For Jonathan Russell, frontman of the rock band The Head And The Heart, human emotion is a spectrum. They change with the weather. Depending on one’s mood, a feeling like “sadness” can bring with it a different perspective. For Russell, the color blue is like this. It can paint the color of a spring sky or can represent an angry ocean wave. Bearing witness to the range of these experiences is what inspired the band’s latest album, Every Shade of Blue.
Released April 29 via Warner Records, the record is their boldest album yet. Getting into the nitty-gritty of relationships, Russell says the record is the most intimate. Reflected in one of their first singles, “Tiebreaker,” the song looks at the complexity of everyday relationships. The band turned inward and asked themselves what they had in common with these characters.
“‘Tiebreaker’ is like a carnival ride through a wide variety of characters and relationships: lovers laughing uncontrollably, a married couple bickering, teenagers falling for each other in the moment,” Russell said.
“It makes you wonder – what do we all have in common?” he adds.
Asking these large questions is what led to the creation of the concept for the album. Even in pondering the complexity of human experience and our emotions, the difference in our experience is what unifies us all.
“It does sort of feel like this umbrella effect of inadvertently sort of describing a spectrum of emotions from one symbolic image that feels almost like a mood ring,” Russell tells American Songwriter.
“The color blue to me can be like this vast, deep, almost intimidating emotion, or enveloping emotion. You think blue is like a beautiful spring day,” he says. “The color just sort of has the breadth of more than one mood or a situation or circumstance in my opinion.”
Written during a period of isolation, the band took on the challenge of confronting their inner demons, but also the demons within the group. If they didn’t love each other, or themselves, they knew the music wasn’t going to be as good.
“I feel like the isolation was both the most challenging and the most forgiving,” says Russell.
The band reflected on their experience making their previous album, Living Mirage. They knew the unspoken conflict is what made the recording process difficult. Turning to focus on their mental health, the band undertook group therapy to work on their relationships and to conquer the idolized self-hatred expected of artists.
“We’re a band. Like we’re artists. We’re supposed to be damaged. We’re supposed to be moody,” Russell says.
“We’re supposed to be coo. But to be honest with you, the making of the Living Mirage record was so challenging. Then to tour on a record that was made in a challenging way was so revealing that let’s be honest, and let’s be adults about this, if we don’t love ourselves and love one another, the music turns to garbage, the relationships reflect the art, and vice versa.”
Russell’s voice grew raspy as he reflected on his emotional experience with the band. The investment in the band’s collective mental health journey allowed them to finally “get out of their own way.”
“The more you can trust and feel the ability to be vulnerable as you’re making art, you make way bolder statements. You don’t guard yourself. Songwriting is its own form of therapy for all of us.”
Every Shade of Blue is out now – click HERE to listen. Listen to the title track for The Head And The Heart’s new album Every Shade of Blue below:
Photo by Shervin Lainez