--In May 2008, Barenaked ladies released SNACKTIME!, their first CD and accompanying book for children. The book and album feature Kevin's child-like and humorously twisted artwork.
--Kevin recently toured the USA as keyboardist and vocalist in Lou Reed's band.
--Was in the studio last month working with Garth Hudson (The Band).
--Toured the US with Laurie Anderson.
--Appears as a guest on the latest recordings by Broken Social Scene and Ron Sexsmith.
The Miracle Mile: Definitions
1: A stretch of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Named in the 1920s for the Jewish immigrants who founded the banking industry there and financed miracles.
2: A legendary athletics showdown between Roger Bannister, the world record holder and first man ever to run a mile in under four minutes, and Australian arch-rival John Landy. Held at The Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, 1954
3: The fourth solo album from Toronto-based singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn. A world (class) record, 2006.
Kevin Hearn wrote the songs on The Miracle Mile during a stint as resident on the famed strip in The City of Angels. The setting sparked his muse, he explains. ï¿½Being in a city where I donï¿½t know many people helps my writing. It makes it easier to focus.ï¿½ There, he came up with a collection of songs that explore ï¿½expectations, hopes and dreams, disappointments and disillusionment. Los Angeles is a city of dreams, and of dreams not coming true.ï¿½
With the aid of his longtime band, Thin Buckle, a couple of noted songsmiths (Ron Sexsmith and Steven Page) and top-calibre producers, Hearn has brought these songs to vivid and compelling life. Simultaneously esoteric, adventurous and accessible, it emerges as the finest work yet in a productive and highly successful musical career.
Best known as a skilled multi-instrumentalist in platinum-selling international pop heroes Barenaked Ladies, Hearn has long pursued a parallel solo career path. Over the course of three earlier albums, Mothball Mint (1997), H-Wing (2001), and Night Light (2004), he has operated underneath the commercial radar, but has earned a loyal international following with his highly idiosyncratic yet tuneful sound. That audience seems destined to expand dramatically with this new tour de force (his Warner Music Canada debut).
Hearnï¿½s style defies easy definition, but his own choice is to term it ï¿½Avant-Rock,ï¿½ ï¿½rock music that pushes the boundaries of common composition and performance.ï¿½ It reflects the disparate nature of the music that has inspired him. ï¿½As a [classically-trained] piano player, I was definitely influenced by keyboard music and the likes of Kraftwerk, Devo and The Residents, and I incorporate custom-made electronic sounds into the songs. Iï¿½m also a big fan of singer/songwriters, like Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and Brian Wilson, so there are some guitar-driven songs on there as well.ï¿½
The result is a fascinating sonic hybrid, one in which Hearnï¿½s unerring gift for strong melody shines through. ï¿½On The Miracle Mile, I was drawn to the ideas I had that were guided by melody,ï¿½ recalls Kevin. ï¿½A lot of the songs were written on the piano as melodies before there were words. I presented them to the band, and when Bob (drummer Great Bob Scott) and Chris (bassist Chris Gartner) added what they felt their parts should be, I started singing along and that suggested lyrics.ï¿½
The musical empathy within Thin Buckle (Hearn, Gartner and Scott first played together back in the late ï¿½80s, in offbeat rock band Look People) is clearly audible. So too is Hearnï¿½s longtime creative collaboration with co-producer Michael Phllip Wojewoda, who has worked extensively with Barenaked Ladies and produced both Kevinï¿½s solo debut, Mothball Mint, and H-Wing.
Manning the console for much of the recording of the bed tracks was noted American producer/engineer Jim Scott (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash). Securing his services was an unexpected coup for Hearn. ï¿½Jim was the engineer on the Barenaked Ladies Maroon record, and we hit it off. I had demos of all these songs, and asked him for advice. He said ï¿½this is great stuff. When are we recording it?ï¿½ï¿½
Another high-profile name in the credits is that of legendary string arranger/composer Van Dyke Parks (Beach Boys). He both came up with a brilliant string arrangement on the atmospheric Satie-like title track and insisted on having Kevin sing right through a tune originally envisaged as primarily an instrumental.
