Cary Ann Hearst: Country Strong, With An Outlaw Streak

Cary Ann Hearst's new album is called Lions and Lambs. i i

Cary Ann Hearst's new album is called Lions and Lambs. Chris Wage/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Wage/Courtesy of the artist
Cary Ann Hearst's new album is called Lions and Lambs.

Cary Ann Hearst's new album is called Lions and Lambs.

Chris Wage/Courtesy of the artist

Dive bars, dirt roads, gun racks: Songs by Cary Ann Hearst don't shy away from much. It's no coincidence that the South Carolina singer-songwriter named her dog after Townes Van Zandt — her sound owes a lot to the outlaw country tradition Van Zandt helped define.

Speaking from a tour stop in Oklahoma City, Hearst says her beloved hound is a vital part of her touring company, which also includes her husband, fellow musician Michael Trent.

"He's our pride and joy, and our best friend, and the person — or dog — that keeps us grounded when we travel," Hearst tells Weekend Edition guest host David Greene.

Hearst got her first taste of fame last year, when one of her songs was used on the HBO series True Blood. "Hell's Bells," which also appears on her new album, Lions and Lambs, has a dark tone that's well suited to a show about vampires.

"The overall tone of the song is pretty tough and kind of gritty," she says. "I think that it's also a little subversive. It's been perceived as a drug addict fighting a drunk to see who comes out on top." She adds, "I think the drug addict comes out on top, 'cause he's meaner."

In spite of that bit of national exposure, Hearst says perspective is paramount in her still-nascent career — especially on the road, where there's no telling what kind of crowd she'll draw on a given night.

"Some nights it might be a thousand people, but it might be two people some days," she says. "You just have to decide at the beginning if you're willing to find happiness without necessarily having a thousand people stroking your ego."

Having her husband along for the ride doesn't hurt: "We entertain each other," she says. And for moral support, the two can turn to Townes, who often settles down to sleep onstage while they're performing.

"He likes to be right in between the bass drum and the loud guitar amp — apparently, those big ears keep out the irritating frequencies," says Hearst. "I think he quite likes it."

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