Ohio’s platinum-selling band Hawthorne Heights has overcome tragedy, bitter legal battles, and plenty of personal obstacles in the fight to make their music heard. With the loss of guitarist Casey Calvert in 2007 to an accidental drug overdose, the band plugged on, allowing the therapy of music to take over.
A long way from their “Ohio is for Lovers” days, their new label Wind-up Records and producer Howard Benson (Three Days Grace and My Chemical Romance) pushed the quartet to evolve musically from previous records.
Their album “Skeletons” challenges any “emo” stereotypes they endured in the past. It is an eclectic mix of pop-infused harmonies and hard rock combined with a new wave feel. Coming to terms with recent life experiences and embracing a survivalist mentality, the band proves their musical career is alive and well.
The Chronicle talked with lead vocalist JT Woodruff last week about the message behind “Skeletons,” his future goals for the band, and what he’s listening to right now.
*Watch this video to see Hawthorne Heights’ country-infused song “Gravestones” from 2010’s album “Skeletons”:
Who or what inspires you in your writing, your music, and your life?
Everything inspires me. Listening to a classic record on vinyl. Sitting on a bridge and watching the water race against the rocks. Sitting at a coffee shop and enjoying a hot cup of drip. Staring out the window as a passenger in a car. All of it…if you love life, it will love you back.
How did you bounce back from Casey’s death and carry on after that, becoming even stronger?
That was the hardest time in my life. We all knew that we would stay together to keep helping people through music. Our fans have been great in supporting us, and helping us through it. I think Casey is still with us, smiling every day.
You’ve evolved musically since your “Ohio is for Lovers” days and drew influences from a variety of genres for “Skeletons.” Is this from working with Howard Benson or just your own personal growth as a band?
Howard was a good dude to work with. He really pushed me hard to get great vocal takes in the studio, and I appreciate that. As far as the style, we simply wrote a lot of songs. We had a ton to choose from, and we all chose our favorites—totally happy with “Skeletons.”
Can fans expect to hear a mix of old and new songs on tour?
We always try to mix it up. This tour, we are playing some older songs that we haven’t played in years. Looking forward to looking back at the past every night. Doing some “Skeletons” tracks, of course.
What is the most important underlying message from “Skeletons” that you want fans to take away after listening?
I think I want people to realize it’s okay to be alone…because you are never really alone. Love life, because you never know how long you will be around.
Do you have a song you’re most proud of off the new album?
I really like “Bring You Back.” It’s about some people that I have lost. And I think you can hear the passion in my throat, you can hear that emotion. It’s harder to sing that way than people think.
*To hear a song with a sound closer to Hawthorne Heights’ most popular Billboard hits from their first album, watch the video “Nervous Breakdown,” also from 2010’s album “Skeletons”:
What’s the ultimate direction you want to go in?
Ultimate goal is to just stay musical, to stay friends, to continue to challenge musical borders. To be able to help a complete stranger through a tough time.
Any bands/artists you’re into right now that you think deserve recognition or people should know about?
I think everyone should be listening to Bayside. Emery has a new record that is insanely good. Adam Widmer from Bloomington, Ind. has a great voice. Stoked to be on the road with Handguns … tons of fun.