One year out from the release of their critically acclaimed Me Oh My, North Carolina’s The Honeycutters returned with a brand new album, On The Ropes, on May 20th. Produced by Amanda Anne Platt and Tim Surrett, the album finds the quintet embracing their country roots on the thirteen song project that deals with trials, persistence, love, and self-awareness. Principal songwriter and front woman Amanda Anne Platt graciously took the time to talk about the album, the stories behind the songs and more.
Congratulations on the release of On The Ropes. Most artists don’t release an album so soon after their previous record, what spurred you to make another so quickly?
I think we would have done that all along if we would have had the backing [The Honeycutters were signed to Organic Records in 2015]. We recorded Me Oh My in 2013, but it wasn’t released until 2015 and by then I was ready to get back in the studio. I know some songwriters buckle down before they make an album, but I write all the time; I feel like it’s something I can’t turn off. And even though On The Ropes just came out, I’m already excited about two albums from now.
Being such a prolific songwriter, were all of the songs written within this year?
Most of them were, except “Piece of Heaven” and “Back Row,” which were both written around 2008-2009. It’s a funny thing, you get excited about a song and think you have to put it on a record and then after some time are like, “Well, maybe not.” They finally made it to the band this time and fit nicely on this record.
You write all of the songs, do you choose the songs that go on the record as well or is that a group process?
This is the first time that it really was a group process. My boyfriend helped me record a little demo of just me and my guitar and then I gave that to all of the guys. I let them chose out of that batch and when we finally got together in pre-production we worked them up.
Two of the songs, “Let’s Get Drunk” & “The Handbook,” are so lighthearted and playful. They really showcase a different side of you.
I enjoy the way that those songs turned out, they’re fun ones. I love telling this story about the first time I played “The Handbook” out live: I played it at a little solo show and this guy says to me ‘Amanda yay…..you wrote a song that’s happy!’ (laughing) I’m still writing a lot of sad stuff just because if I’m feeling melancholy that’s what comes, but I think I’m also getting more into expressing happy. A lot of times I would start to write happier songs, but it always seemed to be more work - maybe it was keeping the energy up, I don’t really know. But I think this hopeful trend is going to continue.
On the Ropes is not only the opening track to the record, but the album title as well. Is there any significance to that?
It’s just campy and had a ring to it. It’s funny how the title lent itself to the cover of us in a boxing ring and this aggressive feel. I had one friend ask if the title and cover meant that I thought this was our make or break album. I was just like ‘No, no it’s the name of the song.’ When I wrote the song it was definitely not like it was me versus anybody, it was more like me versus myself. I can be really negative and get overly critical of myself and tend to want to give up on things if I don’t feel entirely comfortable or in my element, which is not a great trend because that’s how you grow. Last year I hit a rough patch, and this was my little pep rally song. I remember having that opening line in my head and thinking, ‘This is nothing new, I can make it through this.’ The song is about telling yourself not to give up, that the next thing will happen and the rough patch will be a blip on your memory.
That song is so hopeful and so relatable, but circling back to the melancholy, I love a song that absolutely guts and “Ache” does that.
“Ache” is about being in love with someone and being too proud to tell them. Initially, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to record that song. I was going to do it with the full band and a soulful arrangement, but when I played it in my house on just an electric I really liked it. It’s definitely different from the other songs on the album, so I was a little nervous that would be the one that gets skipped over because it is boring or slow, but so far it’s gotten really good feedback.
That song should definitely not be skipped over.
Also included on the album is your rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Why did you choose that song and why did you choose to record it in the manner you did?
I think that song is just beautiful. I started doing that song when I was first performing in New York and I did it with that feel and rhythm because I couldn’t play a waltz. If I could, I would have done it exactly like Jeff Buckley or KD Lang did it, but I just didn’t have the chops. We played that one in the early days but never recorded it because I felt that it had been done probably eight million times. Then we started doing it live again in 2014 and we had a lot of fans asking which album it was on, so we decided to go for it. I like the way it’s grown with the band and I feel we put our stamp on it. We did it differently and I feel pretty good about it.
The album closes with “Barmaids Blues” which seems sad, but maybe offers a glimmer of hope?
There is a hopeful element to it, but the character in song has more of a “the party’s over vibe,” like she’s waiting for – now, this is really dark - waiting for death. But then again maybe she’s going to fall in love with Joe and there will be a happy ending. It’s open ended.
Definitely open to interpretation I guess!
Finally, you recently had two big album release shows, will you be hitting the road in support of the record?
We’re figuring out what our approach is and getting everything squared away. I feel like we’re going to fill the summer and fall and then really tour a lot in 2017 when I also want to put out another album. I know we have a lot of fans in UK and Ireland who we hear from regularly, so I would like to get over there as well as the West Coast where we haven’t been for a while. We will go wherever the music takes us. We’re not picky.
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