Shovels and Rope talk about 'By Blood' and about raising kids on tour

Jade talks with Shovels and Rope at Bonnaroo
Jade talks with Shovels and Rope -- the South Carolina duo comprising Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent -- at Bonnaroo 2019. (David Safar | MPR)
Bonnaroo 2019: Jade interviews Shovels & Rope
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During The Current's live broadcasts from the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., Jade invited a bunch of acts who were playing at Bonnaroo to stop by for informal chats. Among those acts were Shovels & Rope, the Charleston, S.C., husband-and-wife duo comprising Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst.

Shovels & Rope recently released By Blood, their fifth studio album of original songs. Ahead of their Bonnaroo set, Shovels & Rope stopped at The Current's broadcast booth to talk to Jade about the new album and about what it's like being a family on tour.

JADE: Can you describe your album for us? What does By Blood mean to you with regard to the album?

MICHAEL TRENT: There's a song on it — the last song of the album is called "By Blood." It was written from my perspective when we first had our daughter. There's a lot of complicated love that goes into our thing, you know? At this point, we were doing this for our job, being in a band, and now all of a sudden we're taking care of this little girl who we love and who's so precious, but my bond with her kind of came a little bit later than it did with Cary—

CARY ANN HEARST: Let's just get to it: I'm her favorite, and you were second fiddle for a long time.

JADE: And that's hard! Not everyone can be Cary Ann.

MICHAEL: It's true. That's why we named the song that, and that's why we named the record that. It's a complicated time for us to be a family and be in a rock band.

JADE: Yeah. I look around at Bonnaroo and I see people with their kids in the little kangaroo pouches … You could bring a family to Bonnaroo; I feel like that's all right. Do you guys bring the kids on tour?

CARY ANN: Yes. They're always with us. In fact, it's an anomaly that they're not at Bonnaroo. We chose not to bring them because we knew we were going to be very busy. And for both of us — especially for me, I have a very hard time turning off the mom mind and getting to music mind and focusing on our job, [which] is to be here and working our new record and putting on great shows and trying to make people have fun. Today, it's also hot and it's kind of a good day to leave the kids, but they're usually with us at the festivals and they always find the face painting and the popcorn and the sweet treats they're not supposed to have and they get when we're not looking! (laugh) So it's fun.

JADE: Do you guys find that because they're growing up in this very different atmosphere, do you think your kids see this as, "Oh, this is normal."

CARY ANN: Oh yeah.

MICHAEL: I think it's good. I think the fact that we are always traveling and meeting different kinds of people everywhere we go, I think it can only be good for them to know all different types of people and all different colors of people and from different walks of life and different situations. I think we're doing a good job.

CARY ANN: Yeah, and they have an interesting lexicon. [Our daughter's] first question when we get anywhere is "Where is the green room?" "Is there catering?" A four-year-old kid knows where the catering is; she knows not to take more than what she's going to eat because it's for sharing. The communal nature of our life really teaches sharing and considering other people, which is a challenge for three-and-a-half year-olds.

JADE: Does she have a favorite band already?

CARY ANN: Yo Gabba Gabba!

MICHAEL: She likes the Beach Boys a lot. We play the Beach Boys and the Beatles.

CARY ANN: She likes Imagine Dragons. She likes Justin Timberlake.

JADE: She's covering the bases — all kinds of music!

CARY ANN: And she's newly obsessed with Dolly Parton and will sing "Jolene" with a feeling.

JADE: Yeah! Keep that going for as long as possible! You guys are also working on a kids' book, I saw.

MICHAEL: It is a book; I don't know if it's necessarily going to end up being a kids' book. It's off of our song "Come On, Utah," and so it's basically the lyrics to that that are illustrated. We have an artist friend who is doing that. It will be kid friendly, but he's also a little bit dark, and so I don't know. It's not finished yet, so we're waiting to see how it turns out.

CARY ANN: It's funny how these things evolve. We definitely set out to, kind of like, "We're going to make this into a children's book," but we just wanted to use the lyric; we didn't want to write a narrative. And so it'll be interesting to see how it comes out. It'll be cool, though. I know it'll be pretty.

JADE: As it should be. So I've been asking everyone the same question in honor of Dr. John and the festival of Bonnaroo: Think of a song title of yours that would name a festival, and what's the vibe the energy, who's playing?

MICHAEL: Let's both think of what it is, and say it at the same time. One … two … three.

MICHAEL and CARY ANN: Hail Hail. [from their 2012 album, O' Be Joyful]

JADE: You can tell you guys are married! So what's the feeling at this festival?

CARY ANN: Hail Hail Festival is a rock and roll festival. I think it's all the things that we like from the '60s and '70s; maybe it's all deceased musicians we bring back from the dead.

JADE: Hologram style or like real life?

CARY ANN: Two stages —

MICHAEL: Hauntograms!

CARY ANN: The "Hauntogram Stage" — marry me, Michael. The Hauntogram Stage has the holograms of the deceased artists, and then the Grigri Stage, we conjure Dr John and use mediums to bring his spirt back, and we'd have all voodoo-zombie versions of our favorite musicians. So dead zombie musicians and dead hologram musicians.

MICHAEL: Dead live music!

JADE: I feel like you can only do this in New Orleans, like that has to be where the festival is held.

CARY ANN: At St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, obviously!

JADE: Done and done!

"The Wire" is a song off the new record — can you tell me what was going on in your minds when you were creating that song?

CARY ANN: This is definitely one of the family songs on the record. Honestly, full disclosure, I had an argument where I was in the wrong, and you know how when you have to make an apology, it can hurt?

JADE: Hoo, that's tough!

CARY ANN: It was a song that we wrote that came out of me feeling like, "I am the best person I can be on any given day, and sometimes I'm just not that great, but I will always be there when it counts."

External Link

Shovels and Rope - official site

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  • Friday and Saturday: live broadcasts from Bonnaroo The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., is one of the big musical highlights each June. The Current's Jade returns to Bonnaroo this year for live broadcasts and spontaneous interviews with the artists performing at Bonnaroo. Listen Friday, June 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT, and again on Saturday, June 15, 12 to 4 p.m Central.
  • Shovels & Rope perform in The Current studio On their latest album, 'Little Seeds,' Shovels & Rope continue to stretch creatively. 'We're always kind of morphing and doing things a little bit different to stretch our legs,' says Michael Trent, co-frontperson with Cary Ann Hearst. Listen to Shovels & Rope's complete in-studio session, hosted by Bill DeVille on 'United States of Americana.'

2 Photos

  • Shovels and Rope
    Shovels & Rope at Pickathon 2018 (Todd Cooper)
  • Shovels and Rope, 'By Blood'
    Shovels and Rope, 'By Blood,' releases April 12, 2019. (Dualtone Music)