Tall Heights Discuss Their New Album, Touring And More

By Leah Black

Photo: Artist courtesy

New England based duo Tall Heights have made a career out of their emotive indie folk filled with captivating storytelling and Simon and Garfunkel inspired harmonies. From busking on the streets of Boston to their first indie hit “Spirit Cold” and headlining a U.S. tour, the duo composed of singer and guitarist Tim Harrington and singer and cellist Paul Wright, have come a long way.  

Their recently released single “Raindrop” stuns with stirring acoustic guitar, celestial layered vocals and moody cello. The single is the latest off of the band’s forthcoming full length album Juniors which is set for release January 14th. We talk with the band all about the inspiration behind their music, touring, working with famed producer Mike Mogis and more. 

Tell me about your new single “Raindrop”. What is the inspiration behind the track?

Hey! Thanks for the question! Let’s see… Raindrop is all about human connection, and how the vibe and chemistry between every 2 people on earth is every bit as unique as the people themselves. And we make a lot of our choices in life based on those vibes and energies between people. Maybe you’ll choose or have chosen – as I have – to be in a monogamous committed relationship, or maybe you’ll choose to bounce around between lots of different relationships in loads of different capacities, or whatever. The choices are endless. But whatever you do, when you say “yes” to one path, you’re inherently saying “no” to many other ways forward. Raindrop is about one such time for me when I could tell there was a particular energy from a person that was worth coming down from. Not in a bad way, but in a loving and controlled way… to say “hey you and I are on different paths, let’s honor that.” So the Raindrop becomes a metaphor of choosing a downward trajectory from high up in the clouds down through the air, and eventually into calm, placid waters.

The single is off of your forthcoming album Juniors. What can listeners expect from the new album both sonically and thematically?

Well, I’m really proud of us for this one. It was born of a really nutty period of time for us, a home recording project laced with chaos and jubilation and everything really. We were wrapping up a tour when the world shut down, so we retreated to our shared house at the time, The Tall House, in Beverly, MA. I think in a weird way we got really lucky, in hindsight. Because we both had a forced period of time at home in chaotic solitude, but we also knew we were both moving out of the Tall House 6 months later. So we had this really intense 6 months hunkered down creating in real time. Suddenly Paul and his wife got pregnant, suddenly my wife got pregnant, my grandfather died, Paul’s family had a significant medical emergency, my own family slipped into some crisis mode shit, and it was like a reality tv show or something : 4 adults, a toddler, 2 pregnant wives, and even a dog and a cat who hated each other… all under one roof. And we woke up every day in that and wrote music and recorded it. So, on the whole, this album really feels like an open and living journal… the kind of real-time processing a person does just to make sense of a time. I don’t think another work has been so real-time therapeutic. 

You worked with producer Mike Mogis who has worked with Phoebe Bridgers and Bright Eyes among other artists. How was it like working with him and how did he influence your sound on this album?

Yes, after we finished the record at home, after we got through moving, but no joke just days before Paul’s son was to be born, we drove through an extremely out of control pandemic, through some very unmasked parts of the country, from Massachusetts to Omaha, Nebraska to finish it up. We were looking to Mike to help us sculpt and edit this work that we had been so immersed in in such solitude for so long. We thought it might behoove us to sieve this deeply personal, and extremely DIY mountain of songs (I think we went to Omaha with like 23 songs) through at least 1 other human brain. We also brought along Oliver Hill, who’s an up-and-coming producer superman out of LA… He’s credited co-producer of all our records out to date actually. 

But yah, Mike Mogis. He’s a really singular human being, I’ve never known anyone else like him, so much respect for that guy. I feel like our work out there in Omaha turned into something different from what we were expecting, but what it became was a really fun and inspired time in Mike’s studio, adding vibes and textures we never would have been able to create at home. Mike spent that time really chewing on the whole thing. It was jedi-esque I’d say. Because we showed up with basically 2 full albums of music already written and tracked out, I think he initially felt like he was newly arriving in a country in which he didn’t speak or understand the dialect. So he dove in emotionally and intellectually, listening intently, breathing it, living it, eating it, and eventually he came back at us with a really powerful mastery of the language and culture of the work. His mixes are just so beautiful, and his process is really inspiring too. I learned a ton from Mike, and we had a lot of fun too.

During the summer you had a “backyard tour” in which you performed various outdoor shows across the nation. Can you tell our readers a memorable story from the tour?

I mean, I hope this isn’t a cop out, but really what that whole tour was about was being together again, emphasis on BEING. We wanted to do something safe, and insulated from covid surges, and that’s definitely what it was, but more importantly, the backyard tour just felt like the right thing to do after being forced apart for so long. It wasn’t a rock club with a stage and lights, it was a backyard. As we were playing the shows, at times it really felt like group therapy. Not just for those in the crowd, but for ourselves. I mentioned that my grandfather died at the beginning of the pandemic, well his surviving wife of 70 years marriage, died while we were on the backyard tour. It wasn’t a tragedy or anything, she had a beautiful life, but I was sad about it of course, and so I brought that to the next few shows, and we sang about it and cried about it and just processed that moment with our fans. It was so simple, just playing songs sitting in chairs. It clarified a lot of things for us, like what’s important about what we do and why we even do this in the first place. I think some of the performances were really inspired because of the openness, honesty and simplicity. So much healing, so much beauty.

You are also set to embark on a massive winter tour. What is the most outrageous item you want to have on your rider?

Yes, now is the moment we actually get back into those rock clubs. We’re psyched to tap back into that venue energy, that next level production. But still, I’m excited to bring the backyards with us onto these stages. We’ll be zippin’ all over the country playing new songs and old songs, and having a blast. As for our rider… the weirdest thing on the rider is probably a box of pre-washed greens. Not weird for what it is, but weird for how we consume it. Staying healthy and well vegetabled up isn’t always so easy on the road, so we treat that box of pre-washed greens like a chore. We take it to our faces, and chow down entire salad portions of dry lettuce in large fistfulls at a time. It’s really weird. But you can’t beat the efficiency, and it really makes you feel alright, even if you’re eating only carbs and proteins and fats for the rest of the day.

What does a typical day look like for the both of you?

Our lives as musicians I think are a lot like the life of farmers… it’s so seasonally dependent. Are we writing for a record? Are we recording? Are we in release mode? Are we on tour? Whatever it is, I think we’re good at committing ourselves to this lifestyle because we really love it a lot. I love 14 hour recording days where you forget to eat and time stops existing. I love the cadence of healthy creative habits: waking up early, eating breakfast, and sitting down to write. Hell, I love the release moments where I sit down and chat with fine people like yourself, and sign a bunch of posters, and freak out about an upcoming touring. Whatever the moment is, it’s my life’s work, no doubt. I just love it. I hope I can do this forever.

Finally, if Tall Heights’ music was a snack food, what would it be?

Smoked salmon and cheddar cheese on a triscuit cracker.

Tall Heights in snack form sounds as delicious as their music.

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