Local duo finds itself reinvigorated after refocusing and releasing a new album during the pandemic

Last year, local duo Honey and Blue had its busiest year to date, playing tons of shows and growing its fanbase. Stephanie Amber and Adam Darling, partners in life and in music, looked forward to building on the momentum in 2020, first and foremost with a new album planned for release in March.

Then the pandemic and stay-at-home orders hit. Amber and Darling put their plans for a two-night release show celebration on hold and began the process of logistically and emotionally recalibrating.

“Everything we had been working for for over a year had just been flipped on its head, including a summer packed with festivals. This was our first time being accepted into a bunch of festivals that were out of state. And we were planning a fall tour and the promotion of it. All that got derailed when the shutdown happened,” Amber said. “But we've had time to look at it in a new way — virtually — and trying to figure out ways to bring [music] to people in a new way that we didn't really have to think about before.”

Over time, the couple has been able to find silver linings amid the shelved plans. “I think the biggest thing I've learned personally, and I think we've learned as humans, is just immense gratitude,” Amber said. “Any time you get to perform, any time you get to rehearse, it's such a beautiful thing, and we don't want to even take it for granted for a second. The refocusing and the love of what we get to do is probably one of the best gifts that we've gotten from this, in a weird way.”

Now, rather than holding on to a finished album for months, Honey and Blue is releasing Bloom, and the duo will celebrate with two release shows — one at Natalie’s Music Hall & Kitchen in Grandview today (Thursday, July 30) and another on Friday, July 31, at Rockmill Brewery.

Honey and Blue make jazzy, bluesy pop music, and on Bloom’s 10 tracks, the duo set out to pay homage to artists they admire, like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and D’Angelo. The pair also tapped into a vulnerable vein. “On this one, we were incredibly honest about our personal relationships and things that we've been through,” Amber said. “It's therapeutic. It’s like, that was something real that happened, and it's not like reopening the wound every time. It's more like, man, I'm so glad that is not the reality right now.”

“There's so much complexity in everybody's relationships,” Darling added, “and then the fact that we share music on top of that really allows us to dive in and get super deep with that stuff. It's a challenge at times, but I’m also really grateful that we have lots of material.”

That honesty and closeness also helps during the editing process. “It's really fun to write with your partner, because I feel like there's no bull between us. If something's not coming out right, we're not necessarily polite or tiptoeing around it. We call each other out and challenge each other,” Amber said. “We don't have to hold back because we love each other unconditionally.”

In the end, Honey and Blue is releasing Bloom into a world that often feels heavy, and the hope is that this album can be a temporary salve. “I just hope it gives someone joy or makes them feel empowered or makes them feel like, ‘Screw it. I'm just gonna blast this music and have a dance party in my pajamas cuz it's 2020 and things are weird,’” Amber said.