ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Cary Ann Hearst

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

She’s an artist you’ll love or maybe already do, at the very least, appreciate as a study in contrasts. Hearst is Mississippi-born and Tennessee-raised, but the same drawl that talks about “workin’ real hard” and “doin’ the best she can” rips through her debut album, rasping grit about love lost and love scorned. American Songwriter catches up with the indie-rock singer/songwriter so she can share a few thoughts on artistry outside Music City. She’s an artist you’ll love or maybe already do, at the very least, appreciate as a study in contrasts. Hearst is Mississippi-born and Tennessee-raised, but the same drawl that talks about “workin’ real hard” and “doin’ the best she can” rips through her debut album, rasping grit about love lost and love scorned. American Songwriter catches up with the indie-rock singer/songwriter so she can share a few thoughts on artistry outside Music City.

American Songwriter: Alright-the obvious question-why Charleston? Why not Nashville as a base for the group?
CAH: I lived in Nashville until I was 18; then moved to Charleston and I’ve been there ever since. Charleston is isolated in a sense, it’s kind of a weird, do-it-yourself community in which a lot of bands who take an independent approach do well. All kinds of music gets played in this city. I’d live in Nashville if I was all set up, but I can’t imagine trying to do both-record and financially support myself waitressing or something. Charleston is much more detached from a lot of the stuff in larger communities so we get more mileage out of what we’re doing. Most of my friends in Nashville don’t make any money, whereas we make at least 100 bucks a night. A bunch of artists have been signed from down here. It’s a place where you can tour everywhere or do nothing. I would like to be mid-level sustainable artist.

How old are you?
I’m 28. And I’m pretty normal [laughs] It’s really not that exciting of a life.

Then where do these lyrics come from?
I draw on my family and friends’ experiences-imitate them when I write, especially my mom and grandpa. My mom knows how to put words together when she tells a story. And her dad is that way. I want to be that way, more so with music.

What’s the story behind the name of your band (Cary Ann and the Gun Street Girls)?
Well, there are no other girls. I’m the only one. There was this song by Tom Waits called “Gun Street Girl,” and one time I was driving somewhere, heard it, and thought it was just outlandish. It reminded me of the New York Dolls, [all-male group in women’s clothing] and I just loved it. In my brain, the name is secretly a tribute to that kind of thing. The boys thought it was hilarious. The irony of it would confuse people or amuse them. It’s served me well so far. I can keep on using it even as people come and go.

When did the band start up?
This band started a year-and-a-half ago. Two Septembers ago, we went to Nashville for our first gig as a band, and played a BMI showcase. 2005 is when we all met and got together. I had recorded a record called Dust and Bones before getting together with the band, therefore the band and record don’t sound much alike. I just got friends to play with me on Dust. It was a family project. My bass player engineered it. We were very homemade, very resourceful.

What is it that you want your listeners to take away from your music?
The stories. Most of my stuff is comprised of half of a real story, and half of a story that I’m making up and embellishing. It’s nice to be able to leave something behind that I think could be good for a long time.

What do your plans for 2008 look like?
I’ll be in Charleston for part of the year, but I’ve made a really cool record, Shovels and Rope, with my fiancée. It’s kind of a concept record, all the songs are about the same people in the same town, different stories but the characters are repeating. It’s very stripped down and organic sounding. Michael (my fiancée) produced it. And in the spring I‘m going to record a Gun Street Girls record. And I’m going to get married! I don’t know when but I just know I am.

Check out Cary Ann Hearst on her mini-tour right now, and look for her new album this spring.

Leave a Reply

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Destroyer

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Alabama’s Randy Owen