Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent — collectively known as Shovels & Rope — reflect on the birth of their child and the aging of their parents on their new album, “Little Seeds.”’ They play the Showbox SoDo Saturday, Nov. 12.
On March 26, 2009, the parents of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent met for the first time on Wadmalaw Island, in Charleston County, S.C. It was an awkward and happy time, as Hearst and Trent were preparing to get married two days later — but fortunately, both singers’ fathers were musicians who liked to relax by picking stringed instruments.
“The icebreaker was mandolin,” recalled Hearst, who with Trent makes up the country-folk-rock duo Shovels & Rope, playing Showbox SoDo on Saturday (Nov. 12). “It was really nice seeing our parents try to figure each other out and get to know each other.”
Trent’s father and Hearst’s stepdad played again last month at a birthday party for the couple’s 1-year-old daughter, Louisiana Jean. This collaboration, at a beach house in Charleston, had a different kind of poignancy: Trent’s dad has Alzheimer’s disease.
Shovels & Rope
8:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at Showbox SoDo, 1700 First Ave. S., Seattle; $27.75 (206-652-0444 or showboxonline.com).
“One of the things that is keeping (him) with us — he’s a fantastic musician and he loves music,” said Hearst, 37, in a joint 20-minute phone interview from Nashville, Tenn., where the duo was promoting its new album, “Little Seeds.”
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Released this past October, “Little Seeds” continues Shovels & Rope’s path into darker material. The new album has one powerful rocker about Alzheimer’s, “Invisible Man,” directly inspired by Trent’s father: “Help me please/ I lost myself/ I know who I am/ I don’t know anybody else.”
It’s also inspired by the death of their musician-friend Eric Brantley, killed in a 2015 shooting, as well as the mass church shooting in Charleston that same year.
That’s not to say “Little Seeds” is bleak — it opens with a blast of guitar feedback and a stomping rocker called “I Know,” and even the softer, folky songs, like “Missionary Ridge,” have a bit of X and Johnny-and-June in them.
Trent and Hearst grew up in separate cities — Denver and Nashville, respectively — and met in Charleston, S.C., where they collaborated musically before dating.
“It clicked right away, “ Trent said. “We made a bunch of recordings for fun before we ever decided to be in this band. … We’ve always been able to harmonize with each other. It’s just an instinctual thing.”
They officially formed Shovels & Rope in 2008, and took four years to make a debut called “O’ Be Joyful.” Slowly, they began to build a following, landing a song called “Hell’s Bells” in an episode of “True Blood.”
“Little Seeds” reflects the joy and stress of being new parents juxtaposed with the couple’s personal tragedies.
“We’re enjoying the extremes in our life — the birth of a child, the aging of our parents, the new filter that you look through life with,” Hearst said. “It was an overwhelming time. And what was astounding about it was, even though it was a crazy time, those times happen to everybody. It was a universal human experience.”
In other words, the perfect inspiration for an album full of folk, country and rock ’n’ roll songs.