.

“With the lineup we have now, everyone in the band loves the music we play and listen to,” Paul said.

“Keeping a band together demands a possibility for creative choice and to be a part of that process you have to bring everyone in and that creates a lot of chemistry.

“We’ve become a very collaborative band.”

The Hills have been a reoccurring theme throughout The Heggarties’ music, with Paul and vocalist Wren Heggart living in Blackwood.

“We drive out to Lobethal, Macclesfield and all these beautiful places on a Saturday morning – that makes me feel connected to the Hills,” Paul said.

“On our first EP Wren wrote a song called Hillside Home about how much she loves living up here, what is means for her and how she’s fallen in love with it.

"It’s a genuine, sincere song, she really does feel that way. We feel more a part of the Hills than we do Adelaide.”

On Wayside Chapel Wren sings about a progressive church in Kings Cross, Sydney – also a haven for the counter culture – where her parents met and married in the late 60s.

Paul said the song is a brilliant portrayal of that era, but an emotional one.
“The story that’s not told is the fact that she’s lost both her parents,” Paul said.

“When we actually played that song in the studio, we all were emotional at that stage, and I was breaking up, by the end of it I was bawling.

“I’ve been with Wren for 26 years and I know the sadness and loss that she has been through – I just couldn’t hold it together any more.”

One very patient fan who has been following the band’s journey since the beginning is Chris Lewis.

He met Paul working in the insurance industry and said they both felt like ‘a square peg in a round hole’.

“He’s a lot like me, working in the industry, because you have to do something – it’s not the job you love but you have to pay the bills,” Chris said.

“He started mucking around with a band and a bunch of us went down to the Wheatsheaf Hotel and had a blast.

“It’s been fascinating to see them evolve as a group and start to do their own songs.”

“They’re really trying to capture something that you don’t see very often which is this folk-blues sound, almost protest music.

“There’s shades of Billy Bragg and there is a level of political awareness, not in every piece, but in the way they talk about their music.”

Chris recalls the beginnings of The Heggarties when they had to stop performing.

“They started out as a cover band but the covers they were performing didn’t sound like the source material,” he said.

“No matter what they played, they had a Woody Guthrie spin on it.

“The Wheatsheaf said ‘we don’t book covers band and we only just noticed that you’re playing them’, so they had to start writing their own.

“To see them evolve as a band has been very interesting, watching them grow in confidence and musicianship.

“I’ve watched as Steve made his own guitar and Paul started experimenting with steel body guitars and as Wren’s developed her own singing ability.

“The first gig when they were taking money at the door, they couldn’t believe it, so this album launch is a massive step for them.”

The Heggarties show others that it is never too late to pursue your passion.

“It’s really heartening to see someone my age, in their late 30’s, that you can have a boring job you don’t like in an office, but that’s not who you have to be forever,” Chris said.

“You might not being able to quit your day job but you might get your hobby to pay for itself.”

In the lead up to the album’s release, Chris is ‘keeping himself in the dark’.

“I said to my partner, we could have a listen and be delightfully surprised but let’s go into it cold.

“We’ve got a fairly good idea of what it’s like from listening to their EP.”

For the remainder of the year, The Heggarties will play shows in Melbourne and Sydney and continue writing, with the aim of playing Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2018.

“We’re goal orientated in the sense that we have something to work towards but we’re not fixated on the end point, we’re loving the journey,” Paul said.

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