MAGNET Exclusive: Shovels & Rope’s “C’mon Utah!”

For a married couple, Shovels & Rope has always been able to stir up quite a racket. And By Blood (Dualtone) is the duo’s boldest, most cinematic release to date. As is customary, S&R’s Michael Trent recorded the album at home in the couple’s backyard studio on Johns Island, S.C., with random input from spouse Cary Ann Hearst.

“The process is that Michael records the record,” says Hearst with a chuckle. “Then I come in when it’s time to do my parts and listen with fresh ears when he’s ready to have an opinion about something. It’s 90 percent Michael—giving him the space to explore ideas and build things up.”

“C’mon Utah!” is a fitting showpiece for the pair’s homespun anything-goes recording process. (Hear for yourself below.) “We tried to paint the picture of this guy roaming across the desert, and it kind of sounds like that in our minds,” says Trent.

The unexpected plays a role in the protagonist’s fate, which is apparently decided in a chorus embellished with a simulated crack of the whip that’s actually a reverb tank. “We inherited it from a friend who passed away, and we used it as crash cymbal,” says Trent. “We just lifted it up and slammed it down.”

Although By Blood has been out since April, the duo is just now embarking on a headlining tour after several months on the road as a supporting act. “The record is pretty big sounding,” says Trent. “We had to figure out a way to make the arrangements work live.”

They’ve had plenty of time to figure it out—not that they mind the scrutiny. It’s always been just the two of them and a heap of instruments onstage. “We’re pretty confident up there,” says Hearst. “We’ve taught ourselves to operate each limb independently, and we’re executing it pretty well. Neither of us is like some prodigious musician. We joke that we’re hacks at everything. But we hack away at so many things that we can pull it off.”

—Hobart Rowland

Tour Dates
10/3 Charleston, SC, Music Farm
10/5 Charleston, SC, Charleston Music Hall
10/8 Wilmington, NC, Greenfield Lake Amphitheater 
10/9 Washington, DC, 9:30 Club
10/11 Boston, Royale
10/12 Brooklyn, Brooklyn Steel
10/13 Philadelphia, Union Transfer
10/15 Toronto, The Phoenix Concert Theatre
10/16 Columbus, OH, Newport Music Hall
10/18 Chicago, Vic Theatre
10/19 Maquoketa, IA, Codfish Hollow Barnstormers 
10/20 Minneapolis, First Avenue
10/22 Denver, Ogden Theatre
10/23 Salt Lake City, The Commonwealth Room
10/25 Vancouver, The Commodore Ballroom
10/26 Seattle, Neptune Theatre
10/27 Portland, Crystal Ballroom
10/29 San Francisco, The Fillmore
10/30 Los Angeles, The Regent Theater
11/1 Santa Fe, NM, Meow Wolf
11/2 Austin, Scoot Inn
11/3 Dallas, Granada Theater
11/6 Nashville, Ryman Auditorium