Monday Motivation: Half Hearted Hero

If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.

I don’t know whether it’s harder to succeed in music by leveraging the same tempos and chord progressions every major artist has used for the last half century or by finding a sound that is unique to you and pushing it out into the world, but they both have their drawbacks. On the one hand, building on the blueprints of former greats gives you the knowledge that at least part of your creation will work with audiences, but it also means you will lead a career riddled with critical comparisons to other, possibly far bigger, names for as long as you are in music. On the other hand, creating a sound from scratch requires you to convince people whatever you have developed is worth their time, and that struggle will never end. You can write the greatest song known to mankind, but unless you can convince those in radio, licensing, and major labels to give a damn your career will plateau long before those who pursue a far more traditional and commercial path to musical success. 

As much as I wish my decade in music had already taught me the path aspiring songwriters should follow, that is not what has come to pass. I’ve seen knock-off make it big while creative originators exhausted their resources trying to be heard. I’ve also seen talent that feels undeniably unique make it big while bands that appear to have their image and commercial appeal down to a science struggle to get noticed. All this has taught me there is no approach that is better than the other, and maybe that is because your approach to making a name in music doesn’t matter nearly as much as how much heart goes into your music. If you can write catchy pop songs with a 120 tempo that run three-and-a-half minutes in length and carry a big dramatic punch then who am I to tell you that type of music is any less organic and true than that of an artist who only writes five-minute prog rock epics? If people are connecting to what you create, and what you create stems from something true deep inside of you, then who am I or anyone else to tell you that is not how ‘good music’ is made? 

Half Hearted Hero is a five-piece rock band from New Bedford, Massachusetts. The band has billed themselves as a rock act since inception, but if you’re expecting something along the lines of Disturbed, Korn, or Five Finger Death Punch you couldn’t be further off base. The music Half Hearted Hero plays is far more influenced by the world of punk, indie, and pop, but again I don’t know that I would claim any of these genres really explain the type of music the band creates. Like many New England groups, Half Hearted Hero have a clearly defined narrative running through their music that mirrors their experiences as people. With each release the band has showcased their growth both as humans and artists through the music they create, and in doing so have attracted throngs of listeners around the globe who hang on every note hoping to hear what happens next. It’s not all that unlike a great TV series or movie franchise in that each new installment is different, yet ultimately connected to everything that came before its release, as well as everything that will come after. When you hear Half Hearted Hero you’re hearing a moment in time, captured and preserved with audacious creativity, and you want to live in that moment for as long as possible.

With their new album, Isn’t Real, Half Hearted Hero are continuing the narrative found on their previous released a brash an unflinching sense of honesty that is palpable in every note played and every word sung. The material included on Isn’t Real tells of aspirations for success, uncertainty over the future, and the balancing acts between relationships and dreams that any creative mind grapples with on a near-constant basis. None of these concepts are necessarily new, but the way they’re presented on the record is undeniably unique, and that results largely from Half Hearted Hero embracing their collective perspective on existence without any sense of worry over how the world might react. This is the band at their most honest and, as a result, their absolute best. You never doubt that what is pouring through your speakers or headphones is exactly the thoughts and ideas the band hoped to convey, and you love them all the more for allowing you a little more time in their musical universe.

When I first played Isn’t Real earlier this month I was immediately overcome by the realization that Half Hearted Hero had been able to accomplish something with a single album that my past decade of writing had been unable to achieve. In under an hour, the members of Half Hearted Hero presented the world as they see it and invited me to explore it with them, complete with ups and downs, emotional car wrecks and uplifting moments of self-realization. For a short amount of time, which I then repeated dozens of times in the days that immediately followed, I was disconnected from my own reality and fully engaged in that of the members of Half Hearted Hero. I wanted to live there, and as a result of having a copy of Isn’t Real to call my own I could. I still do, from time to time, and I expect to spend many more hours there in the months and years to come. 

Does this mean I believe Half Hearted Hero is poised to be the next big thing in music? Not really. The band’s music is incredibly personal and honest, which doesn’t necessarily equate to mass appeal, but for those who appreciate such art the band might be the best thing to happen to that specific community of music fans in a very long time. Half Hearted Hero may never be the biggest band on the planet, but they will and most likely are the biggest band to thousands of people around the world. Isn’t Real works because it is not afraid to focus on the little details that make life great just as much as the emotional extremes that tend to make stories more compelling. They offer you a bit of everything all at once, and as a fan of music you’re thankful for that gift. Perhaps more importantly, their art also inspires you to be more up front with others about your own perspective on things. You find strength to be a more honest version of yourself because Half Hearted Hero is so self-assuredly themselves on this release. That kind of inspiration, which makes it possible to love yourself a little more by embracing what makes you unique, is something that too few records accomplish in 2016. Half Hearted Hero make it look easy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they inspire a whole generation of aspiring musicians with the release of this record.

James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.