Kevin was able to recruit other talented friends for some songwriting collaborations. BNL comrade Steven Page co-wrote the suitably infectious ï¿½Good Time Virus,ï¿½ while Ron Sexsmith co-wrote three songs here, ï¿½Rescue Us,ï¿½ ï¿½Here For You,ï¿½ and ï¿½High And Low.ï¿½ ï¿½I drove and Ron gave me directions,ï¿½ is how Kevin describes the partnership. Solo Hearn compositions do provide many of the highlights of an album devoid of lowlights, as exemplified by the warm and breezy first single, ï¿½In The Country.ï¿½
High-profile help aside, The Miracle Mile remains driven by Kevin Hearnï¿½s unique vision. In his songs, he probes the human condition with both surgical skill and a deep, hard-earned sense of compassion. His perceptive insights are then framed by gently seductive melodies and sweet and subtle vocals.
As has been well-documented, Kevin faced down a life-threatening illness when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 1998, necessitating a bone marrow transplant. ï¿½The silver lining was that it helped me write a lot better, to dig deeper inside and deal with those thoughts. I feel I can sing about dark subject matter with some understanding. I have seen a lot of pain and sadness and I know what it takes to get through those things, humour and friendship, for instance. I think that has some value and can perhaps touch people, through music.ï¿½
Indeed. Hearnï¿½s deep sense of humanity is reflected eloquently in songs like ï¿½Lancaster Bomber,ï¿½ ï¿½Statue of Los Angelesï¿½ and ï¿½Human Genome.ï¿½ Topics like, respectively, World War 1 bombers, cosmetic surgery, and medical research are not your typical pop fodder, but the catchiness of the tunes are such that youï¿½ll find yourself humming and singing along with their unconventional lyrics.
That is a rare gift, one that makes The Miracle Mile an album that demands and rewards your very close attention.
Kevin Hearn - Lead Vocal, Guitar, Piano
Chris Gartner - Bass
Great Bob Scott - Drums
Brian MacMillan - Keyboards, Slide Guitar
The Miracle Mile - 2006
Nightlight - 2004
H-Wing - 2001
Mothball Mint - 1997
In The Country (The Miracle Mile)
Lost & Stolen (Nightlight)
War Pigs (Nightlight)
Here Come The Chimebell Trains (Nightlight)
The Good One (H-Wing)
The Miracle Mile Review July 20 2006
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It's a shame that Kevin Hearn can't quit his day job. The multi-instrumentalist spends most of his t...It's a shame that Kevin Hearn can't quit his day job. The multi-instrumentalist spends most of his time in the Barenaked Ladies backing up Steven Page and Ed Robertson when he should be pushing his solo career. Hearn's fourth record, and best yet, is an intimate affair full of sensitive melodies and soft-spoken vocals that bring to mind Paul Simon in his prime. But the lyrics, which discuss his successful battle with cancer, are what listeners will enjoy the most. On The Good Times Virus, Hearn uses humour to tackle a serious subject, while Map Of The Human Genome, the record's standout track, deals with the singer-songwriter's first visit to the doctor. Throw in a cameo by Ron Sexsmith and a string arrangement by Van Dyke Parks and this isn't just one of Hearn's best, but one of the best records of the year. Kevin Hearn plays August 9 at the Drake.
