The release of Wild Silence by the Wandering Hearts on February 9, 2018 marked the widely anticipated album debut of a group who swiftly joined the vanguard of the UK Americana scene. The set arrived just over a week after they won the 2018 Bob Harris Emerging Artist Award, named for the revered British broadcaster, at the UK Americana Awards on February 1, 2018.
Further good news arrived on February 16 when the Official Charts Company’s new country album chart, based on UK sales, showed Wild Silence debuting at No.1, displacing Chris Stapleton’s From A Room, Vol. 2, no less.
Listen to the Wild Silence right now.
The English group combine incisive songwriting nous with roots influences, pop elements and harmonies to die for. It’s the sort of symbiotic intertwining that usually only happens in sibling groups, or at least only after much honing and refining. These friends discovered the chemistry at their first rehearsal.
That came about after Tim Prottey-Jones (who has since left the line-up) and Tara Wilcox, who’d met at a gig, were introduced by mutual friends to Chess Whiffen and A.J. Dean. They gathered to dip their toe in the idea of collaboration. “It was the coolest, weirdest day,” Wilcox told this writer, “because we started singing and it was almost immediately like we were in each other’s heads.”
Added Whiffen: “I remember leaving Tim’s house after the first rehearsal and calling my dad and just thinking, ‘Whatever just happened, we have to do that again.’ It was a moment of not being really sure of what we’d just found.”
The spirit of that moment was enhanced as they began to write and perform together. After a second rehearsal, the group uploaded two of their earliest compositions to Soundcloud and attracted the attention of Steve Milbourne, who became their manager. After their initial gigs, they went to the offices of Decca Records to perform, and company president Rebecca Allen knew there and then that she wanted to sign them.
The group’s vocal interaction is founded on the principle that the song will always choose the vocal treatment. “We’ve never had egos individually, and we realised early on that no one was in it for themselves,” said Wilcox. “I think we’re a very fair band, so there’d be a time when Chess would have a lead on something and she’d go ‘Tara, I think you should take this one,’ and I’d sing it and go ‘This doesn’t really work on me.’”
“There’s always three parts you can easily put over something,” noted Prottey-Jones. “The fourth one makes it a bit confusing, because there’s almost no notes left. You don’t want to sound choral. There’s no point overthinking it.”
Wild Silence arrived on the heels of 2017’s “Wish I Could” single and Burning Bridges EP, and their extensive live work which continued with another UK tour just after the album launch, concluding at London’s Bush Hall. Meanwhile, the Wandering Hearts’ reputation was already reaching across the Atlantic. When the four-piece opened for US country-Americana figurehead Marty Stuart in autumn 2017, he was so impressed that he invited them to perform at his Nashville shows the following June.
Concluded Dean: “That’s how lucky we’ve been, to get something going and have this team behind us here, and to have someone like Marty make that invitation at the stage we’re at…to get over there and play the shows he’s lined up, it’s amazing.”
Purchase the Wandering Hearts’ Wild Silence here.
Follow the Wandering Hearts’ Complete Collection playlist on Spotify.