by Fraser MacCallum
Haunted Hearts have made quick work of their goals list. Since beginning in 2008, the Charlottetown alt-country outfit have released two acclaimed albums, picked up a boatload of Music PEI trophies, logged thousands of kilometres in touring, and all the while continue to develop great new songs with a striking frequency.
Led by Sherwood-raised Dennis Ellsworth, the band now consists of Mike MacDougall, Johnny Ross, Mark Geddes and Thomas Webb. Webb and Geddes (also members of Gordie MacKeeman and His Rhythm Boys) joined last fall, bringing a new sound (pedal steel, upright bass) to an already stacked cast of players.
“The vibe is maybe a little more country by way of the instrumentation, but the writing style is essentially the same,” says lead singer Ellsworth. “The live energy is quite a lot better now, and overall, I think we are in a better place as a band because of the changes we made to the line-up. The natural evolution of Haunted Hearts has been a trip worth taking.”
“The contributions are different but the process remains untouched” Ellsworth emphasizes. “It’s exciting to be writing with this line-up. We are challenging ourselves a little more than before, not necessarily with the sound of the music, but more so with the length of time we let something develop before we perform it live. We’re just really enjoying being a band and figuring out what works and what doesn’t before we reveal it.”
After a busy winter (including 3,000 kilometres burned during a successful ‘Home Routes’ tour across Saskatchewan) the Hearts are looking at a summer of regional festivals and planning more serious touring for the fall season. Ellsworth also points out that he’s looking to tinker with the type of show the Hearts bring and which stages they go after.
“We are looking to be less of a bar band and more of a traveling spectacle…but not all the way. We will still play bars. It’s good fun, but we have a soft side to our music that gets shoved aside in an effort to keep a bar crowd engaged. Some of our mellow stuff is my favorite and it kind of stifles things a little when we have to appear one dimensional when we clearly are not.”
The Haunted Hearts have connected with all sorts of fans though, picking up four 2011 Music PEI Awards and playing the ECMA Gala during Charlottetown’s wild week in April. Along with their albums, this turned the head of Jeff Liberty (management for Matt Andersen, Mike Biggar) who recently signed the quintet to JL Artists.
“It is a great move,” affirms Ellsworth. “It means we can grow our sound, stop managing ourselves, and give the business side of this over to someone who truly understands it; while we concentrate on making the best music we can—making it easier for him to get us in the door.”
“For the first time, we see a road we can travel as a band, and we know that Jeff has every confidence in us, and he shares our desire to see us succeed.”