The Head and the Heart's success can be attributed in part to band members like drummer Tyler Williams ignoring the former in favor of following the latter.
The Head and the Heart’s success can be attributed in part to band members like drummer Tyler Williams ignoring the former in favor of following the latter.
Prior to joining the Seattle folk-rock collective in 2009, Williams was living in Richmond, Virginia, and contemplating careers far outside of the music industry.
“I’d been in bands forever, and I always wanted to make a life out of it, but it was getting to the point where I was working in restaurants and they didn’t want to hire me because I was always on the road,” said Williams, who joins his bandmates for a concert at LC Pavilion on Thursday, Dec. 11. “I was feeling the pressure of, ‘Well, what if I go back to college? What if I go into engineering?’”
Around this time, the drummer received a rough demo of early Head and the Heart song “Down in the Valley” from longtime friend Jonathan Russell, whom he’d played with in the short-lived Richmond band Silent Film Star, accompanied by an invite to join the nascent crew in Seattle.
“[‘Down in the Valley’] was more mature than anything I’d heard John do before,” Williams said. “I knew he had talent, but this was just on a different level. The honesty in the lyrics was pretty special, and the arrangement and chord changes weren’t typical, yet it still flowed properly, which I appreciated. It was something that really connected with me.”
Yet for months following the move, Williams was gripped with a thought frequently uttered by members of the Bluth clan on “Arrested Development”: “I’ve made a huge mistake.” The Virginia native struggled to find his footing amid the modern sprawl of Seattle, and a band situation he thought might offer a degree of stability remained, for a time, tenuous at best.
“They didn’t have a practice schedule, and it felt more like a pastime to some people at first,” Williams said. “For those first three months … I was pretty sure I would be moving home to Virginia.”
What the band did have, however, was a trio of skilled songwriters — Russell, Josiah Johnson and Charity Rose Thielen — and a belief in the quality of the music. It’s a belief that paid off in a big way when the Head and the Heart’s self-titled debut topped 300,000 in sales following its 2011 release.
Even so, Williams said the only pressures the bandmates felt while recording their sophomore album, Let’s Be Still, which surfaced last fall, were internal.
“We knew we needed to up what we’d done in the past, and get deeper and more complex — both musically and emotionally,” he said. “But we never felt any outside pressure. Even now we just do what we do, and if people like it they do.”