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Live from Studio D: The Wandering Hearts of Britain to release latest album 'Mother'

The Wandering Hearts from left to right: AJ Dean, Tara Wilcox, and Francesca "Chess" Whiffin
Stewart Baxter
The Wandering Hearts from left to right: AJ Dean, Tara Wilcox, and Francesca "Chess" Whiffin

For The Wandering Hearts, their harmonies are more than just a signature sound: They're the result of years of making music together and a familiar closeness that harkens back to The Carter Family or the Everly Brothers.

Tara Wilcox, A.J. Dean and Francesca “Chess” Whiffin of The Wandering Hearts recently stopped by Studio D to chat about how they met and their new album “Mother,” and to mesmerize us with their stunning arrangements.

Transcript

Tara, AJ, and Chess — thank you so much for coming in today and playing Live from Studio D. [It's] incredible to hear your harmonies.

 Oh, thanks for having us.

All of you come from backgrounds of theater and music. What did bring you together? What's the origin story here? I read somewhere that there were a lot of gin and tonics involved.

Tara Wilcox: Yes, that was me.

Chess Whiffin: Yeah. It was. Tara brought the gin and tonics.

Rick Ganley: A way of jump starting process, doesn't it?

Wilcox: Well, I just wanted to, you know, encourage a positive environment for us to make music in.

So that first rehearsal, we started singing. Nobody had ascertained kind of who was melody, who was harmony, and we just started singing, and it was honestly like we were in one another's heads. I didn't — I barely knew what their names were. I just, we just met and you'd start singing and you'd you'd move somewhere and like, everybody would follow. And kind of there was this weird, organic kind of synergy that made no sense. And that was the first rehearsal. And I do think it was the gin and tonics that did that.

Whiffin: You know, we were, I think, all at just different places in our lives, different points in our lives, but kind of all at the same point where we needed something different. We were all kind of looking for that next creative project, the next, like outlet, whatever that was going to be in, you know, in terms of singing and performing. Um, and we were just really lucky to have met each other.

Ganley: I do want to ask you about the new album in just a minute, but I wanted to ask you, you worked with a legendary name in Nashville. Marty Stuart — multi-Grammy award winner, worked with Johnny Cash. Chess, can you tell us about that?

Whiffin: Oh, where do we start?

He is just the most wonderful, generous, kind, lovely human on the planet. We went on tour with him in the UK. He took us on, so we were opening for him. We played like five or six dates around the UK and it was like the second to last show. He came and sat and watched our soundcheck and we were like — Play the good songs! Got a bit nervous. And anyway, he came into our dressing room afterwards and he started talking about all these amazing, legendary places in America, like the Grand Old Opry and the Ryman and Graceland and and asking if, you know, we'd ever been there or if we knew if we'd heard of them. They're like, well, we've heard of them, but we've we've not been there.

And, uh, he said, well, I want to bring you out and I want to I want to bring you on tour and take you to some of these places.

But when someone says that, I mean, you could say it with the best intent in the world, and it might not it might not happen. And we're very aware of that. So anyway, a few months later, dates are in our diary, and then we make our international debut at the Ryman Auditorium with, like, Margo Price and John Prine and the Byrds and Chris Stapleton. And it was like the craziest pinch-me moment of our careers, I would probably say.

Ganley: Let's talk about the new record, 'Mother.' Coming out in March. This title comes about honestly. Um, is there a theme here?

Whiffin: So when we started making the record, I was pregnant. And when we finished making the record, Tara was pregnant. And so obviously both becoming mothers, um, has changed a lot, obviously, in our worlds, but it kind of, um, kind of goes a bit further than just motherhood.

Wilcox: You know, we talk about folk music as being, you know, from the kind of mother countries from those, you know, like the wider kind of words associated with mother. So creation and nurturing and beginning. And that was a really good justification for AJ being able to have an album called Mother. [laughs]

 AJ Dean : But also we because I think because of, because of Chess and Tara both, you know, um, becoming mothers and during the pregnancies we spoke about motherhood like a lot, but it also caused us.—

[laughter - "sorry AJ"]

That's fine. And I mean, hey, that hasn't stopped, guys. I mean, that wasn't unique to that situation, but we'd also meant that—

Ganley: It's not going to stop for about 22 years.

Dean: Nope! Keep going and keep going. Yeah. Uh, it meant it meant that we were thinking about our own experiences of motherhood, and we talked a lot about our own mothers, and in a way, like it felt a bit like there was a just a big maternal presence throughout the creation.

These were songs that we chose for ourselves. There wasn't pressure from a label to go, 'This one's the single, this one's has to be on there.' Um, so the songs that we chose were all songs that we actually, in a selfish kind of way, chose for us to hear, um, as individuals and as a band.

These were some songs that had actually we had kept, we kept coming back to when we had had difficulties or challenges as a band and listened to them and found a bit of, um, found a bit of hope and stability. Sometimes [we] found a bit of something to prop us up when we remind ourselves of how fortunate we are and what we've been through to get to this point along the way, and in a way, the songs mothered us as much as we mothered them.

Before becoming Program Director, Quirk served as NHPR's production manager. During that time she's voiced and crafted the 'sound of the station,' coordinated countless on-air fundraisers, produced segments for Give Back NH, Something Wild, New Hampshire Calling, and developed NHPR's own NHPR Music vertical with features such as Live from Studio D, and long-loved favorites like Holidays By Request.
For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
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