Haunted Hearts want to say “Howdy”

Celebrating the release of their new record Howdy, Charlottetown’s Americana-roots sweethearts Haunted Hearts will be performing at Plan B on St. George St on Friday September 24.

Formed in October 2008, the group has wasted little time getting things done. They released their debut record Thank You Goodnight last year and are set to begin promoting Howdy with vigour.

For the making of their new record, the band subscribed to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory, choosing to work with the same engineer (Adam Gallant) and record in the same location as they made Thank You Goodnight, at the home of Haunted Hearts drummer Mike MacDougall. The familiarity of the environment was a boon to everyone, including Gallant.

“In a lot of ways, the formula behind Howdy was the same,” Haunted Hearts member Dennis Ellsworth begins. “We had such a great relationship and experience with Adam in making our first record, the experience this time around was great because of the comfort level that was already established.”

Though the group was happy with the results of their first record, they did make a conscious effort to improve upon a couple of things the second time around:

“We wanted more low-end on this record so we ended up doing more work to get a really great bass tone and did more of a full microphone setup on the drums. On our first record, the mic setup was relatively minimal in comparison to this new one, at least on the drums. These were the two areas that we wanted to improve upon this time around and I think in the end, we have what we feel is a superior representation of the group.”

Using records by The Band as a blueprint, Haunted Hearts weren’t after gloss as much as they simply wanted atmosphere and roominess to be prominently featured on their new record.

Recorded over the course of sessions in February and April of this year, Ellsworth admits the group took their time getting things completed on Howdy.

“We did take a little time to do overdubs but the record wasn’t something that we were working on every day. We more-less just picked at it and crafted the record as we worked on it,” he says. “We intentionally tried to limit the amount we worked on the record.”

Songwriting is very much a collaborative effort in the world of Haunted Hearts. Ellsworth says each band member brings their ideas to the table, contributing and helping elaborate upon those ideas while they are still in their initial stages.

“Everybody writes their own parts for the songs and then we decide as a band the ultimate direction of the song. I think you have to be open to having a song go in the direction that best serves it. I don’t think the band would sound the way we do if I came in and told people how I want the song to sound. Everybody contributes their parts and it ends up sounding like us.”

With their new record set to drop, Ellsworth says that the band’s plan for promoting Howdy is a little more ambitious than their debut. Though the group still promoted the record to the best of their abilities, he is hoping that they will be able to take the promotion train up a notch.

“We did quite a bit of work for our debut but we’ve got people within the band who are busy and it kind of limited how much work we could do in terms of promotion.”

Working around band members’ lives is nothing that is necessarily new to any East Coast band and Haunted Hearts are no exception. But since last year, the group has gained much more in the way of music industry contacts that they hope to leverage in efforts to help take the band to the next level.

One of the upcoming tours that Ellsworth will be embarking on solo is a 13-show run throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta that will see him performing a series of house concerts. Set up by the Home Routes organization, house concerts are exactly what they sound like – performers setting up and playing for a group of spectators in someone’s home. It is a phenomenon that seems to be picking up in terms of popularity among artists of all statures.

“The house concerts are most often taking place in rural areas,” Ellsworth says. “And it’s great because you’re bringing music to those people, eliminating the need for them to travel to a major city to hear some great music.”

Artists playing house concerts receive their performance fee based upon a donation of those in attendance. Ellsworth says that often, those attending a house concert are so extremely appreciative of the talent that it is not uncommon to have people donating up to $20 each for the show. As far as he is concerned, it sure beats paying $10 to hear a band over the din of bar conversation.

While Haunted Hearts will be keeping Canadian audiences in their sights, Ellsworth is looking to the US and Europe to ultimately help grow their fan base.

“Roots and alt.country music is more popular in the US than it is in Canada so I think we are going to look at setting up some dates in the Northeastern US to get started. We would love to find an open door in the UK, Germany and other European countries too.

“It almost seems like you have to go away and be recognized by others before you can achieve success at home. We’re not saying that we don’t feel as though Canada is worth the trouble, we just want to build the band in areas that we feel our music is going to be searched out.”