After a three-year hiatus, The Head and the Heart is back with a new record, Living Mirage. Formed in 2009, the band has a decade of experience in the music industry, giving them plenty of time to reflect, grow, and find their identity. Living Mirage shows the band as lively as ever, while feeling more confident in their emotional musical groundings. Ahead of the group’s 38-stop North American tour, I spoke to vocalist, songwriter, and instrumentalist Jonathan Russell to learn more about what’s to come for the band.
What was the preparation and creative process like for this tour? This is actually the first time we’ve gone more theatrical with the live shows. We’re used to just being up there with amps and instruments, and now there’s more design and lights into it to really bring out more for these songs.
Does that have anything to do with the musical transition you’ve made over the years? Definitely. This is our fourth record, and we’ve been doing this for about 10 years now. We started out with really simple songs based around an acoustic guitar, but now our songs feel bigger and we feel more like a band than a singer/songwriter. That definitely influences you to push it further with the live element. Every time we start making a new record, you feel these new characters get brought out, and our new live setting really helps create these new scenes.
Listening to Living Mirage, you can hear elements of your debut album more developed and built upon. Was that the intention from the beginning or just how things naturally progressed? I always wanted to be a reactionary writer to a band. When we first started writing for it at Joshua Tree, we began by just playing music together, and I would make lyrics to what the sessions felt like. Songs like “Running Through Hell” and “Living Mirage” are just living in a desert, getting together, and making music. Then I would go back and move lyrics around and make a story. I just wanted to mix things up and not have so much of “my voice.”
At first, this album seems more poppy than your other record, but when you break it down, it’s very intimate with similar themes just in a different context. Yeah, you don’t want to just throw your past stuff off the boat, but you work your hardest to grow and evolve. I mean, you can mute everything on that record and hear that song that caught your attention years ago. You just hear people growing and becoming more sophisticated. There’s a lot of very personal, moving material for our fans on here, and I’m very honored to have that, but I also want to roll the windows down and put on “Like Brenda” and go 45, you know? I feel like finally this record touches both sides of that.
It feels more you. Yeah. I feel like I’ve been able to release who I am as a writer and see my personality come through. Even with these songs live — we just finished a full rehearsal with all the lights and everything, and it just puts you in a certain place. I’ve never been able to do that before. There’s just all these opportunities to let your hair down and perform. There’s this new energy coming off the stage from the band, and I’m excited to see how it hits the audience.
Any last thoughts? I know a lot of people have maybe heard one song they liked in the past and forgot about us. But whatever you thought this band was, it might not necessarily be the case. There’s something new and fresh to where it feels like a brand-new band. Everyone internally is healthier now and loves each other again, and it just feels much more unified. I just feel like there’s going be something happening on that stage.
4•1•1 | The Head and the Heart plays Tuesday, July 23, at the Bowl. See sbbowl.com.