Heartland is best known for their gold-selling single, “I Loved Her First,” a touching song about a father’s unending love for his daughter as he prepares to give her away in marriage that instantly became one of the most popular wedding anthems in country music history. The monster ballad launched the band’s career into orbit and put them on a whirlwind path to overnight success, and it became a huge part of their story. But there is definitely much more to tell about this hardworking, talented band, and with the release of their brand new single, “The Sound A Dream Makes,” they’re about to open that brand new chapter.
Since first releasing their debut single and subsequent album in 2006, Heartland has continued to record and perform, weathering a few label and personnel changes along the way before taking a hiatus several years ago. Though they pursued separate individual projects and interests for a time, the members recently reformed, and the core sound and solid country values on which they base their music continue to remain the same. Just as their name reflects,
Heartland members Jason Albert, Charles Crawford, and newest addition Chad Austin all come from small towns in the heartland of America, where hard-working, blue collar families still take pride in an honest day’s work, salute the flag, and say grace and ma’am. Those values shine through in their music, and have carried the band through some trying times in the past five years since their meteoric rise. Instant success posed some challenges for a group of guys who, just before landing a Number One smash single, had been playing the club scene and had never experienced anything like the ride they were about to go on. But coming out on the other side of that experience has left them not only wiser, but much more prepared as they return to the country scene with their brand new upcoming project, produced by famed producer James Stroud.
“I Loved Her First” happened so fast that all of us were working full-time jobs when it came out, and nobody was expecting the speed that it happened and it didn’t allow us to grow,” explains Charles, who plays fiddle and guitar and sings harmony in the band. “We had been playing in clubs and everybody looked at us as a new act, but we had been around a long time. But on a national level, there were lessons to be learned that we didn’t have a chance to learn slowly, they were learned very fast. So we learned a lot of what not to do the first time around. And that is one of the reasons that this new album we’re about to release is built like it is. We had to do our first album so fast! When the song hit, we didn’t have an album done, we just had three songs finished and a bunch of demos, so we just started writing and grabbing whatever we could get our hands on that we thought were hits. We thought they were all great songs, but the direction of the album ended up going in several different places…there would be a song that sounded like AC/DC, then a jazz song, and it ended up making the album a little confusing the first time around. So this new album will definitely have a little more continuity from beginning to end.”
The band also recently implemented another change and added another dimension to their sound when they picked up Chad Austin to help out with vocals. Jason has been Heartland’s primary singer for nearly two decades, but when Charles and Chad began working together and doing some writing a few years back, they decided to make Chad a part of the group to give Jason some vocal relief. A former solo artist on Asylum, Chad grew up singing with his family’s band in Texas, and found regional success on the Texas charts with “Tomorrow In Atlanta,” a song that stayed at Number One for 18 weeks. He also did a stint on Broken Bow as a solo artist before returning to Texas and connecting with Jason and Charles. For Chad, the opportunity to be part of a band with a legacy like Heartland’s was a no-brainer.
“We all met about five years ago,” recalls Chad. “I’ve spent some time with those guys and we’ve done quite a few shows together, and we’ve recorded some really great songs. We all get along so well, it’s like I’ve known them my whole life! I just went to Odessa and spent the day with Charles yesterday in fact. We’re always joking around, having fun, it’s just a blast! They’re really good guys. We gel…they have a southern rock influence, and I have a more traditional country side, but I think it really balances out. They grew up with Skynyrd and Charlie Daniels, and my style of singing pulls more to traditional, but it works great.”
Armed with a new member, a collection of great new songs, and a fresh, new energy and excitement, Heartland is ready to once again make its mark on the country scene. And “The Sound A Dream Makes” is just the song to do it with. The tender ballad written from a father’s perspective looking back over the precious moments of life with his daughter treads into familiar musical territory for the band, but this time looks back at the relationship from a different, nostalgic perspective. The group instantly knew upon hearing the tune that it was the perfect song to launch the next phase of their career.
“It’s got an “I Loved Her First” feel to it, and starts off as that kind of song, but then it takes a different perspective of a man growing older and his priorities change and he’s looking at his daughter as an older man,” explains Charles. “So it’s got that feel with a twist to it. It’s not pigeonholed as a wedding song…it covers more ground than that one did. It has that kind of power that I could still put myself in the position of the main character, and I don’t even have any children! It’s such a great song and I’m so excited about it.”
“The new single is just one of those songs,” adds Jason, “that when I heard it, I just knew it was a hit. If people get a chance to hear it, I know they will love it. I felt the same way about “I Loved Her First.” It just struck me, especially now, having children.”
Although they are best known for the one massive power ballad that launched their career, the group hopes that the new song and upcoming album will help erase old perceptions and expand people’s ideas of what they can do
musically, since they’ve really just scratched the surface of what they have to offer.
“We know we’ll always be known for “I Loved Her First,” admits Jason. “But we really hope the fans and radio will embrace this new direction we are taking with our music.”
“I believe the time is right now for us to bring some new music to our fans,” adds Charles. “That song has left its mark for sure on our career, but we’ve also been able to move on since then. We’re always going to be known by it, but we’ve also got some great new songs now that we’ll be bringing to radio and the fans soon, that I think they are really going to love just as much as that song. I think it really is a whole new chapter for us as a band.”