Never looking back10/8/2014
Nathan Hunt believes in the bigger picture. The Shaman’s Harvest frontman doesn’t buy into the “one single at a time” ethos of modern music releases and feels his stories should be told in chapters, not vignettes.
“I obsess over arrangement,” he admitted in a phone interview. “It’s really, really important to me that people can listen to a whole piece from beginning to end.”
For Hunt, there’s an emotional honesty that’s always been necessary for his music to feel right; it’s something he credits his Midwestern roots to. Those of us in the Heartland tend to like our lives straight, no chaser, and Shaman’s Harvest reflects that ethos in its music. Give people what’s inside you, Hunt reasons, and they’ll respond.
It’s a philosophy that’s markedly different from the image-conscious, hyper-branded world of the major label music machine, which is why Hunt finds particular satisfaction in the fact that when Shaman’s Harvest finally did sign with a label, it was on the strength of an album that was completely homegrown.
“We funded this album ourselves,” he said, talking about the band’s latest release, “Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns.” “We used the last bit of our money (from the 2009 hit single “Dragonfly”) and sold vehicles and all sorts of stuff. So when (the label) came on, we already had it done.”
“Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns” was an arduous, life-changing experience for Hunt. It was during the album’s creation that Hunt was diagnosed with a form of throat cancer. Undaunted, the band powered through. “Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns” was created almost entirely within the studio, with Hunt going to the hospital for cancer treatments in the morning before heading into the studio all afternoon, then often returning to the hospital in the evening for further treatment. Now in remission, Hunt credits the catharsis of staying with the album with helping him get through the treatments.
“I think there were lessons learned on this album that changed my outlook, probably forever,” he said. “My values have changed, as far as the music world goes. I don’t feel like that will ever revert back. There’s no formula now. (The experience has) changed my entire view.”
While there’s no mistaking Shaman’s Harvest for anything other than a rock band, Hunt’s “no formula” worldview has the band pushing out in different directions. “Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns” features crunchy, three-chord blues riffs, some garage-style crotch rock, and some country-fried rock numbers. It’s something that Hunt views less as an attempt at crossover appeal and more as not allowing a defined role limit the story he wants to tell. But when it came time to market the album, as labels are wont to do with their investments, that “full album as full experience” approach made it difficult to know where to start.
“I wasn’t feeling “Dangerous” as a single,” he admitted, talking about the song that was eventually selected for the album’s debut. “It was one of the oldest songs on the record, so I think I’ve just lived with it for too long.”
It’s a decision that he’s gotten more comfortable with as time has gone by, but Hunt still feels like “Dangerous” — and all of Shaman’s Harvest’s songs — are best appreciated within their full context.
“That’s hard to do in this singles-driven world, where everyone just downloads his or her favorite song,” he acknowledged. “But the importance of (an album) being a whole story, well, that’s everything.” CV