Folk band Sonnet Cottage (Kent Heckaman and sisters Rachel & Torey Russell) are considerably fresh to the scene, having just formed in 2010. But that doesn’t mean the trio (driven by classical, folk and jazz influences) hasn’t already found their refined sound; sample a few songs from their first record, “Another Time”, and you’ll appreciate Sonnet Cottage as one of the better folk songwriting acts on the scene.
Heckaman says of the collection, “‘Another Time’ is an album that needs to be listened to from start to finish in the quiet of your living room…this is not a record that suggests we are trying to fit into the mainstream with a fleeting single.” He continues, “We hope fans discover our ethereal soundscapes that work well with our vocal textures… We write lyrics that are both poetic in nature and meaningful in content and hope that they leave the listener in a contemplative mode.”
Check out “Another Day” – after Sonnet Cottage spends some more time in studio, you’ll certainly find them mastering their stage performance. There’s a whole lot more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ’s.
XXQs: Sonnet Cottage
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?
Kent Heckaman – I think we seek diversity in our soundscapes – acoustically-focused instrumentation drawing influences from classical, folk and jazz – maybe with a touch of Brian Eno! We don’t cut corners in our production process and really focus on the mix. I think the way we blend our vocals is somewhat unique, but not unlike groups such as Kings of Convenience. In the end, if we “stand out” more than other artists within the various genres we may fall into, then awesome for us!
PEV: What kind of music were the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
K.H. – We all grew up with many different influences, but our common ground the singer-songwriters that were not always spinning on the Top 40 and probably more influenced on the past than the present. We were always impacted by groups with unique harmony – groups that really had it from the 60’s like Peter Paul & Mary and Simon & Garfunkel, to Elton John’s layered vocals of the 70’s – to more modern day influences like Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan.
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown, when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
K.H. – Sonnet Cottage is brand new currently just a studio group, some day perhaps we will play live, but probably not until we get another album recorded so we have enough original music to play!
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Sonnet Cottage show?
PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?
K.H. – Musically, we are driven to create beautiful acoustically-driven music and to that extent our inspiration is to have some kind of emotional impact on our listeners – whether uplifting or melancholy. Lyrically speaking, we mostly avoid traditional love songs and prefer to write music about our world, deeper human issues, world peace and other hippy stuff!
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
K.H. – Sonnet Cottage was formed in 2010 and just released our first album in 2012, so we don’t really have much of a history together. Rachel and Torey grew up as sisters though, and of course they have influenced each other tremendously. They never really envisioned meeting up with Kent and the three of us making a record – but here we are!
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of Sonnet Cottage?
K.H. – I suppose that most of the time the group’s leading music/lyric writer is also a singer – in our case Kent does not sing (and if he did the dogs would howl!).
PEV: What is the story behind the band name?
K.H. – We were trying to come up with a name that you could take off and write a novel about – Sonnet Cottage fit that description to us. Sonnet comes from the Italian word “sonnetto” which means “a little song”. “Cottage” always conjures up images of a quiet English countryside – so the two fit for our kind of music!
PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “Another Time”. What can fans expect from this work?
K.H. – We hope they are discovering ethereal soundscapes that work well with our vocal textures because that’s what we are trying to create. We are also trying to write lyrics that are both poetic in nature and meaningful in content and hope that they leave the listener in a contemplative mode.
Further – Another Time is an album that needs to be listened to from start to finish in the quiet of your living room…this is not a record that suggests we are trying to fit into the mainstream with a fleeting single. We suggest this because we think our music has the production nuances that can be best appreciated with either headphones or a private surrounding.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it being played the way you envisioned?
K.H. – We really love this part of the process! Really good songwriting only starts here though – we write, re-write, add & subtract a number of times until what we hear is soothing to our ear, yet not so void of stuff that it sounds uneventful – always a balancing act to get it right!
PEV: With all your traveling is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
K.H. – Italy (Most Unlikely?!)
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play at your hometown?
K.H. – Our family and friends were shocked when we presented our debut album to them for the first time. They only knew that we had worked 2 years on something that they had only heard bits and pieces from our tracks. We kept the lid on most of it since we really wanted to get it mixed and perfected before we really let them listen – the attention is in the details we would say. We are so grateful that our friends and family love our music!
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
K.H. – Kent is a business dude during the day – wearing the clothes that make others see him as a guy who just builds and manages apartment homes. Torey and Rachel are finishing up college graduate degrees.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?
K.H. – Hmmm…how about us opening up for Laura Veirs concert with a cameo by Damien Rice singing and playing the piano in a duet arrangement with back to back grand pianos…and Kathryn Williams and Lisa Hannigan singing harmony with Torey and Rachel?
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
K.H. – Jodi Shaw from Working Brilliantly roster – we love her stuff!
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal) what do you think each of you would be your career?
K.H. – Kent – real estate developer; Rachel – interior design; Torey – nurse.
PEV: So, what is next for Sonnet Cottage?
K.H. – We are writing new music as we speak and will be getting back into the studio this fall to begin the slow, diligent process of recording our second album – perhaps with a release in the spring of 2014!