Sound & Vision: The Head and the Heart on Personal Growth and Living Mirage

Interviews, Sound and Vision
Emily Fox
photo by Vince Aung

Sound & Vision airs on KEXP every Saturday from 7-9 AM PST, utilizing interviews, artistry, commentary, insight and conversation to that tell broader stories through music, and illustrate why music and art matter. On last week's episode, producer Emily Fox chats with Seattle band The Head and the Heart. Listen to the segment or read the story below.


The Head and the Heart released a new album May 17, it’s called Living Mirage. This album is a poppier departure from their earlier folk-rock hits like “Rivers and Roads” or “Lost in my Mind.” Part of that might be that this is the first album Josiah Johnson isn’t in. You can hear him singing in those earlier songs. Johnson has been struggling with addiction. The Head and the Heart band member, Matt Gervais says it was ultimately Johnson’s decision to step back from this album.

“I think it really came down to confronting hard truths,” Gervais says. “He realized that the sort of dynamics at play in a band, in The Head and the Heart that’s touring constantly, has a lot of different pressures on us at all times, wasn’t really something that he was ready to or willing to jump back into.”

Gervais says this subject of confronting hard truths is a big theme that comes up on their new album and "coming to the realization that you’re the only one who can really help yourself. That’s almost a paraphrase of a lyric on the first track of the album."

The song is, “I See You Through My Eyes” with the lyrics:

Until you learn to love yourself
The door is locked to someone else
(I’m just as damaged as you are, scattered to pieces with you gone)
Without the dark there is no light, but don’t give the ghost an inch tonight
(I saw the signs you were leavin’ but I didn’t want to believe it)

Gervais adds that a lot of the songs on the album are about “personal growth and interpersonal growth which is also happening within the band.”  Later in the album you have the song "Up Against the Wall," which is about pushing back on this feeling you’ll never love again.

And towards the end of the album you have the song, “I Found Out,” about allowing yourself to love again with the chorus, “I found out it’s not the love that’s in your mind/It’s the love that you might find that’s gonna save our lives.”

“’It’s not the love that’s in your mind’, it’s not this preconceived notion that you’ve made, which gets back to this idea of overcoming these hurdles, it’s about questioning your own belief system and figuring out, ‘oh, maybe there’s a different set of truths that I’ve had my eyes closed to.’ So ‘it’s the love that you might find’ instead which is being open to possibilities and finding what’s out there,” Gervais says.

This is the fourth studio album by a band that started playing together at an open mic night in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood 10 years ago. Charity Rose Thielen is a singer and multi-instrumentalist with Head and the Heart. She says they hope to still be a band 10 years from now, but that also means staying healthy along the way in order to make it for the long haul.

“On day one we were signing onto to like, we want to do this forever together and it’s a hard thing to do vices aside,” Thielen says. “And we have to be aware, we have to rise up and be healthy if we want to do this forever.”
The Head and the Heart’s new album again is called Living Mirage. And while there aren’t any Seattle tour dates set for the band yet, they say they can’t wait to play in their hometown. 

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