The Miracle Mile Review July 20 2006
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Kevin Hearn has already written most of an album, 2001's H-Wing, while being treated for leukemia at...Kevin Hearn has already written most of an album, 2001's H-Wing, while being treated for leukemia at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital. But his subsequent recovery has not prevented the Barenaked Ladies' keyboard player from revisiting the experience in fruitfully creative ways. "Map of the Human Genome," an entirely entrancing song about the study of chromosomes in a hospital research laboratory, has to rank as an unlikely candidate for this summer's hidden pop gem. Like much of the rest of The Miracle Mile, Hearn's fourth album with side project Thin Buckle, the song is beautifully arranged, blending acoustic guitar, electronic burbles and muted vocal effects. Elsewhere, Hearn channels Art Garfunkel on his own attempt to bridge troubled waters, "Rescue Us," while lacing the title track with harp and strings. Magical. VW
The Miracle Mile Review July 21 2006
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Only a man who beat cancer and endures long road tours with his wacky Barenaked Ladies bandmates fin...Only a man who beat cancer and endures long road tours with his wacky Barenaked Ladies bandmates finds solace in the chaos of Los Angeles. That is the city where Toronto singer-songwriter and BNL keyboardist Kevin Hearn wrote 11 songs of his marvelous fourth album. On a record that is clever, melodically eloquent and often catchy, Hearn finds humane uses for a decommissioned war machine ("Lancaster Bomber"). On the hopeful "Map of the Human Genome", medical science is humanized, much in the same way the disc's subtle electronica is warmly employed. "Southbound" is soft-mood Beck; on the country-touched single "Here For You", Hearn is the considerate partner. Among disruption, Hearn finds harmony. - Brad Wheeler
The Miracle Mile Review July 6 2006
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It's been some eight years since Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn kicked leukemia - an ordea...It's been some eight years since Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin Hearn kicked leukemia - an ordeal that informed his sobering 2001 solo effort, 'H-Wing', with his own band Thin Buckle - but as is often the case with life-threatening/altering experiences, the reverberations are felt long after. On the fantastical 'Miracle Mile', Hearn refers to The Flaming Lips school of existential-crisis management, both in the celestial synth/symphonic arrangements and in the curious examination of the precarious balance between science and faith. For Hearn, all the world is not a stage, but a hospital, a strange place where first dates are consummated amid the sterility of a laboratory on the stellar, vocoderized soft-rock epic "Map of the Human Genome", and even expressions of unbridled joy are delivered in the language of disease ("The Good Times Virus"). But his is a sick ward where being a patient is a virtue. SB
The John Shelton Ivany Top 21 #189
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Nightlight is Hearn's third solo album, and yet another opportunity for him to explore musical desti...Nightlight is Hearn's third solo album, and yet another opportunity for him to explore musical destinations of his own choosng. A sonically beautiful and captivating album, it features the musical contributions of Thin Buckle, which is composed of Derek Orford (guitar), Chris Gartner (bass) and Great Bob Scott (drums). The 16 page booklet accompanying the album includes unique and colorful drwaings by Kevin himself. Recorded in 2002 following some incredibly trying times, the album's songs are poignant and hopeful. As Kevin says about them: "They all contain an element of reflection on a life experience, a little stroll though the rough part of the memory lane district." This venerated rock pianist is a reliable factory of amiable hybrids. He connects good-natured blues stomping, sentimental melody and classical allusions, all rendered in busy but authoritative virtuosity.
Night of the living Kev
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Kevin Hearn has a rich musical life. As the keyboardist for Bareknaked Ladies, he plays to arenas f...Kevin Hearn has a rich musical life. As the keyboardist for Bareknaked Ladies, he plays to arenas full of fans, tours the world with friends, and contributes parts, solos, arrangement ideas (and lately, full songs) to the band. When he's not doing that, Hearn gets to write, play and record as the frontman of his own fine band, ThinBuckle, who've just released their third album, Night Light.
Of course, it involves some adjustment. For example, Night Light was recorded back in the autumn of 2002, but is only coming out now. "I had to start writing for the new Barenaked Ldies record then, and I couldn't really divide my attention and be fair to both parties," Hearn says. "So I left Night Light on the back burner. With BNL, it was great to collarorate with the rest of the guys. But I really enjoy this project and it's a different dynamic, where I can work a song from the ground up, take it where I want."
That would be a gentle, lilting place much of the time, both in Hearn's soft voice and in the vaguely African-tinged guitar on songs like "Night Light" and "Where Did You Go?" Says Hearn, "I'm definitely influenced by that kind of highlife guitar style. I was trying to write in more open tunings. I learned guitar playing bluegrass and classical, so I'm very much into finger-picking rather than power-chord strumming."
