Every morning, Albuquerque-based songwriter, Heather Trost, puts on a new record to fill her home with sound. It’s a habit she and her husband, Jeremy Barnes, who plays in the band, Neutral Milk Hotel, have started and sustained during the months of quarantine. But it’s also one borne of a life enriched early on by music. Trost, whose parents regularly played albums in the house growing up, learned to love vinyls from Bach or The Beatles. Now, she and her hubby, spin an array. Each one is like a bridge or portal to another space. This idea delights Trost, who relishes delving into sonic textures, as evidenced by her latest single, “Jump Into the Fire,” which we’re happy to premiere today. The song, which dances and splashes, is from her forthcoming LP, Petrichor, out November 6th on Third Man Records.
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“Music is this language that can bring people together in unique and amazing ways,” Trost says. “It’s instantaneous, of the moment. And you don’t need to speak the same language to understand the feeling that’s conveyed. To me, when I’m hearing music, it takes me to another place. I feel like it opens doors and bridges to a wider community.”
There is a great deal of connective tissue in the recording of “Jump Into the Fire.” To start, the song is a cover. The original version is by Grammy-winning songwriter, Harry Nilsson. Trost’s take feels like the opening credits of a modern Spaghetti Western movie, however. It mentally manifests the brushed pastel colors of the Southwest – the red, orange, blue and purple clay that seems baked into the topographic rock of the region.
“I love atmospheric landscapes, musical landscapes,” Trost says. “Growing up in New Mexico, there are a lot of wide-open spaces. I’m very influenced by the natural world. In terms of crystalizing that into a sound, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
As a musician, Trost is prolific. She’s performed with her husband in a number of projects, including acclaimed groups like Beirut and A Hawk and a Hacksaw. But she has also released several solo albums under her own name. While this is, in part, a liberating experience – she is able to write, release and record whatever she wishes – it is also a terrifyingly vulnerable experience (she calls it a “leap of faith”). In this way, each release has felt like it’s own courageous step forward, musically.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way from my previous album,” Trost says. “I love my previous album, but I feel like the sound and quality of the recording is better now. I think I’ve honed in more on my lyric writing. My instrumentation is better. It was almost like baby steps, or something. I’ve been working towards this a long time.”
Trost began her musical journey at three-and-a-half-years-old. While her parents would always have music on in the house, Trost was given her first instrument before she turned four-years-old, a toy violin. This quickly graduated to a real violin and, later, to piano. Ever since, she has been interested in orchestration. But a vast interest does not a career make. Among other things, hard work is the name of the game. So is faith in oneself.
“It’s funny,” Trost says. “I think it’s a very deliberate choice to be a musician. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s not an easy choice because everyone is telling you not to do it. The establishment, the status quo, maybe even your family. But, for me, not being a musician would be a lot harder.”
As she immersed herself in music through the years, Trost became more and more comfortable with collaboration. She loves to play solo, but appreciates equally the act of writing and producing with other people (“Doing both is really important work,” she says). To write, whether that’s for her, her husband or another project altogether, Trost goes to a very personal space.
“I’ve always been really into melody and harmony,” Trost says. “Even the songs I write for A Hawk and a Hacksaw are a little bit more lullaby-like. I would say when I’m working on writing, I try to go to this place inside that’s a little more quiet or dream-like.”
The cover art immediately sticks out when examining Petrichor. The image is of a horse running alongside a stream, head askew, greenery everywhere. Looking at it, one can almost smell the farmland, the grass, the animal scampering somewhere in the crisp breeze. The picture comes from a tapestry Trost came across that’s popular in Eastern Europe, which is a region she’s explored and taken much from, musically. The tapestry’s origins and picturesque nature combine to make, for Trost, a singular type of metaphorical connection.
“To me,” Trost says, “it’s this bridging of two worlds, the western world where I grew up and the broader world that I’ve been able to explore through my connection to music. I love to think about these kinds of worlds music opens up.”
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