Music doesn't have an overabundance of married couples who retain a harmonious musical relationship along with their artistic one. However, Shovels & Rope, the duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, are making it work. "We had a very deliberate conversation about taking our egos out of it," says Hearst. "I think it works better that we're married anyway."
The two married in 2009, not long after they formed the duo in Charleston, S.C. The duo's new album, "O Be Joyful," has been winning excellent reviews and gaining the duo a good following. The act was just tapped to open a series of shows for Jack White.
While the two say they are similar in their talents, there are also some differences, which help both in their careers and marriage.
"Being able to recognize our strengths and weaknesses is a real asset," says Trent. "I don't think everyone always recognizes them."
"I'm a gregarious person. There's a relationship between us and the fans and I tend to handle that easier. I tend to go to the merch booth and talk with people. Michael is super-organized and he handles a lot of the nonmusical stuff ... Michael is more prolific than I am."
"I'm not going to be able to take voice lessons and sing like Cary," says Trent. "I'm never going to be the one with the golden voice."
Trent says the two are not competitive, per se, but just like if a friend writes a really good song, when Hearst comes up with one it makes him want to want to write something as good.
"We still write songs individually," says Hearst. "On this record probably one-third was brought in by me, Michael brought in a third and one-third was written together. It's been easier and easier to write together."
The two came from different parts of the country before meeting in Charleston, but had some similarities in their backgrounds.
"I grew up in Colorado, but I was born in Texas," says Trent. "My dad got me into music. He's in a bluegrass band and plays mandolin. I wanted to play rock."
"Michael's parents only let him listen to Christian music," says Hearst. "Well, that's not entirely true ..."
"I had an NWA tape," says Trent. "So my parents said, 'Oh, he likes rap.' So they bought me a tape by the Raptures, a Christian rap band. It was awful!"
Ever resourceful, Trent taped NWA over the Raptures, but kept the Raptures packaging.
In high school, Trent started a band called The Films, which toured and got a record deal with Reprise Records. Unfortunately, though, the group signed at a time when record companies were reorganizing and the band was dropped.
Hearst was born in Mississippi, but mostly grew up in Nashville. Like Trent, bluegrass was in the family — in Hearst's case through her stepfather. She says she hadn't considered music as a career until she moved to Charleston to attend college.
"We met years ago when we were in different bands," says Hearst. "But it was a community where everybody played together."
Both had solo careers and had solo albums when they played a few shows as a duo. Audiences were enthusiastic. When they weren't working together, audiences would ask when they were going to perform together again. When the two began playing shows together regularly they started getting requests to tour.
"Charleston is a nice place to make music," says Hearst. "You can make $100 a night playing music. It makes touring difficult, because it's hard to get a band together to go out on the road and make NO money!"
Trent and Hearst, though, plan on spreading Shovels & Rope's music around the country.
"We've had more success than anticipated," says Trent. "We made this record in our house. There was not a whole lot of overhead. We're kind of on a lucky streak!"
Hearst says the two play things day by day, rather than setting big goals.
"What is it they say? 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him all your plans.'"
Shovels & Rope
With: Carolina Story
When: 10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16
Where: Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria, 200 E. Jackson Ave.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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