The songs on Night Light are fascinating, detailed little gems, many permeated by a sense of loss conjured up via memory. The people in these songs are abandoned ("Where Did You Go?"), surviving abandonment ("Ball of Twine"), missing a pilfered guitar ("Lost & Stolen") or witnessing a loss of innocence ("Invite Me In"), among other things.
"I think the last five years were quite a rollercoaster for me," says Hearn, who suffered a near-fatal struggle with leukemia in 1998, ultimately documenting the experience on the second ThinBuckle album, H-Wing (2001). "It's interesting to see what happens to relationships through a health crisis. I think there was some genuine sadness when I would write [the songs for NightLight], and confusion. I think through my writing I was feeling that, exploring that, expressing it. But then there's songs like "Night Light", which is about the good side of things. As bad as things get, there's always hope at the end of the day."
In fact, H-Wing ultimately led to a connection with one of Hearn's musical heroes, Lou Reed, who was so impressed with the album that he's now recorded a vocal track (over the telephone) for one of Hearn's songs. "He's become a good champion [of my music]," says Hearn. "He told me that I went to place that most people don't go, and reported back about it. And that it was important.
"Who knows?" says Hearn. "Maybe I'll even get to play with Lou and fulfill a lifetime dream."
by Howard Druckman
Making music on a wing and a prayer - The Llfe and times of a barenaked lady
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By his own account, Kevin Hearn was taking way too many bad drugs while writing the songs for his re...By his own account, Kevin Hearn was taking way too many bad drugs while writing the songs for his recent solo album, H-Wing, He was also spending most of his time in bed, wondering if he would die before he could finish the record.
Hearn, who plays keyboards and guitar with the Barenaked Ladies, was no self-destructive pop star, all his drugs were prescribed, by doctors trying to beat the leukemia that nearly killed him.
They succeeded, and so did he. H - Wing is a gently insightful collection of pop songs about a month in the purgatory of a cancer ward.
"I didn't want it to be too heavy for people," said Hearn, whose low-keyed presence matches the soft, vulnerable sound of his singing voice. "I put a lot of my fears and anxieties into these songs, but I also wanted to reflect the fact that humor is so important."
Even with the worst of the chemical demons rampaging through his body, Hearn somehow found something cheering in the experience. The Good One, the album's deceptively peaceful opening song, describes how a few words and a moment of human contact lightened a particularly brutal episode of chemotherapy, "While I just lay there waiting to turn into Mr. Hyde."
Hearn's nightmare started in late 1998, just as the Barenakeds were hitting the top of the North American pop charts with their single, One Week. As tonight's CBC-TV Life & Times documentary about the Barenakeds points out, the sharp divergence in fortunes gave the relentlessly light-hearted band a lot less to joke about.
"As we went off on the biggest tour ever, Kevin went into the hospital to die," drummer Tyler Stewart tells the camera, with a look on his face that still registers a shadow of disbelief. The band sent regular emails from the road which "really made me know I was missed and valued," Hearn said.
His illness is in remission now, thanks largely to a transplant of bone marrow from his brother. But his view of life and relationships has changed permanently.
"Some people can stand the intensity of a health crisis, and some, can’t." he said. Like others who have endured such a crisis, he was sometimes surprised to discover who fell into which camp.
He also has a much keener sense of the passage of time, and the finite nature of opportunity. He's committed to the Barenakeds, and loved playing on Letterman and selling out the Madison Square Gardens and the Royal Albert Hall. But like any full-time job, touring and recording with the band eats up a lot of living.
" I often wonder if I'm doing the right thing, if I'm making the best use of my time," he said. He flinches at the comparison, but admits that the dominance of Steven Page and Ed Robertson as creators of the Barenakeds' material sometimes leaves him playing George Harrison to their Lennon & McCartney,
"I think they're great songwriters, and I like working on their songs with them," he said, "I wish I could express myself within the band more, but up to now that hasn't been a priority for anyone."
