by Fraser McCallum
We’re playing the kind of stuff our parents listened to when we were all growing up,” says bass player Blu Gillis with a smile when asked to describe the Haunted Hearts’ music. “It sounds like a bunch of drunk cowboys trying to get up the stairs.”
Charlottetown’s Haunted Hearts have been together for just over a year but are already making a splash. They draw on influences ranging from Buck Owens and Fred Eaglesmith to the more contemporary likes of Ryan Adams and Wilco. Playing a blend of country, roots and honky-tonk music the foursome is led by singer-songwriter Dennis Ellsworth on guitar and vocals with Mike Macdougall on drums, Johnny Ross on keys and Gillis on bass.
“It was a long road to find just the right people for this band,” says Ellsworth who also plays with Battery Point. The seed was planted when Ellsworth was visiting PEI from his then-home of Toronto in 2007. He was blown away by the local talent at the annual Close to the Coast music fest and thought he should pack his bags and have a go at the East Coast music scene once more.
The band benefits from its musically diverse lineup, all seasoned performers from other groups. Ross is known for his talents on the keys and the cover band that bares his name, Macdougall from past Charlottetown bands like Eyes for Telescopes and The Tuesdays, and Gillis from a variety of covers projects. “This is more creative,” says the bass player. “We’re teaching each other lots. Its very exciting.”
An impassioned Ellsworth feels the band is one of the best he’s been in. “When playing together a lot comes out unconsciously with these guys. They’re really good at putting the right amount of energy into something and still having a great time.” This translates well into their live show as the young Hearts have been able to play a wide variety of gigs to very receptive crowds, from Harmony House to the Nigwek street fest to the bar gigs of Baba’s and Hunter’s.
All four musicians are excited for the next few months with Music PEI showcases, Maritime gigs and hopefully the ECMAs in Sydney on the horizon. Ellsworth gets a light in his eye when speaking of such things. “I want to seize whatever opportunities come our way. This is the type of music I really love. Our live show is only going to get better the more we get out there and we all want to take it to the next level.”
The Hearts recently released their first album, entitled Thank You, Goodnight recorded by Adam Gallant.