Tom Nelson is the songwriter and guitarist for Heathcote Hill, featuring vocalist Megan Porcaro Herspring.
Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Happy to get our record out. Nervous whether people will hear it and like it.
Can you talk to us more about your song “Save The Ones You Love”?
It started with that phrase. It sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? But who would you save? What’s really important to you? And then I Googled and iTuned the phrase, and it’s not so common a phrase. Bingo, dig over there!
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Only that we seem to live in times where people seem to be choosing sides, sometimes based on nothing more than reflex or Fox News.
Any plans to release a video for the track?
On the way! Our friend Adam Reist got some beautiful film at our record release party at The Bitter End. We asked him to point his cameras at the famous bar and our wonderful audience, and not shoot the band so much, and that worked out great.
Why did you name the record after this track in particular?
We decided it was the best song, and the other four songs would just have to suck it up. Like all group decisions, we’ll almost certainly have to issue a retraction soon.
How was the recording and writing process?
Our process is cruel but straightforward: I work up nearly-finished songs and Megan chooses the ones she likes to sing. If we still have a surplus, Tim wrinkles his forehead and says these five could sound good. Finally, we don’t release everything. Kill your darlings.
What was it like to work with Tim Hatfield and how did that relationship develop?
Tim has the most amazing ears and enormous patience. And he doesn’t start telling you great stories about Keith Richards and Marshall Crenshaw and Death Cab For Cutie until you ask him to. He helped us finish our last record when our previous studio went AWOL. We trust him
How much did he get to influence the album?
Whenever I’d throw out another really dumb suggestion, Tim had such a nice way of asking me what I meant. That was enormously helpful. I asked him at one point if I could just screw up one song completely, and he said no.
Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?
We haven’t accumulated enough Pokemon points to collaborate with anyone else yet. But if Chris Stapleton wanted to sing a song with Megan, that’d be awesome.
After the great reception from your previous work – did you feel any sort of pressure while working on this material or rather the opposite?
We are not professional musicians, though we have reached the point where we are wrapped in professionals and surrounded by amazing musicians, praise the Lord! But I think Megan and I just want to get better than we were yesterday, to not repeat ourselves, and to not embarrass ourselves. And because we are learning at these fantastic rates — you can hear it for yourself over our three records — we’re never quite sure whether we’re advancing far enough and fast enough. It’s okay to fall a little short, which we do all the time. It’s not okay to miss. It can be unsettling if you let it.
What role does NYC play in your music?
NYC has no patience, and I think that’s good for bands, and even more for songwriters. Nobody’s interested in the wind-up; throw the frickin’ pitch. And we learned a lot dragging our music to The Bitter End, Rockwood Music, Bowery Electric, etc.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
When your fingers find a new little something on the guitar, or 3 words stick in your mind, or a feeling you’ve had all day starts to come out in some interesting chord changes, that’s when you reach into the goop and hope you can pull out a song. Then you can write it down and start to torture it until it owns you.
Any plans to hit the road?
Nope; can’t. Megan has a family and a career, and I’m probably too grumpy to travel.
What else is happening next in Heathcote Hill’s world?
Don’t know. Probably a fourth record. The songs are done. Also, we have to order some new Heathcote Hill guitar picks soon. That is one of the funnest parts of having a band, you know?