Hearn was recruited in 1995, after the departure of Andy Creeggan. The band was looking for someone who could fill in Page's and Robertson's songs with instrumental hooks, melodic solos and expressive colours.
"Ed always jokes, 'Okay, Kevin, now it's time for you to go into the studio and give the song exactly what it needs,' " Hearn said. He's very much a background figure in the CBC film, until the narrative turns to his illness.
H-Wing was recorded while he was still under heavy medical care. He said he was lucky that he and the members of Thin Buckle, his backing band, knew each other's style so well from years of previous experience.
"I had a pretty complicated recovery, and almost died a couple of times after the transplant," he said, "I was by no means healthy when I made the record. I was in and out of the hospital, taking a lot of bad drugs, including steroids. I became very puffy, and I could barely play by the end."
You'd never know that, listening to the record. Hearn's meditations on pain and fate sound like those of someone who has drifted clear of being too much affected by either. The album has a feeling of timelessness, and not just because he's writing about universal themes. He deliberately tried to replicate the suspended world of the overmedicated.
"Let's float here together, one last time / In the sweet peroxide ..." he sings in Death Bed Love Letter. Swimming pools, fog and bits of driftwood carry Hearn through reflections on himself and his experience that often have the droll simplicity and solemnity of childlike visions.
His best review to date came in a short note from one of his pop idols, Lou Reed, who he got to know through common acquaintances. He recites it like a memory that won't ever fade.
"He said 'You've made a beautiful record, Kevin, and you must have balls of steel.'" Hearn can't help crumpling with laughter at that last part.
He recently took the songs of H-Wing on the road with the Rheostatics, whose lead singer Martin Tielli also performs in Thin Buckle. It felt good, and he wants to do more while the Barenakeds take a year off from touring.
Writing new songs is another matter, It's harder now than it was in the hospital, even though there was no telling then whether he'd live to perform any of the tunes he was picking out on his guitar.
"Writing those songs was easy, because it was all there, and it was so extreme," he said. Returning to normal life, it turns out, can be almost as hard as leaving it.
BY ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN
Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle - H-Wing
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H-Wing is the isolation ward of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto where Barenaked Ladies key...H-Wing is the isolation ward of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto where Barenaked Ladies keyboardist Kevin hearn spent a month battling leukemia, and where much of this album was conceived. Aptly, then, may of his fragile but lush pop compositions deal with the experience. H-Wing is surprisingly upbeat, however, wistful but not dark. "I have decided to stay.../And take on the shadow/That darkens the day," he sings in "Mouth of a Shadow" and "This is a Beginning/This is not the ending" in "A Beginning." Hearn's tentative, sweet voice sometimes calls to mind Kermit the Frog, but it's perfectly suited to the hopeful tone and the lyrics that capture morphine dreams and children's imaginations rolled into one. The songs are given a dreamy, pastoral sheen by the backing players, who include Rheostatic Martin Tielli and the Look People's Bob Scott.
by Jill Wilson
Kevin Hearn & Thin Buckle - H-Wing
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Emerging cancer-free, Kevin Hearn has treamed up with former Look People bandmates great Bob Scott (...Emerging cancer-free, Kevin Hearn has treamed up with former Look People bandmates great Bob Scott (drums) and Chris Gartner (bass), Rheostatics singer-guitarist Martin Tielli, and multi-instrumentalist Derek Aardy Orford. The resulting band, Thin Buckle, add alt.country twang and oddball funk and jazz touches to Hearn's maudlin vocals. Hearn's quirky lyrics range from humourous asides - he feels like "Nick Rhodes without his gel" on "Driftwood" - to direct confrontations with his illness. While others would drown certain lyrics to melodramatic song arrangements, Hearn and company opt instead for minimal instrumentation, letting the words carry their own power. It's this spartan aesthetic that makes H-Wing such an engaging listen.
Typical set list is usually 10 - 13 songs, and runs approximately one hour. Example set list:
Where Did You Go
In The Country
There are no upcoming dates at this time.