Music and Marmalade, an Interview with Her Crooked Heart

Photo courtesy of Her Crooked Heart

Originally touring under her own name, Rachel Ries has moved into the next chapter of her musical evolution with the creation of Her Crooked Heart. With the support of three other talented musicians, Siri Undlin (Humbird), Adelyn Strei (Adelyn Rose) and Hilary James (We are the Willows, Bathtub Cig), Her Crooked Heart blends classical and electric guitar, piano, woodwinds, cello, drum triggers and heart wrenching harmonies to create an almost ethereal sound. Their new record, To Love to Leave to Live, was released last year accompanied by a tour that covered Europe and North America. Ries caught up with The Siskiyou to chat about finding oneself through music and connecting with others through one’s creativity.

Siskiyou: What inspired the move from just being Rachel Ries to being Her Crooked Heart?

Rachel Ries: I toured and made music under my perfectly, delightful given name for years and years. But increasingly throughout those years, I was touring with a band. I went through 10 years of making music as Rachel Ries, but not playing alone and always feeling a kind of disconnect. The kind of feeling that it’s more, it’s not just a sad girl with a guitar. I was searching for about 10 years, knowing that I would rather have a band name and be able to unabashedly tour as a band. I just knew that it would feel better for me, and that would give Rachel Ries her life back. One day I was meditating and up pops the name Crooked Heart and I totally recognized myself in it and it felt like a poetic expression of what I do. It just felt deeply right and it’s been great. The line between Rachel and Her Crooked Heart is clear which is really good.

Siskiyou: How did you meet the women who make up the rest of Her Crooked Heart?

RR: I met them just through similar crossover music scenes in the Twin Cities. This was the first time I approached putting together a band from the heart first. In the past I’ve always toured with wonderful humans, but I’ve always looked for the band instrument first. I need a drummer, I need a guitarist, bass player whatever. Who’s the best I can get right now? With this band, I approached it from who do I love the most? Who do I trust to get sick of me and still love me? Who do I trust to get sick of and still love them? Who do I want to share the mundane boredom of touring and the total exhilaration and satisfaction and joy of touring? And it was this group of women, and we arranged and formatted the songs to work towards all of our strengths and to fill in the spaces in new ways. We don’t have a drummer, so I programmed a bunch of drum loops and samples and took audio files from the recordings and put it all onto a drum pad so we can have that element.

Siskiyou: That is the most consciously organic way of creating a band. Community and connection are obviously very important for you, and speaking of connection, another way you connect with your fans is by making jam. Can you tell me more about that?

RR: [Laughs] I started doing this years ago! I just remember sitting at my kitchen table in Chicago at the time talking with a friend, and I was trying to think of what I could put on the merch table that would authentically reflect more of me than just here’s my music, here’s a shirt, I hope you like it! Rachel, me, is really domestic and creative and a visual artist and I do all of this other stuff, but the music can very easily devour your entire self. I was trying to find a way to bring Rachel to the table. And I love the domestic arts, put me in a kitchen, give me knitting needles, I just love making useful pragmatic things with my hands. The idea came to me to make jam and sell that at shows and that would be a way for the two kind of opposing parts of me, the domestic Rachel and the out-on-tour Rachel, to work together. It’s been very fun! It’s a little tricky when I tour. I have certainly sourced bulk jam jars in Ireland and scheduled canning days in Dublin when I’m in the middle of a tour which is insane.

Siskiyou: Do you make your own recipes?

RR: I make my own concoctions. It’s all kind of a matter of ratio and once you kind of figure out the beautiful science of how making preserves works it’s just a template to work off of. Around the holidays I love to make blood orange cardamom marmalade and it’s so good!

Siskiyou: Yum! That sounds delicious!
This is the final stretch of this tour. When you’re finished will you be taking a break?

RR: None of us are ever really take a break. We’ll still play certainly, but with a little bit of a different focus. We did go into the studio last month and did a live recording of some of these arrangements that we’ve created that are very different from the album. We wanted to capture this particular collaboration and period of time. Everybody has their own band and demands and so there’s always that to respect and navigate. Minnesota’s great for arts grants and we got this great grant that allows us to spend time in rural communities in the states, places that don’t get a lot of art funding or programming. We get to go live there for a week and give concerts to senior citizens and work with troubled teens and teach songwriting to middle schoolers and give pop-up performances. We’re doing a lot of those throughout the year, but we’ll see when the next full on HCH tour happens.

End of interview

Her Crooked Heart will be playing on Thursday, February 7th at 7pm at the Headwaters Building in Ashland. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Click here for more information.

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