published Friday, December 16th, 2011

Duo uses music as tool for enlightenment

Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son." Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'." The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."

In the past, political messages and music were close bedfellows. Local duo The Hearts in Light want to help shift the spotlight back to music with meaning and away from the comparatively shallow work of artists who dominate the charts.

"I don't judge anyone who listens to Lady Gaga or Beyoncé -- whatever floats your boat -- but it seems like our society is kind of flooded with sort of background entertainment," said singer/instrumentalist/producer Kyle Malone.

"The world is getting crazier, and I think it's important for artists to address those issues," said Stacey Sausa, Malone's wife and the band's co-founder. "It's fun to have a catchy song, but it's more important to say something important. Why not have it be catchy and have an important message?"

Malone, 27, and Sausa, 25, have been working together toward that goal since meeting in 2008.

Malone became fascinated with recording and production as a teen after listening to classic folk, pop and rock artists, such as Dylan and The Beatles. Sausa was reared on a diet of classical music and soulful R&B singers such as Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston.

Despite their markedly different backgrounds, however, their musical approaches and intentions proved compatible.

"It's really more about collaboration," Sausa said. "For us, it's just natural teamwork."

Both said they care about writing music that matters. Sometimes, however, that significance is only realized after the fact, as was the case with the title track of the band's 2011 EP, "Summer Hearts and Dolphin Death Dreams."

When Malone wrote the piece, a 31/2-minute track full of chaotic, spacey hooks, it was just a phrase he built around a beat. After seeing images of how the April 2010 oil spill was affecting life in the Gulf of Mexico, however, the song gained new meaning.

It and tracks with similar messages have become an increasingly large part of the band's repertoire recently, addressing issues ranging from the economic recession to widespread revolution in the Middle East.

Saturday, The Hearts in Light will take the stage as one of three local bands to perform in an indie-rock showcase at Track 29. They hope the audience will walk out exhilarated ... and thoughtful.

"We just want to make music for the heart," Malone said. "For me, if I can speak to someone's heart and make them have a better day and think about changing the world, I've definitely succeeded in what I want to do."

IF YOU GO

* What: Indie/alternative rock showcase featuring Land Camera, Raenbow Station and The Hearts in Light.

* When: 9 p.m. Saturday.

* Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.

* Admission: $10.

* Phone: 521-2929.

* Venue website: www.track29.co.

HEAR MORE

To hear tracks by The Hearts in Light, visit the duo's SoundCloud account at http:/dcloud.com/theheartsinlight.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Hearts in Light are working on a new full-length follow-up to their debut seven-track EP, "Summer Hearts and Dolphin Death Dreams," released in March. They have recorded 25 songs for the as-yet-untitled project, which multi-instrumentalist Kyle Malone described as having an "earthy and spiritual" take on pop music.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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