The Head and the Heart, with Tyler Williams at right (Photo by James Minchin)
The Head and the Heart will release its next album, “Signs of Light,” on Sept. 9. The young indie folk and pop band is coming off some very recent highs, including a cameo on Showtime's "Roadies," an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and a chart-topping hit. Drummer (and Richmonder) Tyler Williams took a little time out of his ridiculous schedule — the band hits the road in October — to tell us why Richmond is where he intends to stay.
Richmond magazine: You grew up in Virginia?
Williams: I grew up in Fredericksburg and moved here in 2004.
RM: Did you move here to go to school?
Williams: Yeah, sorta. I went to VCU for like half a semester and then decided, "I am going to go play some music." So I worked in a restaurant. I worked at Amici, quite a while at Can Can.
RM: How did the Head and the Heart happen?
Williams: I was in a band with Jon [Russell] — he lived here also before he moved to Seattle — called Silent Film Star, a Richmond thing; we didn’t really play much. When he moved, he sent me a demo of "Down in the Valley." I was blown away by how different and mature and intelligent the songwriting was.
RM: From 2009 to 2016 — you are a pretty young band. Where do you think the success stems from?
Williams: Everybody has a different path to where they're trying to go. Seattle is set up, based on what happened in the early '90s there to the music scene. They have one of the best independent labels in the world, Sub Pop, who we were fortunate to have two records on. They have a couple different booking agencies that are worldwide booking agencies, Billions being one of the big ones. They have venues everywhere, all over town, and they have two weekly magazines which write about music as pretty much their focus, what’s happening in music, controversy in music, scandals in music in Seattle. They have that infrastructure dialed in. We were lucky to start as a band there in a city that is hungry for live music. They have one of the best radio stations in the world, KEXP, that puts out videos of studio sessions online and 500,000 people see the videos. That was one of the first things we did that gathered a lot of attention is play a studio session. In addition, we also were/are writing music that struck a chord for people at that time. We’ve continued to grow our music. It seemed like a really right time/right place situation.
RM: I love that you are saying it was a right time/right place thing.
Williams: We do write radio-friendly hits. [Laughs]
RM: Who writes your lyrics and music?
Williams: It is all over the place — we have three songwriters/lyricists, really — Jon, Charity or Josiah — though we all write. They will bring pieces of songs, melodies or lyrics, not a whole song, usually. And we will all flesh them out together as a group. Maybe we will change a lyric here and there, maybe we will change a melody. It is a very democratic process. We all have our say in which direction the song goes.
RM: Do you have a favorite?
Williams: The new stuff is the stuff that I’m most excited about. I think it is the best record we have made yet. It feels like a breakthrough for us. There’s a song called “Dreamer,” track five. That’s probably my favorite song we have ever recorded. It’s a step forward and a breath of fresh air for us. It kinda hearkens back to Queen, so there is the real heavy '70s influence on it, which is rad. The album releases Sept. 9. And it is definitely different. We don’t want to keep making the same record over and over again. Every record we make is an honest interpretation of who we are at that time. It was also our first time working with a producer [Jay Joyce] who we loved and trusted.
RM: Tell me how "Roadies" came about.
Williams: It was surreal, super cool. Cameron Crowe reached out to us, and that was the first time we ever met him or talked to him. He’d been a fan of ours for a while. He came out of Seattle, lived up there and worked with Pearl Jam for years. He was looking for a new song. We were kicking around “All We Ever Knew,” which is now the single of our new record. We’d been kicking it around for a couple of years and he loved it. He was like, “Come film in Vancouver with us." And it was us hanging out with Luke Wilson and Christina Hendricks for three days, which was weird and fun. And that helped the song progress because we didn’t know what to do with it. "Roadies" was cool — it was so wild. A bunch of friends are on the show as well, like Lucius and Jim James.
The Head and the Heart on the set of "Roadies" (Photo by Katie Yu/Showtime)
RM: What do you see as the main missing pieces for Richmond to become a nationally recognized music town?
Williams: That’s such a hard question because there’s so much here right now, too. I think a large piece of the puzzle is just that half of it is people noticing what is coming out of here now. I think that people are starting to catch on that there are amazing people making great records who live in Richmond, Virginia. I feel like it is just starting to kick in around the country. We don’t have the infrastructure even like Charlottesville, with Red Light and ATO Records — they have dedicated companies and dedicated lots of resources, pretty much what Dave Matthews did in the early '90s. But you see EggHunt Records, and now there are a couple of big managers living here like Dean Christesen, who manages Natalie Prass, Matthew E. White, Avers, and Brandon and I who are managing Lucy [Dacus]. There are people here doing it, just not as much.
RM: If we had more infrastructure, would Richmond have more national recognition?
Williams: Yeah, I think it is definitely easier to catapult bands out of a city when there are direct channels to do that through. We are growing. We are starting the process now. We have great magazines here, RVA Magazine, Richmond magazine, Style Weekly. So we have the press. I hope that over time that becomes a driver, too. They are all puzzle pieces driving music in Richmond. Honestly, the goal is to have people playing all over the world, but coming back and living in Richmond. Because that is what we all want and it is amazing here.
RM: With all this success, what keeps you here?
Williams: Well, I got married [to photographer and Richmond magazine contributor Sarah Walor]. So that helped. And it is awesome. It certainly isn’t the airport that keeps me here — where is the food? Whenever I am there, I wish it had better food. Richmond has so much going for it, the river, the food in the city and the neighborhoods. It is everything; the art school and the music is coming along. I don’t really want to say anything, but I think there will be a pretty cool music festival coming in the next year or so.